All my dreams are coming true!
November 18, 2009 11:13 AM   Subscribe

I have been called back for my dream job - an internship on a public radio program. Please help me impress my potential employers and get this position!

In October, I applied to intern on a weekly public radio program that does news and analysis type programming. The internship sounds great: I would pitch stories and have my hand held through the entire production process, and my stories would end up on the air. I am so incredibly excited at the prospect of doing this.

Yesterday, they called me back; unfortunately, I don't think I came off all that great over the phone. I was kind of caught off guard (was at work; wasn't really expecting a call, office is under construction and loud), and I just don't think I was at my best. They offered me a chance to tour the studio and I jumped at it in the hopes that I could present myself a little better in person. The tour will be conducted by one of the show's producers (the same person I spoke to on the phone).

I would love to get a little input from the hive mind about what kinds of questions I can ask, what I can expect, and generally how I can impress them.

Information on me
-Have a lot of experience with audio recording/editing
-Have a degree in journalism
-Am a public radio fanatic

Any suggestions you could give would be huge. If you have any questions for me, you can post them in the thread and I will email the mods, or you can contact me at throwaway email :
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ask what real chances there are for permanent assignments at the station, either in production, engineering or reporting.
posted by johngoren at 11:24 AM on November 18, 2009

You sound like you're knowledgeable and enthusiastic about what this position would entail, and I can't imagine an interviewer would want anything more. Everyone sucks at phone interviews. You should be just fine in person-- don't be afraid to express how excited you are about this. And send a thank-you note. Good luck!
posted by oinopaponton at 12:27 PM on November 18, 2009

Forget about the phone conversation. You get to start fresh in person.

Make sure you draw on all that good "information on me" stuff, which sounds like it gives you a really solid background. Exude all that confidence this post has. Smile and make eye contact with everybody you meet.

Don't ask what real chances there are for permanent assignments. You're not quite there yet.
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:29 PM on November 18, 2009

Your enthusiasm and qualifications are great, and I'm sure will come through in person.

Keep in mind that it's an internship. A lot of the work involved will be grunt work and not necessarily as fun as pitching stories. Ask them what tasks past interns have been assigned and make sure they know that you are willing to do the WORK part of the internship.

Also make sure you:

- Show up 10 minutes early.
- Bring at least 2 copies of your resume
- Send a thank you note

Good luck!
posted by hamsterdam at 12:30 PM on November 18, 2009

Do some research. Find out how public radio works, how individual stations interact with NPR, what sort of issues are current with public radio.

And adding my "good luck"!
posted by JoanArkham at 12:57 PM on November 18, 2009

See if you can listen to some recent episodes of the show you are applying to work on. Take notes on everything you hear and then go back and work up some questions you have for the producer, based on specific things from the show. Make it really clear that you're a regular listener and you're very familiar with the format of the show and with the content.

You can say something like, "That guest you had on last week, Josiah Smartypants, who spoke about terrorism in the Middle East and his travels through the West Bank, brought up some great points about conflict resolution. How do you find experts like that?" Or maybe, "I have some ideas for segments that would advance some of the recent stories I've heard on the show, like the one about schools in Afghanistan. What about a follow up on that, focusing more on girls and women, and how they've been affected? There's an expert on this at Georgetown University named Sophia Smith who would be really interesting."

I'm just making up these examples of course but my point is, you should be really familiar with the show and excited about making a genuine, thoughtful and creative contribution. Nothing too offbeat or out of line with what they're doing, but show them that you're already up to speed and ready to contribute.

Be prepared with a lot of good questions .. about the technical aspects of producing the show, about the content and the editorial policy and about what will be expected of the interns. Project enthusiasm and curiosity, but don't be a know it all and really listen to the answers to your questions.

Good luck, I hope you get it!
posted by Kangaroo at 12:58 PM on November 18, 2009

Do some research. Find out how public radio works, how individual stations interact with NPR, what sort of issues are current with public radio.

And maybe allow your focus to move beyond just this one program. If this is station is anything like the one where I spent over a decade, there's any number of different programs, personalities etc at play. I could point out numerous examples of people who showed up for the first time connected with PROGRAM A but ended up, far more inspired (and enabled) contributing to PROGRAM K.
posted by philip-random at 1:07 PM on November 18, 2009

also, remember that people love to be listened to - ask good questions, but be sure to give them all your attention while they are answering.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:17 PM on November 18, 2009

Ask what real chances there are for permanent assignments at the station, either in production, engineering or reporting.

Yeah, don't do this. You should take it as given that the chances of this opportunity leading immediately to stable, full-time editorial work are slim. You'll have to work very hard, prove you're worth investing in, and probably do a bunch of casual and short-term assignments before you get a permanent gig. Asking the producer directly would suggest either that you have unrealistic expectations, or that you have too high an opinion of yourself - two qualities which employers are particularly wary of in young employees.

But don't let that get you down, this is a fantastic opportunity! First, relax. If they asked you to tour the studio, you probably didn't screw up as badly on the phone as you imagine. In any case, it's important that you remain calm and not appear flustered in person. One of the qualities they'll be assessing is whether you can handle pressure without falling apart.

Try to give the impression that you:

- Know your place. Show you'll take the dull, non-editorial drone work just as seriously as the work that goes into producing your own stories.

- Have interesting ideas, but aren't so attached to them that you won't take editorial direction. The program's senior staff have likely spent decades refining their editorial judgement - show that you'll respect their experience, even when you don't agree.

- Appreciate this opportunity, but have other projects on the back burner that you'll continue with if this falls through. Don't give the impression that this is your One and Only Big Chance

- Can be mature and pragmatic about editorial decisions. Not every story you produce will change the world. Sometimes you'll have to force yourself to get interested in subjects which bore you to tears.

- Can handle daily stress without panicking. Hypothetically, if World War Three broke out on your watch, could you continue to do your job and calmly get the show to air, or would you fall to pieces?

I think 10 minutes early is too early. Sure, aim to be at the building with plenty of time to spare. But newsrooms are busy places - the producer will probably have something else they need to do in the 10 minutes before they expect to meet you. Being on time is a virtue, but on a busy day, having an unusually early guest can be an irritating inconvenience. So report to reception maybe 5 minutes early, but be willing to wait patiently while the producer makes time to see you. If you get the gig, then you can start impressing the boss by turning up early to work.

Best of luck, please let us know how it goes.
posted by embrangled at 1:27 PM on November 18, 2009

I absolutely loved interning at a public radio station. Hearing a show on the air and knowing that you produced it is every bit as wonderful as you imagine. Maybe better.

I understand that this isn't an interview, but some things I was asked when I was interviewed:

-What sources do you get your news from?
-If you were to work at an NPR station, what would be your dream position?
-If you had to come up with a show idea right now, what would it be? Who would you interview?
-Do high-intensity environments stress you out?

Chances are excellent that they will be looking for someone who is up on current events, from local to global, and if you can somehow work it in that you get your information from a wide variety of sources, they will appreciate that.

The producers I worked with were exceptionally nice, funny, helpful people. They later told me that they did everything in their power to scare me during the interview--all three interviewed me at once, they made a point of coming across as stern, and they threw in some apocryphal story about an emergency room nurse who was so overwhelmed on her first day at the internship that she left crying and never came back. I wasn't put off, so they hired me. If you can give off an aura of unshakeability, that will help.

All the very best of luck to you. And yes, do let us know how it goes.
posted by corey flood at 4:27 PM on November 18, 2009

If you have access to databases like Nexus or something like that through your college library, take a look tonight. I worked on a weekly public radio show as a producer, and our intern researched our guest every week, using databases and archives and stuff like that.

They might also have you pitch some story ideas. If you can come up with 2-3 tonight, that would be good. They don't have to be fantastic or fully fleshed out, but being able to say "I'd like to do this...." is really nice. (I've been asked this question on every public radio job interview I've ever gone on: 4, so far.)
posted by melodykramer at 5:39 PM on November 18, 2009

Whatever you do, do not quit your day job. Be ready to work for very little for a while or nothing if you plan on pursuing a dream of working on a public radio show.

From an experienced public radio producer who has dealt with many interns, congratulations on getting the interview. It is just an interview. Remember this though it might seem like a bit of a downer.

Public radio, like all media runs essentially on the drive of humility and patience. Leave the ego at home but feel free to take it to drinks, most people won't give. At the interview they will be interested most in what you are capable of now. My most successful job interviews have lasted less than 30 minutes. When you show you are good enough to listen, rather than form your own opinion, you suddenly become highly indispensible.

In most cases, your love of public radio is fantastic. What are you reading? What do you watch on TV? What book can you suggest and what current author should we take a look at? What have you been really following in the news? Where do you see yourself in five years? Will you continue other journalism during or after your internship (the answer is yes, always). Can you suggest some people to bring a fresh perspective who has not already been on All Things Considered? You seem to be a good sound editor, but what would you say your secret skill is (I told an employer I could make a great spaghetti alfredo and it got me the job). Basically, you will be most prepared by being yourself and not playing games and putting on a show.

A word to keep you in the real world: public radio is immensely competitive and at the moment quite poor. Don't expect this will last forever. Keep up your contacts and keep flexing all of your muscles. Perhaps this will turn into a real gig. Whatever you do, do not ever turn down work in what you love. Be prepared to stay late and be prepared to possibly being disappointed about the realities of what you love.
Anyway, good luck.
posted by parmanparman at 7:09 PM on November 18, 2009

Dress really well. Stylish, cool. Not overdressed- radio creatives don't wear suits. I'd say for a guy, very dark jeans and a really nice button-up shirt, maybe cowboy style. For a woman, a nice dress that's a little sexy but still classy, with knee-high boots (they look more stylish and less trying-hard than heels).

Make sure to wake up well before hand, and eat and get caffeinated so you're "on" when you get there.

Be early.

Listen attentively. Be funny but humble.

Remember everyone's names that you meet and as you leave the studio say goodbye to each by name.

Have a 1-minute elevator pitch about yourself prepared. At some point you'll be asked to "tell us about yourself" and you should be ready to be succint, yet charming with a quick little verbal precis. Aim to highlight say, your top three or four qualifications. Don't talk about being a fan- rather, talk about the fact that you worked in production on this and that program. Concrete, hard skills, explained in a lively, quick, but thoughtful manner. This pitch will highlight both your hard skills (as you outline your qualifications) and your soft skills (as you tell your personal story in an interesting, well-paced way).

Eye contact and rapport will matter WAY more than your qualifications in a studio-tour context. Be interesting, pleasant, humble, and friendly. To everyone, from the receptionist to the interns. Do NOT be a fan, you're a professional.

Except! If you meet the hosts, be a liiiittle bit fan-ish, because performer types need that and it will make them like you more. Especially with performers of your same sex- you need to establish that you admire them, or they'll feel like you're gunning for their job. Of course, you should never be all "OMG I LOVE UR STUFF!" But as you leave, a well placed, quiet, non-gushy exit line like "Ira, I've enjoyed your work for so many years. It was great to meet you today. Thanks for the tour, I really enjoyed today's show!" will be appreciated, and set their performer-mind at ease.

Good luck!
posted by twistofrhyme at 1:05 AM on November 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

follow-up from the OP
I just wanted to thank everyone for their advice. i was interviewed this morning, and I just received the call that they have decided to choose me as their intern! I'm super excited and I really appreciate all the responses in this thread. Wish me luck!
posted by jessamyn at 3:15 PM on November 24, 2009

« Older Just a stirring in my soul?   |   Cost of Living in South Africa Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.