How to handle it when asked inappropriate questions during an interview.

Recently FTVLive reported that someone posing as a recruiter for a network and someone who actually is a recruiter are making uncomfortable statements and asking lewd questions to women being interviewed. Let’s talk about how to handle these situations, specifically blatant sexual comments and/or requests for sexual favors.

First, it’s ok to say the question/statement was not appropriate. Responding by saying something like “I am hoping I misunderstood that last question, but this interview needs to remain professional questions only,” is fine. Do it. Yes, this will be uncomfortable. But you have the right to defend yourself and let the person know that’s not ok. You are remaining professional. More on this later.

If you have an agent or contact at the company where the recruiter works, let them know about what happened. It is ok to report it to someone you know. In the case of an agent, the person should then go up the food chain to address the issue. In the case of a friend who works at the company, it will at least be on record then with someone who could report it with credibility. You might have to answer questions later. But it is important for all involved to know that you want a fair workplace. That is not unreasonable.

I have heard over the years about hiring managers, who have gone so far as to ask about a sexual act while taking a potential employee to a restaurant. That is scary. You are in a strange town and this is your ride back to the station after lunch as well as possibly to your hotel room. Here’s what to do. Say that the question makes you uncomfortable. Excuse yourself. Then go to the bathroom and call for your own ride to the airport or your hotel. To be clear, you do not have to go back to the station. In fact you could end up in another very uncomfortable spot at the station with that manager. If you need to pick up your stuff, go to the hotel and get it. If you’ve already checked out, head to the airport. Only go to the station if you need to get your stuff. And then stop long enough to pick it up, then leave. But no matter where you are going, get a ride. It’s worth the money to get out of the situation. If you want to really get the point across, invoice the bill for that ride to HR at that station and say you would like to discuss why your method of transportation changed.

If a sexual request is made at the station in an office, get up and walk out of the room. Go to the front reception area and call for a ride. Your safety is the most important thing. If you feel safe in doing so, you can also go to the HR office. That person should help you get a ride to the airport. It just depends on if you want to tackle the issue right then, or get out of the station first.

If you are worried about backlash, please know this: While there are still some creeps hanging around in these powerful positions, there are a lot less of them. And companies know they cannot risk a public scandal. Your worst case scenario is you will not be called back for that job, or reimbursed for that Lyft ride. But let’s be honest, do you really want to work for a boss who acts like that or a station who hides from this kind of behavior?

Right now there are several managers, all the way up to the corporate level that want to help crack down on this type of behavior. But they need evidence. If it comes out that you protected yourself, you will still get jobs.

If you have an agent, and that company doesn’t report what happened and demand some sort of explanation and guarantee that the situation will be dealt with, fire the agency. This is a huge reason to have representation. You need backing. The company might tell the agent where to go, but demand the agent try. Frankly, reputable agents will want to make those calls anyway. The station and company do not want word getting around in this very small industry that something like this could have happened.

If the person is just direct and rude about your answers, saying things like “That’s your answer really?” about a job scenario question, or “Are you stupid” or “I am only interviewing you because I have to” report those things too. Companies have to provide fair interviews. There are common practices that have to be done. Period. Be polite during the interview and then inform your agent or someone you know in the company about what happened. Sometimes managers need job interview training. In this case, going back at the person will not really help. Kill them with kindness as the saying goes. Then when its over, you know this isn’t the person to work for. And if it’s reported the issue should be addressed for future candidates. I am telling you this first hand from having to report when interviewers are inappropriate. The first question I get when stating a case is “What did the interviewee do?“  The right answer in all cases is remain polite. Even in the scenario of the rude request at the restaurant.  Do not scream. Do not cuss out the person. State that the request was not appropriate. Excuse yourself then calmly remove yourself from the situation. If that person sees you leaving. Just simply say, “I appreciate the interview, but this situation is not right for me and my career. Good luck in your search.” Witnesses help. Like restaurant management. 

Good luck. Stay strong. Stay polite but firm that you deserve respect. Because you do.


How Millennials Are Going To Change The Job Interview Process For The Better.

For the last 10 years or so the job interviewing process has largely gone downhill in many newsrooms. Many stations did little vetting. Many barely let candidates see much of the newsroom before being rushed out. If you asked a bunch of questions during an interview, you were labeled a potential trouble maker. More companies are not wanting to pay for plane tickets or meals. Some require the candidate to pay upfront for all these costs. And many would “tease” with one job description, then place the new hire in a different job once he/she arrived.

The thing is, most millennials are very aware of their wants and goals and less tolerant of being “played.” They are placing expectations on hiring managers and companies to be treated a certain way or they will just leave. And a signed contract doesn’t always matter. If the job is not what was promised in the new hire’s mind, they will find a way to go.

This is leading to interesting discussions on LinkedIn and in newsrooms all over. How do we stop these mindsets that you can just walk on a contract? How can you just decide the day before not to step on a plane for the interview you said would attend? These are complicated questions, with multifaceted answers. But there is a core area where the answers start to become clearer. Showing mutual respect.

In the last year alone, I have experienced where candidates were told to front all interview expenses, were brought in early to save the station money and left stranded in a hotel for a day with no means of transportation, and were told to figure out if they wanted a job site unseen. Some were screamed at on the phone after turning jobs down or asking follow up questions the manager did not deem necessary to answer. All though it may not seem like it right now, trust me, gone are the days that the hiring company calls all the shots. Here’s why. There were too many years where these millennials witnessed their parents and frankly their grandparents get screwed by companies. Respect is earned, and hiring managers do not start with a gold star. You have to earn it from the first conversation to the last. It is too easy now to network and find out who treats interviewees well, and who doesn’t.

Which leads to how millennials are going to change the interview process for the better. Many are demanding to know what the expectation is from the start. They want to work for management teams that can clearly define the requirements for the job that is open. They expect to see the station and meet their potential coworkers. They expect to be taken to lunch and told more about the community they are considering living in. They expect stations to have a plan to help them grow their skill sets so they can continue to become better at their craft. In fact, they want guarantees that they will have support and training opportunities. They also want it understood that they will not be hazed. This included during negotiations. If they want more money or benefits, they expect to be able to ask and be told why if the answer is no.

This is a group that is largely unafraid to raise issues to HR. And this is a group that is not afraid to say, “enough” if they feel they are being treated unfairly. That begins during the interview phase. If you won’t invest in a plane ticket or a meal while in town, this is a group that will say “pass.” Market size is not the only selling point anymore. I say this because a lot of the larger market stations are becoming the nastiest about interviewing. Calling a prospective candidate and telling them everything that sucks about their resume to try and see what kind of moxie the person has is not smart. Frankly, the old school intimidation tactics many news directors still lean on, are back firing. These millennials are demanding open communication from the get go. Don’t play games. Say what you want. Say why you want it. If you have a concern about a candidate’s experience level, say so right away and talk it out. More mid market managers are starting to realize that they need to take the time and create more detailed vetting for the interview process to make sure all parties understand expectations. They know they must be clear from the get go. That’s because more interviewees are making it clear that accountability is expected from both parties from the beginning. So managers if you rely on the statement “because I said so” it is time to move past that crutch. If you like seeing how a candidate handles intimidation during interviews, you are in for a hurting. This is a group that will say, “I pass on your game.” They value mutual respect more than almost anything else. They have goals and they will achieve them. Help, or get out of the way. And if you mistreat them, they will let others know not to bother to work for you.

Bottom line, loyalty is not given to stations and managers just because you made a job offer. It is earned each day. This is a group that is not afraid to stand up for what they consider fair treatment. This is not a group that expects to work at the same place their entire career. This group knows it will have to move just to survive. Putting down less ties, means taking away a lot of management’s power to bully. I recently had a management team beside themselves because a client turned a job down, in the person’s hometown. The station took that emotional tie for granted and frankly treated the candidate poorly during the interview process. This journalist is not unique in deciding that being treated with mutual respect is more important than job location. Many are saying “You can find the good in many places to live. Managers must prove they are worth you investing your time working there each day.”

So watch out TV news. Recruiting may be getting harder. Managers will need to be ready to wine and dine from the interview process and beyond, to keep from being labeled a place to avoid.


Job Hunting Bill Of Rights

Job hunting journalists need to know that they have the right to ask for information during interviews to determine whether the station/job is right for them. I say this because lately I am hearing about some rather interesting station and company policies that are counter to this concept.

So here’s a bill of rights job candidates should keep on hand. If these things do not happen during the interview process, walk away.

Job Hunting Bill Of Rights:

You have the right to be flown/brought in for an interview
You have the right to reimbursement for cab fares/lodging/gas during the interview
You have the right to entertain many job opportunities
You have a right to meet staff you will be working with
You have a right to make a counter offer

Let’s start at the beginning. How can you decide if you want a job, if the station is unwilling to bring you in to see the station and meet potential co-workers? One large broadcasting company with plenty of cash, has decided that stations should not routinely fly candidates in. One of its stations even gets crappy about paying for gas reimbursement if a candidate drives to the station. This is simply unacceptable. If they care so little about making sure you see what the company is about, why invest your time, passion for news and career with such a group? Pass.

Station/company: If you tell a candidate they will have to pay upfront for cab fare, hotel rooms and or gas during the interview, then reimburse the expense right away. Ask the candidate to collect their receipts and provide them during the interview. Then as they leave, hand over a check or at least get one in the mail within 10 days of the interview. It is just common courtesy to not spend someone else’s money. Remember these candidates can go elsewhere, including the station across the street that is already kicking your a*s! That 30 dollar cab fare you screwed the person on, can and will become the stuff of urban legend in networking circles. Don’t be cheap. Choose classy. Job Candidate: If you are stuck with the bill and no reimbursement, do not be embarrassed about hounding the station’s human resources department for the cash. You are in the right!

Another station, in a top 5 market, has decided to require candidates to “commit” before the interview process is completed. When I say before, I’m talking before even being flown in to see the place. This is a huge sign that you need to just pass. If a station bullies before you even get in the door, the treatment will only become worse once you are there. This station wants to prevent candidates from entertaining several job opportunities. In fact the ND even has been known to threaten candidates who say they are looking at several options, mentioning that “it’s a small biz” and “strings can be pulled.” Years ago another group tried to pull something similar on friends of mine. Job candidates: Never fear a scenario where stations have to vie for your services. If they are not even willing to try to woo, you need to say bye-bye.

You have a right to meet the staff you will be working with. Let’s say you interviewed to work nightside, then you get a call with an offer for dayside. Problem is you did not meet a single dayside staffer. Say that you are flattered, and ask that some of those staff members call you. Also if you are flown in for an interview on a weekend for a weekday gig, it is not unreasonable to expect that at least the manager you would work with, shows up for the interview. Again, I emphasize, this is what you should expect, AT THE LEAST. It is crucial that you are able to relate well with your co-workers. News requires too many long work hours, and too many pressure cooker situations to work around people with whom you do not relate. Team cohesiveness is crucial. Demand to get access and see if it’s a group with whom you want to be aligned.

Lastly, you have a right to counter offer. Many stations are getting better about coming to the table with the top money they can give. Many more intentionally go lower to see how little they can spend to get you in the door. This part of job hunting can be a real game and candidates often feel they just cannot ask for more. Ask! If you don’t get the most you can, coming in the door, you will never get much once you are there. Even if the deal sounds great, ask for more. Make sure the station is doing the most it can to show it values you, the position and the impact you will have. Don’t sell yourself short. If you are not confident in yourself, no one else will be confident in you either. Make a counter offer even if the ND says the initial offer is the best they can do. You have to call the potential bluff. Managers expect to negotiate.

Now that you have a job hunting bill of rights, hold stations and broadcasting companies to them. Each time each you do you not only improve things for yourself, but you help pave the way for everyone else. This is a crucial time to make sure broadcasting companies remember who is the most important in their newsrooms. It’s the people busting it every day. And it all begins with your first impression. Be strong!


When Job Hunting Tactics Go Horribly Wrong. Strange But True Stories.

Sometimes, the best way to describe how to do something, is to show the opposite.  Here are some examples of ways, real, aspiring journalists have really shot themselves in the proverbial foot when job hunting.  We are poking some fun, but please know it is to help prevent more of these scenarios.

One ND I worked for describes getting a pizza box from a young reporter wanting a gig.  Inside the box was a tape, resume and cover letter saying the reporter knew how to “deliver” on a story.  The trouble was, the call letters for the station were wrong on the letter and the reporter misspelled the manager’s name.  This ND’s quote, “so much for delivery.”

Many ND’s and AND’s love to share stories about the “idiots” who get their names wrong.  I mean, they get the names VERY wrong, then are put off and send fiery emails when the ND doesn’t give them an interview.

Speaking of fiery responses, I once had an anchor candidate call and bless me out (I was  an EP) because my station never called to interview him.  One of my producers told me about him and I agreed only to hand the ND the anchor’s information.  This anchor then thought he had an “in” with me and kept calling asking for status updates.  When he read that we hired someone else, he called and told me what a crap station we were and that we all sucked.  Yes, I still remember.  And, no, I will never help you again.

Then there’s the reporter who sent a manager I know a resume and reel and actually put checkboxes at the end of the email, so the manager could check if he was interested or not, right then and there.  His question, why wasn’t there a “could have been, had you not done this” option?

My last interesting scenario, a reporter who sent a long email explaining why a station’s decision not to hire them was a horrible mistake.  This was like a manifesto.  You would be surprised how many managers get emails like this, where the person has to justify to you that you are messed up, that the person knows he/she is wonderful at their profession.  Just remember email, like the internet, never truly disappears.

Oh and keep in mind, if you cannot get a manager’s name and the station’s call letters right, you will not get a call back, no matter how “brilliant” you are. Strange, but true!