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When is a TV 'chat' not a chat?

I am a freelance PD with nearly 30 years experience, working on A Place in the Sun, Location Location and This Morning, yet still after all this time, the TV chat continues to surprise me.

I’ve visited a number of production companies nationwide and it’s safe to say, not all TV chats are created equally. I’ve been sat outside on a garden wall, dispatched to the far end of a long table and perched on an inflatable pouffe, I never really know what to expect.

I am not alone. Fellow PD’s talk of being called in for what they thought was just an informal chat, only to be faced by a panel of eight people. Another PD was called in for she thought was a friendly catch up only to discover that she was being interviewed for a job. They never fail to surprise.

In my early career, I naively thought it was just that, a chat, getting to know each other kind of thing. No formalities, just a coffee and a chinwag about bits and bobs. I soon realized my misconception when I was called in to a well known mid-morning show. I’d prepared nothing more than where I was going to have lunch that day, no notes, no ideas nothing. I just sauntered in for a coffee and a catch up; needless to say the chat didn’t last very long.

Shortly afterwards I went for another ‘chat’, and decided that low key holiday wear was the right choice of clothing, frayed denim skirt & flip flops. I realized the enormity of my wardrobe faux pas when I was confronted with a suited Series Producer observing me with disdain from the end of very long table.

The chat I soon learnt is not a chat at all. It’s an interview and should be prepared for as such. They come in many forms, and can never be predicted. It might be a nice relaxing conversation over a coffee, simply talking about what you’ve worked on and the programme in question. Alternatively it’s akin to being interrogated by the Spanish Inquisition, your CV dissected and analysed as questions are fired with machine gun precision. I’ve left these kind of chats feeling as though I’ve been trapped in a washing machine on full spin.

It’s also hard to gauge how the chat went, and whether you were successful or not. Usually radio silence is an indication that you didn’t get the role, and if successful you usually hear back within 48 hours. No one can make instant decisions anymore, references have to be checked, show-reels examined, before saying ‘you’re hired’.

Recently the chat ended with ‘thank you for your time’ which I took as red flag to mean that they wouldn’t be needing anymore of my time, thank you very much, but you never know.

So here’s what I’ve learnt…

· Make sure you watch the programme in question & make notes.

· Find examples of how your previous experience fits with the new job.

· Expect to be asked the tricky standard interview questions and prepare.

· Dress for an interview, because this is an interview.

· Know your rate, hold your ground and eye contact when you say it.

· Prepare for ‘are there any questions you’d like to ask us’ moment.

· Have references handy that are relevant for the programme.

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