Inside CNBC’s The Job Interview

CNBC’s The Job Interview brings viewers inside the room as real employers interview candidates for jobs. Jim Ackerman, EVP, Primetime Alternative Programming, CNBC, tells why it wasn’s just the job seekers who found the experience nerve-wracking. (Series premieres Wednesday, November 8 with back-to-back episodes at 10p and 10:30p.)

job interviewCynopsis: What’s the format of the show?

Jim Ackerman: The Job Interview is a “fixed rig” production.  We rented an office in lower Manhattan and wired it up with 18 cameras that cover everything from the elevator banks to the waiting room to the actual office where the job interviews were conducted. The cameras are in a fixed position (though some can be controlled remotely) so that the subjects don’t see producers or technicians. In each half-hour, one employer interviews 5 candidates for a particular position. The field is narrowed down to the final two candidates. In the final act, which is shot on location a few days after the interviews, the employer calls the final two candidates; one of them gets the job. 

The subjects know they’re being filmed … but without crews or producers present, it’s a less inhibiting environment. In theory, everyone is less self-conscious which gives the show a more natural, more authentic tone.  

Cynopsis: What are the biggest mistakes you found people making in job interviews?

Ackerman: There seems to be a point in almost every interview where candidates undermine themselves. The biggest mistake we saw involved a woman who was interviewing for an accounting position who then informed the employer that she was no longer interested in accounting. It seems she had done her research but somehow missed the part about the company being an accounting firm. She not only didn’t read the fine print … she didn’t read the headline.

There are folks who drone on and go off topic. There was one man who was so anxious we literally saw the sweat pouring off his brow. The employers often tested the candidate’s knowledge. Not terribly tough questions … but the pressure of the moment was often too great for folks. Nerves can undermine people.  As we all know, a job interview is a real pressure-cooker situation. 

Cynopsis: What advice will job-seekers take away from the show?

Ackerman: Frankly, I think the show confirms what we all know to be true – that research, preparation, poise, and manners are all critical in forming the sort of connection that lands you a job. Ignore those things at your peril. 

Cynopsis: How did you find real employers and employees to participate? 

Ackerman: We cast the businesses, but for all sorts of reasons –  we could not cast the candidates. They were found by a recruiter who worked with the businesses.  We at the network didn’t know a thing about any of them until they walked in the door on the day of shooting. Which was nerve-racking but another factor that made this show as real as can be. Which of course is what we wanted.

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