(Mike McVay) There is a lot to consider when interviewing to hire a PD. There are those things that are tangible and those that are intangible. My experience is that many Market Managers, not all, interview for a Program Director as if they’re interviewing for a Director of Sales.
Therein starts the issue of why some stations in some markets have continual turnover in that programming position. The skill set required to be a DOS and those skills required to be a PD are very different. The consideration and evaluation of a candidate for the Program Director position should be based on several key factors that are universal.
Experience: This is more than what’s on a resume. A resume is a chronological list of jobs you’ve had. It’s more important to have the candidate take you through their career. Explore each job, discuss the situation, and probe the candidate in regard to their rating results. Ask them for their analysis of the talent they managed and how did they collaborate with others that they worked with or reported to in the execution of their job. Did they accomplish what they wanted to in those previous jobs and if not then why not?
Training: Who mentored and/or trained you to be a Program Director? That’s a great question, especially for those PD’s who are early in their career. Good habits are picked up as easily as bad habits. Much like the “NFL or College Football Coaching Tree” that we hear so much about, there are many examples of successful Program Directors who came from the same mentor.
Knowledge: That is knowledge of what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to competing for ratings. Does the candidate understand, and can they explain, why they won in certain situations and lost in others? Do they have a format area of expertise? What’s the difference between how you compete in one format versus another format? How about computer skills, operating systems used in control rooms, music scheduling, do they understand how to use the tools of Nielsen. Do they understand what the ratings mean?
Rating Track Record: Most candidates want to talk about their victories and not their failures. They want to “pump up their rating successes” as wins while hiding their losses. Ask specifically about the losses. If you’ve programmed long enough, you’ve had losses, as it is impossible to be up every rating sweep. No one has a 100 share unless they’re the only station in a market. Rating research is an inaccurate science. Talking about a rating failure is more important than talking about a win, as from that discussion you will learn if the programming candidate learned from the situation, if they understood why they didn’t win, and if there was something that they would have done differently.
Managing Talent: Ask about talent that have worked at this candidates’ previous stations. How did they manage their talent as individuals and how did they manage them as a team? Who did they get along well with and who was a difficult person to manage? Specific examples will give you great insight into how they work with others. Ask them what their talent would say about them if you called and spoke to them. Not every talent loves every PD, and that doesn’t make the PD a bad candidate. What you’re looking for is a pattern that indicates they’re good or bad in the area of managing and coaching personalities.
Managing Upward: One of the greatest things I ever learned from my mentor was to manage upward. Once I understood what was important to my superior, I was able to satisfy him or her and that put me on an upward trajectory. Ask the candidate how they like to be managed and how they manage upward.
Managing Sideways: The same can be said for working with the other department heads. The PD candidate will need to be able to work collaboratively with the DOS, Chief Engineer, News Director, Promotion Director Traffic Manager, Legal, the Business Manager and other PD’s in the cluster. Does this person work well with others?
Ability to Work with Sales: The very best Program Directors understand the need to have a good relationship with sales. They understand the need to be available to meet with clients, to see to it that commercials are produced and make it onto the air, and they understand the struggles of selling anything to a prospect. Ask for specific situations where it worked well and where the relationship between sales and programming was challenging.
Promotion: Depending on the size of the market, the Program Directors job may include also being the Promotion Director. Even if it doesn’t for the current position, most of us have started in a small market where promotion was an important part of the job. Ask why, when and how they would execute a promotion. How do they build cume? How do they build AQH Share? What are some examples of successful sales promotions that they’ve executed? Same for audience generating promotions. Do they have a basic understanding of the legal element of contests, what constitutes a lottery and how to execute appearances and remote broadcasts?
Leadership Skills: Doing an in-depth conversation, such as this interview process, you should start to see the characteristic of this individual as a leader. To be specific, though, ask them what leaders they have admired and/or enjoyed working with and how they’d like to be remembered as a leader. How do they motivate a staff? How do they communicate with their staff and how will they communicate with you. Share your style of leadership with the candidate and make them aware of your expectations.
Work Ethic: This one is important. It’s not about the hours that someone puts into their job, but rather their accomplishments. What is their level of dedication to the job and to winning the battle for the audience? The objective isn’t to find someone who will cheat, break the rules, be a taskmaster, but rather to find someone who is dedicated to accomplishing the tasks to reach the goals of the station.
Personal Life: You can ask about hobbies, family, their guilty pleasures and about movies they’ve seen, books they’ve read, their education, if there is a person or persons that they admire within their family. What area did they enjoy living in the most? Does the candidate have a pet? These questions aren’t designed to meet a criterion that you have for the position, but to better understand who the candidate is and will she or he be happy in the environment of your radio cluster.
Personality Alignment: Do you like this person? I know … right? It’s an important thing to determine. You need to be closely aligned with your program director and you need to communicate with them regularly. Do you think that you’ll like working with them and spending time together? It’s not about friendship, but it is about aligning your personality with theirs so that you can feel confident that the two of you can work well together and accomplish your goals.
Mike McVay is President of McVay Media and can be reached at [email protected]