Though everyone professes that no background is necessary, that is not entirely true. Often, interviewers will expect you to know the basics of the business model, the players and the major issues that confront a company. To find out what these are, it is best to read trade publications and analyst reports for the latest information. While subscriptions to these services may be expensive, it is often well worth the cost, especially if you are planning on having several interviews.
"The best ways to prep are to read trade publications, read analyst reports, get exposure to the industry, conduct informational interviews, use the products, and of course, see a company's movies!" says one director-level strategic planning executive who has interviewed scores of candidates in his years in the industry. Additionally, it is useful to talk to every person you can who has been or is in a parallel position.
Beyond all this, the one thing to remember is this: you MUST believe in the work. Passion for the entertainment industry is impossible to fake because it is an industry where people live, breathe and sleep their jobs. If you're not one of those people, it shows.
Sample Questions and Answers
1. Explain [some technical term, i.e. exhibitor model].
This question that asks for specific industry knowledge is used to gauge whether you can hit the ground running. It is also used to estimate how well you did your homework. In some cases, it is an insanely technical question that a tough interviewer poses in search of the 'perfect' candidate -- in these cases, there is little that anyone can do to answer correctly. The best way to prepare is to talk to as many people in the industry as possible, read all current analyst reports (mostly available online for some fee), glance through the annual report to understand broad-scale initiates, and conduct a literature search at a library to investigate if any articles have been written on the company's new business ventures.
2. Should we acquire [some company, i.e. Yahoo!]?
Since assessments of acquisitions are time-consuming, risky and largely the scope of big companies, such a question is not entirely uncommon. Usually it's tossed out only to finance jocks and consultants, but below is a general framework to answer the question:
- Discuss the products/services of the target company.
- Discuss the synergies with the company, or gaps in its product offering that could potentially be filled.
- Discuss a possible purchase price (a good estimate is its current market capitalization) and make an assessment as to whether the target is over or undervalued. The more you've read about the companies in question, the better you'll do.
Typically, most interviews at the analyst level will be laid-back, candid discussions that walk a person through his or her resume and background. If the process is rigorous (usually when there are many applicants or when the interviewer is particularly anal), it will be more challenging. Your interest, passion, and foremost, knowledge of the entertainment industry will prove particularly valuable.