Caution: Always follow the instructions

Some hopefully helpful thoughts from the Television Academy Intern Judging Panel.

Yesterday, I and other members of the Music Peer Group judged the applications of 35 people who hoped to get one of the two paid Television Academy music internships. Applicants had to submit statements about why they wanted to do the internship, recommendations, school transcripts, and examples of their work on video. We broke into two panels for the first round then formed one large one for the second.

Already, the Academy Foundation office had eliminated about a dozen people because they did not meet the requirements or failed to follow the application directions in some way. (Some were missing transcripts, for example.) The foundation office had not looked at the videos, however, just the paperwork.

The first thing we noticed when reviewing the applications was the general high-level of music competence of everyone who applied. There were very few whose work sounded amateurish and many who were highly skilled. And we were encouraged that there were many outstanding young women who applied – media composing is finally getting to be less of a boys club.

On the paperwork side, the thing that made the most positive impression was when people communicated their passion and commitment to scoring and the sense that they had already done a lot to get as far as they were. On the negative side were those who sounded too “business-like”, had lukewarm recommendations, or referenced high-level people in the cover letters who did not write them a recommendation.

But one thing that stood out was how many people has not followed the instructions for submission. Applicants were supposed to submit 3 video clips of no more than 5 minutes in length total. Some submitted 1, some 4, some went on for 10 minutes, etc. After consulting with the Academy, we were told to take a hard line: if someone either didn’t read what they were supposed to do or chose not to do it, it was unfair to those who did to let them slide. (We made an exception for one that was 10 seconds over.)

I believe we lost 8 more applicants that way. So that means, including those originally rejected by the Academy that we never saw, nearly half lost an opportunity because they simply didn’t follow printed instructions. Interestingly, foreign-born students who didn’t speak English as their first language rarely had this problem.

This is a key difference between student and pro. I have often pointed out to those who work for me that, in school, if you get 95% on a test you get an A, but in the professional world, if you do 95% of your job right, you’re fired.