CBS’s The Job: The Job Interview on Steroids

InterviewJob SearchPersonal Branding

I happened to catch the second installment of a new CBS “reality” show, The Job, last Friday night (8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT – also available for later viewing at that captures the essence (in a highly condensed fashion, of course!) of the interview process involved in the typical job search in today’s extremely competitive job market.

If you are currently in the hunt for a new job, or anticipate that you might soon be, you can definitely benefit from checking out this show. Not only is it very entertaining, it also is very fast paced and does a great job of highlighting how to handle (and how not to handle) the various phases involved in the interview process of a typical job search today.

Currently, here is how the show unfolds:

  • Representatives of a real employer, with a real job to fill, sit on a panel and interview candidates “live” and “on air” for the position. (In the segment I viewed the hiring company was Cosmopolitan Magazine, the best-selling fashion magazine aimed primarily at women, and the position was editorial assistant, an entry level editorial position. Serving on the interview panel were the Editor in Chief and two senior editors from the magazine.)
  • Candidate “finalists” (selected from thousands of applicants from across the country months prior to the show) are interviewed by the hiring company panel members. (Five candidates were finalists in the segment I watched.)
  • Candidates are required to go through various stages of the interviewing process (just like a “real” job search!) before the hiring company, i.e., the panel, in this case, makes its final hiring decision, and candidates are excluded at each stage of the process, until just two finalists remain, one of whom is offered the job at the end of the show.

The show opens with the program moderator introducing the panel of representatives from the hiring company. The panel tells the audience a little bit about the company itself, as well as the specific job being offered and what the company is looking for in the successful candidate. Then, it’s the final candidates’ turn. (The final candidates are already onstage as the show opens.)

Each candidate introduces himself/herself to the panel of interviewers and the audience, provides some very brief job history/experience information (about 30 to 45 seconds) and then states his/her “value proposition,” i.e., what each feels he/she can “bring to the table” for the hiring company. Then, the action gets underway with a gusto!

Can The Candidates Actually DO the Job?

Like most hiring companies today, the Cosmopolitan panel wanted to quickly learn one very important thing about the five candidate finalists: Could they actually do the job under consideration? In order to make that determination, the candidates were sent out “in the field” (in New York City) with an editor and a photographer from the magazine to complete an actual (and typical) assignment, which consisted of selecting, interviewing and then photographing people who met the demographic criteria to be included in the magazine’s “What’s on Your Mind” monthly feature.

The “finished” product of each candidate’s efforts consisted of a photo layout with a caption written by the candidate. Four of the candidates passed this first test. The fifth candidate bombed out and was excluded because there were two misspellings in her photo caption—not only unacceptable in the publication business, but also unacceptable on any document (résumé, Thank You note, etc.) you send to a hiring authority during a job search.

What Do You Know About Our Company?

The next phase of the on-air interviewing process involved the candidates demonstrating how much (or how little) each knew about the hiring company, in this case, Cosmopolitan Magazine. Three of the remaining four candidates did “OK” answering the brief series of “trivia questions” about the magazine, but the fourth candidate . . . Oh, my, she said something like . . . “I have kind of fallen away from reading the magazine in recent years. . . .” (Guess which candidate was eliminated at this phase of the process?!)

‘Front-Runner’ Candidate Named, Another Candidate Eliminated

With just three of the original five candidate finalists still in the game, the interviewing panel was asked to name a “front-runner” at this point, but the identity of that candidate was temporarily held in abeyance. Also featured on each show is a separate panel of representatives from competing (or related) hiring companies, and, if so desired, this panel may make a guaranteed job offer to one of the remaining candidates, based upon the candidates’ overall performance and demonstrated abilities thus far during the show. If the candidate accepts that offer, he or she is out of the running for the job offered by the featured hiring company.

In this particular segment, a representative from this separate panel offered a job to the young woman who also turned out to be the “front-runner” for the Cosmopolitan job. She turned down the offer and therefore stayed in the running for the Cosmopolitan job. It then became necessary to subjectively eliminate another candidate and the “contest” was down to two finalists, both excellent candidates.

Selecting the Winning Job Candidate

As it is so often the case when the competition for any given job is reduced to, say, the final two (or perhaps three) candidates, the driving force behind the Cosmopolitan representatives’ selection of the winning candidate seemed to be most influenced by how well, and how quickly, the candidates had been able to position—brandthemselves as the “best of the best” among all candidates vying for the position.

The final remark made by the winning candidate (who just happened to also be the candidate named earlier as the “front-runner” for the job) obviously “tipped the scales” in her favor. When asked how she felt about making the rather frightening move to New York City to begin a new career with Cosmopolitan Magazine, she said, “Someone once said that life begins at the end of your comfort zone, and that is where I now find myself.”


Be watching for Skip’s new book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets series of bestselling job-hunting books and publications, Career Stalled?How to Get Your Career Back in ‘High Gear’ and Land the Job You Deserve—Your Dream Job! TM Publication is scheduled for spring 2013.


Skip Freeman is the author of the international bestselling job hunting book “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets: The Rules of the Hiring Game Have Changed . . . Forever! ( and is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The HTW Group (Hire to Win), an Atlanta, GA, Metropolitan Area Executive Search Firm. Specializing in the placement of sales, engineering, manufacturing and R&D professionals, he has developed powerful techniques that help companies hire the best and help the best get hired.