Note: I’ve never hired anyone or been in a position to influence hiring for an on-air broadcast position. The following post is based on feedback I’ve received when applying for jobs, and also on advice I’ve received during my career.
The days of a tape or CD demo reel are long gone, now it’s an email with a produced mp3, or guiding a potential employer to your website. But the task of building a demo reel or collection of your best stuff can be really daunting, and the choice of what to put on that “tape” can be overwhelming.
The easy (but wrong) answer to the question of what to put on your demo reel is highlights. Showcase your best calls, your best moments and hopefully your best foot forward…however many people have told me (and I’ve read even more) that highlights are like candy. They’re great in small doses, but largely empty in the grand scheme of things. I call hockey games and I’m on air for an average of 3 hours per game. In a standard game featuring 5-6 goals, a highlight pack would be about 2-3 minutes…less than 2% of my total on-air time. Does 2% of your experience represent who you are as a broadcaster?
So what do you include with your finely crafted resume and cover letter?
With every job I’ve applied for, I’ve always included multiple audio files. I’ve included a short highlight pack, a produced piece of audio maybe with some music and production value. That demonstrates to my employer that I can produce such features (an extra skill set) if required. But the meat and potatoes of my application has always been unedited chunks of play-by-play. Never the high moments, but a chunk of average play that best reflects my game to game call and what my hopeful future employer can come to expect from me. If I can, if the game allows, I’ll include a stretch between 7-10 minutes that includes both a goal for the team I’m covering and one for the opposition. For me, this represents that I can be even and fair, that I won’t be a blind homer and give fans a true reflection of the game. It also shows my prospective boss how I can handle the good moments along with the bad.
I’m also fortunate enough to have some web design experience, something that I’ll cover on a future blog, which means that all of my job applications point to my website, where I feature 4-6 unedited chunks of audio and some shorter produced elements. I attach audio to my application, but point to extra content on my website to give potential employers an opportunity to hear more. Using tools like Google Analytics, I’m able to track visitors to my site, see where they’re going, what they’re looking at and adjust future applications accordingly.
Few employers these days seem willing to hire, or even proceed with candidates if they send in a highlight pack and no substance with an application. I’ve heard of several quality broadcasters knocked back because of poor applications featuring little substance and a lot of candy, or filler. Putting your best foot forward is one thing, but putting your true foot forward is another…and in my opinion the better track.