5 Questions to Ask When Interviewing Producers

Jun 1, 2015

Maree shares advice on how to detect the difference between a good producer and an excellent one.

The majority of my friends work in the creative industry and it’s not uncommon, when we’re on the topic of work, to hear one of them relay a story about a nightmare producer that is making their job more difficult than it needs to be. After ranting for a few minutes, they often catch themselves, turn to me and say “Oh. I don’t talk about all producers like this. I’m sure you’re one of the good ones.”

All of us tend to focus on or talk more about the things that are frustrating or aren’t going that well in our lives, but hearing it come up more than a handful of times made me think about the recruiting process for producers and how difficult it can be to gauge a producer’s abilities in an interview situation. Unlike developers and creatives, producers don’t typically have portfolios or git repos that they can share when applying for a new position.

With this in mind, I’ve put together five questions that you should ask prospective digital producers on top of your standard interview questions, and what kind of answers you should expect to hear from a good candidate.

An open-ended question about the role

Example: What does a digital producer do?

This is a great way to understand what the prospective hire thinks their job entails. The stock standard response to this question is usually something along the lines of “...ensuring that projects are delivered on time and on budget.” While that is the crux of the job, a great candidate will also talk about being a facilitator of innovative, creative and / or technical solutions. If you are recruiting for a client-facing position, you‘ll also want to hear a response that speaks to championing the team's vision whilst balancing client needs.

A question about working in a team

Example: Tell me about a time where you needed to change your producer-style to accommodate a team or team member.

Some people won‘t like this question, and others might even think it‘s a trick question. The reason it‘s an important one to ask is that one of the key differences between a project manager and a producer is their social awareness and ability to adapt to meet the needs of their team members. If a prospective hire can‘t think of a time when they’ve done this or are adamant that there is never a situation where they need to change to accommodate others, then they’re probably not suited for a producer role.

A question about conflict within a team

Example: Tell me about a time when there was conflict, either amongst team members or yourself and a team member, and how you worked to resolve it.

This is another question that is likely to put your interviewee on edge. No one likes to talk about the negative in an interview but it is an important question to ask especially as producers are on the frontline when difficult situations arise. While responses to this question will vary greatly depending on the personality of the prospective hire, a good response will include either an attempt to resolve the conflict through direct communication with those involved or an escalation to a manager for advice and support on how to resolve it.

A question about a difficult client

Example: Imagine you and your team are presenting work to your client. The client is unhappy with the work, starts to become aggressive. The client raises their voice at you and your team. What do you do?

This question should be reserved for mid-weights and up, and those interviewing for client-facing positions. Just thinking about this scenario raises my heart rate, so don‘t be put off if it takes the prospective hire a few extra seconds to take it in. The type of response you‘re looking for here is one where the prospective hire verbally acknowledges that the client is unhappy but also lets the client know that their behavior is inappropriate. Bonus points for those who suggest that they and client catch up at a later time / date (when they have cooled down!) to discuss their feedback.

A question about (digital) current affairs

Example: What did you think about last week’s Apple keynote?

I actually got asked this exact question in an interview a few years ago. When I left the interview I was thanking the heavens that I had happened to watch it earlier that week. Of course there isn’t an Apple keynote every week, but it’s pretty easy pick a topic or technology that has been covered in the major advertising and digital websites over the past couple of weeks. It‘s not a deal breaker, but the reason I think these questions are important is that it is a huge help if the prospective hire genuinely takes the time to keep up to speed on what is happening in the industry. And for those who aren’t able to answer the question, it‘s a good gauge to see if they will be confident enough to say “I don‘t know” or if they will try to bluff their way through an answer.

So there you have it, a few questions that you can sprinkle in your existing interview plan to make sure you hire the right person. Good luck and happy interviewing!