BBC PTS Application Process – from the VRT to the first round of interviews!
The Verbal Reasoning Test
I was extremely surprised to receive an invitation to complete the VRT around mid-January 2015. We had a week to complete the test and had the opportunity to do practice tests. I did the practice test and performed abysmally. I then did as many other free practice tests as I could find, read anything, and did practise 11+ Grammar School tests to get in the right mind set. I completed the test in the silent area of the library the night before the deadline, turned all social media off and concentrated fully on the test. Use all the time and put an answer for everything, even if you are guessing – it’s multiple choice!
Tip – have your screen at its biggest so you can see your remaining time as well as the questions! Also, do the practice tests in the same conditions as you will do your actual test. Do the test in good time, if there’s a technical fault you need to be as stress-free as possible to perform to your full potential.
At the end of February (after weeks of hearing nothing, whilst some of my friends had received ‘no’s) I received a phone call from a private number inviting me to interview! I remember squealing loudly with excitement but not much else. Fortunately they sent all the required information through email and on the Careers Hub page. This was the general gist of what it said:
18th March 2015. Assessment Day. Dockhouse, Mediacity, Salford. 9-5. ‘Assessment and Interview’.
In preparation, although I was horrifically busy with coursework and extra-curricular commitments, I spoke to TFTV staff about the interview and felt more confident. About 5 days before, I had a practise interview with Kate Copeland at Careers and had four competency-based questions – this was very useful – make the most of the careers service!
Before I explain about the day itself, it was suggested I found somewhere to stay overnight, instead of travelling on the day at 6.30, in case of delays or oversleeping. Fortunately, I have a good friend at Salford University who let me sleep over the night before. Find somewhere to stay as soon as you have your invitation for interview – it gets busy!
Upon arrival, I reported to reception at Dockhouse, around 8.50am. There were about 10 other candidates waiting at this point. Received my lanyard and got talking to a guy called Martyn about where we travelled from, etc. I didn’t want to give too much away so the conversation was a little awkward, but he was nice. By 9.10, everyone had arrived so we all had our photo taken on an ipad and were led upstairs by Michelle Young and Sarah Maws. I tripped over Sarah’s suitcase coming out the lift because I was so overwhelmed by all the visual stimuli surrounding me. We were taken to a long table, where we sat for around 15 minutes. We were then taken to the Match of the Day room, sitting for around 10 mins and being welcomed and congratulated for ‘being finalists’ by Sarah, before we were returned to our original table for another 20 minutes or so. Then, my name, as well as 7 others, was called out by Sarah, who told us to follow her for the group session to begin…
Brought into a glass-walled room with our names on cards indicating where to sit. There were 4 assessors in the room, plus Sarah, whom we asked if the 3 James’ could swap places, as they had been allocated seats alongside each other, but this wasn’t allowed. We were each given a folder with instructions, background information and some paper and pens. The task was based on Blue Peter, where we had to come up with 3 ideas to put into a show, over a week. Although we were told not to elect a leader, the girl next to me apparently allocated herself as the timekeeper right at the start, and took control from the very beginning. I found this very frustrating as I struggled to make my voice heard by the team and facilitate other team members’ contributions.
After 5 minites of individual work, we went around the table and explained each of our 3 ideas, asked questions about each other’s ideas and decided on a final 3 choices. None of mine were picked, but I kept concentrating and tried to develop other people’s ideas and even combine some ideas, which didn’t go down brilliantly, but I kept going anyway. There was one moment where I asked a quieter member of the group what she thought about someone’s idea, but no one else from the group was taking notice at this point. In the end we managed to complete the task pretty much within the given time and the final outcome was actually decent. What was interesting, as we discovered afterwards from the other group, was that these group assessments were being recorded! To be fair, if any employer were to record interviews, it *would* be a broadcast place… Looking back to the original application, everyone probably signed something or ticked a box saying they were ok to be recorded but it had been such a long time ago that nobody recalled doing so.
Written Media Knowledge Test
After the first 90 minutes of group collaboration, we stayed in the same room for a 10 minute multiple choice test of our media knowledge. Now, this didn’t only cover the BBC, but looked at the controllers of Channel 4, Netflix, and maybe about 1/3 of questions were related to the BBC. This took a lot of us by surprise but it was quite interesting. I knew/had a good guess at around half, vaguely knew 1/4 and completely guessed the last 1/4. I’m hoping I did decently, but even if not, I don’t think this test counted for a huge amount of the final score for each candidate.
Our next, and actually unexpected task, was to individually create a show pitch for either BBC3 or BBC4. You could use the show pitch from your initial application if appropriate, but my original idea was children’s, so I had to devise a new show format in this time. I came up with ‘Life Swap’, not the most original concept, but I approached it in a similar manner to a pitch I created for my course. This pitch would be used later on in our individual interviews and the notes handed over to the interviewers.
After lunch (sandwiches, crisps, sausage rolls, fruit, orange juice, etc.), it was time to face the music (wrong channel, oops) and wait for our individual interviews. They didn’t say how long we would have to wait or even how long they would last, just that “they will take as long as it takes”. 4 interviews happened at once, and I was the last person my interviewers spoke to. This made me feel conflicted, as I knew they had to write everyone’s answers by hand, so didn’t want to outstay my welcome, but I made sure I said everything I felt necessary.
My interviewers were lovely, one a sports production talent manager, the other a children’s production talent manager. I would love to work on children’s TV and my application form was directed at children’s TV, so I felt I was mainly talking to her. There were 4 questions ‘Why do you want to be on the PTS?’, ‘What kind of experience do you have?’, ‘What Project Management Experience do you have?’, ‘What two TV/Radio shows do you enjoy and why?’ (they then asked how I would improve them) and then the show pitch. I talked lots, but realised after my show pitch (which I successfully did within 5 mins!) I hadn’t mentioned Woodstock or my experience at the Xfactor, Big Questions, or Kitchen Cabinet. The question I asked was along the lines of ‘What do good PT’s go on to do afterwards?’. The children’s producer escorted me back to the holding room, and on the way I asked her what shows she had worked on – she had worked on at least 3 of the shows I had mentioned I enjoyed watching in my interview!
Overall, this part was most nerve-wracking, as it was your opportunity to demonstrate your competency, but you didn’t want to talk them to death. However, the interviewers were so friendly and I think they were allocated according to where they pictured us working (in children’s, sport, entertainment, etc.) Also, the guy went to York St John and was from Scarborough. Weird.
I really enjoyed my day in Salford, it was an incredible place and I feel I would be really happy working for the BBC. I’m not going to build my hopes up, but I definitely feel I was in the strongest half of the candidates, at least from the group exercise. The test was where I felt I performed weakest, having studied lots of BBC information, but struggling with Channel 4 controller names.
This was an incredible experience and I feel so fortunate to have got to the final 150-ish of ‘thousands’ of applicants according to HR. Whilst this was the final stage for me, it completely inspired me to apply to work for the BBC and I have applied for several other positions since (I am hopeful for at least one!). Even a month after receiving my ‘no thanks’ email, I am still awaiting feedback but I bet many people asked for this so I am being patient.
One tip I would give is to consider how the audience would interact with the content, online or on-screen/radio, and ensure you mention this in your first application form at some point. Also, try to be flexible, not focusing on one specific area, although it’s good to have it in mind, ready for the question “What TV Show would you ideally work on?” (have an answer, be decisive!). Once you have sent your written application, try to forget about it. It’s really tricky, but try to keep busy, ideally watch BBC content and keep up-to-date on your media knowledge. The waiting goes on forever! Most importantly, on your assessment day be enthusiastic and positive throughout – you should feel excited that you are in the top 5%ish – that’s really cool! Be nice to everyone, and remember you could be being filmed at any point, so save any bitchy comments for when you get home!
You get lots of radio silence during this long and painful application process, only receiving emails if you get a ‘no’ or about the Verbal Reasoning test. Be patient. It’s frustrating, but follow the twitter.com/bbctrainees and search for #BBCPTS on twitter to stay relatively updated.
Overall, this was the most thorough interview process I have ever been through and getting to this stage has given me so much confidence in myself to complete an assessment day. I feel I have potential to succeed in this industry and in future job applications.