How to Land a Job in Radio (advice from a hiring expert)

Through 20 years of radio and another 12 in higher education, I have hired and have trained talent for jobs in radio.

Radio is a highly competitive business. Many times applicants shoot themselves in the foot by committing blatant faux pas early in the hiring process.

Here’s the best advice to landing a job in radio from someone who knows the process.

Start at the bottom to make it to the top

While it’s tempting to apply for the top-tier jobs immediately, you have start at the bottom to work your way up.

Radio is still an industry that requires staff to earn their dues.

Many people start off as an intern or a weekend show producer. You have to walk before you can crawl and learn the basics of the industry.

How To Apply

First things first. You need to locate jobs.

There are many ways to do this. Search job listings on websites, social media, LinkedIn, and radio trade websites.

Apply in person at the local stations. Attend job fairs.

Radio stations are required to post open positions regularly and publicly. Some stations will air commercials promoting an open position. others will post on job boards.

You found an open position, now what?

Have Your Materials Ready

Unlike many jobs that require an application and a resume, radio requires a few more materials.

If you plan to be on the air, you’ll need a demo of your work. A demo should contain your best work — a personality break, an example of you promoting an event, samples of any commercials you may have voiced. Remember to keep it less than two minutes in length.

It’s pretty standard to submit materials electronically. Your demo should be a .mp3, so it’s easy to email and to open.

Never underestimate a good cover letter. Explain why you’re a good fit for the station. Mention specifics. Explain how will you generate ratings and revenue for the station through your on-air performance.

Spend time outside of the classroom to hone your craft.

Do You Need A Degree?

The easy answer is probably not. I started my career in high school. Many of my colleagues don’t have college degrees. Yet, some of my colleagues do.

A college degree usually helps you to climb the ladder of promotion faster. There are some caveats.

Choose a school that has practicum-based courses. Theory is nice. Ultimately, the higher-ups want to know that you can work equipment and draw in an audience. You don’t do that by sitting in a seat and passing exams.

Choose a program with a radio station that employs students. While you’re finishing your coursework, you’ll put the theory into practice, build your demo with on-air experience, and learn the nuisances of the business.

Most importantly, secure an internship. While it may not turn into a job after graduation, you will follow the next important step in landing a job.

Who You Know

It is true that it’s as much who you know as what you know.

Networking is important. Remember, radio is competitive. Networking makes you more than a name on a resume or a voice on a demo.

We often know when someone has moved to a new location or retired and a position is opening up. Radio is a transient business. People rarely stay in place.

Because we’ve worked with so many people in different locations, we have a vast network of colleagues in hiring positions. If you fit what they’re looking for, we can send you their way.

It’s who you know and what you know.

What We’re Looking For

This is the part you have been waiting to know. How do we determine who to hire?

  • Professionalism: Do you sound professional? Do you show up on time? Do you play well with others?
  • Fit: This is the most important quality. Your delivery and content should fit our station’s profile. You need to appeal to the audience and round out of talent pool.
  • Ability: Knowing how to work the equipment is important. Learn digital audio workstation software, the programs that operate the on-air programming, and audio editing software. A basic understanding of professional audio equipment is a plus.

Now that you have the basic steps to applying for a job, here’s how to avoid self sabotage.

What Not To Do

There’s nothing more discouraging than finding a talented person only to turn them away. Some people take themselves out of the running.

Avoid these mistakes.

  • Applying for jobs above your qualifications: If a job lists certain criteria, make sure you qualify based on the criteria. The job description is firm. The station doesn’t want to train someone who can’t meet the basic qualifications.
  • Call or email the hiring manager: We have a lot on our plate. The hiring manager may not be located in HR. Hiring is a sliver of what we do. Avoid cutting up a manager’s voicemail or email box.
  • Pad your resume: We will find out very quickly if you misrepresent your experience. Avoid exaggerating or outright lying about your skills.

Finally, there’s something to be said about humility, especially if you’re new to the business. Even if you were the best host of your college station or have natural ability, you are still starting out at the bottom of the ladder.

Hopefully, these tips will have you secure that job you’ve always wanted.

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