PTP scheme coordinator Don Kong on writing a killer application

BBC Academy trainee scheme coordinator Don Kong shares his advice on how to write a winning job application.


We received approximately 2800 applications for this year's BBC Production Talent Pool, which offers short term contracts in TV and Radio across the BBC. That's 2800 people applying for around 110 places in the pool.

Obviously, the competition is tough, and the stakes are high – as they should be. But it means that there are many unsuccessful candidates left wondering why they haven’t made the next stage of the application process. Some of them have been taking to Twitter to ask us for feedback or advice on how they can go about making next year’s application even better.

If you’re one of them, or you’re just looking for some advice on how to make the most of your job application, then this blog is for you.


Reading allowed

Some of the most obvious detractors from our perspective are poorly written or carelessly structured answers which give the impression you haven't taken a great deal of care over them. Avoid this by checking your work thoroughly to ensure it reads well and is free from errors or clumsy phrasing.

Try reading your answer aloud, as this will highlight any areas that require attention. Spend time studying the question and refer back to it often to ensure your answer addresses exactly what is being asked. And make sure you heed the word count - if the limit is 300 words, try to use close to 300 words.


Telling stories

With the "passion for storytelling" question we’re looking for just that: passion. Candidates can have experience and interesting achievements, but this doesn't automatically signify that they have a passion for the media.

Be critical and imagine that you are a shortlister looking through tons of these things. Has this person just answered the question, or have they really knocked your socks off?

Don Kong, BBC Academy


While we wanted to see clear, concrete examples of what you did, we weren't only interested in the facts. We also wanted to hear about the intellectual and emotional side of your story, e.g. why it was special, how it touched the audience, the angle it took, what motivated you about it, and what you were trying to explore with it.

Those with more media experience obviously had an advantage, yet some candidates with less experience managed to convey what little they'd done in a way that was engaging and demonstrated passion, curiosity and creativity.

Those who really struggled to find meaningful examples could perhaps build their experience before re-applying. This doesn’t have to be through work, it could be with personal projects like blogs, music videos, YouTube channels, reviews, student papers, community radio, discussion groups or theatre groups. Then sell it to us – not just by telling us what you did, but by showing us why these endeavours make you one to watch!


One love

Questions like the One Show brief are designed to measure how creative and original you can be (there were literally hundreds of almost identical answers). At the same time you need to be mindful of the format, the audience and any editorial issues, while being realistic in terms of what is genuinely achievable within the segment.

The answers that stood out demonstrated this while having an interesting or unusual take on the subject together with a suitable choice of presenter. This was accompanied by a convincing explanation of why these choices were appropriate and relevant to the audience.


Audio analysis

Those who performed best on the audio analysis question were the ones who were able to critique the piece of audio on multiple levels, e.g. production and sound, choice of artist, subject matter, relevance to the audience and any editorial issues.

Many candidates focused on certain aspects of the clip while failing to spot others, so do make sure you consider every facet you can think of. Put yourself in the mind of the producers and think about all the different things they would have had to consider in creating the piece.


Be exceptional

Having read all this, you might feel that you managed to do all of the above, which leads to my final piece of advice. Schemes like this get a very high number of applications, and the chances are that we will see many that are above average. Therefore, the applications that get through the shortlisting process are the ones that are exceptional, which tick virtually all the boxes.

This means that one of the most important things you can do is use as much time as you've got to re-read and tweak your answers before you submit them, as opposed to completing the application in one sitting.

Draft your answers in Word, and revisit them with a fresh perspective on another day. Do this over and over again, asking yourself how compelling your answers are and whether they could be any better. Be critical and imagine that you are a shortlister looking through tons of these things. Has this person just answered the question, or have they really knocked your socks off? 


Extra time

In the current climate where there is intense competition for jobs, this sort of approach would be advisable for all applications; it's crucial to put in the extra time to make yours stand out in terms of quality to earn that elusive interview.

If your application clearly shows that you've been painstakingly thorough, methodical and meticulous, employers can see that you've put your heart into it, which is a strong indicator of how you're likely to approach your work as an employee.

I do hope this has given any potential trainees some useful things to think about or work on in the future. By taking the initiative to look for advice, you have already taken a big step in the right direction. I wish you good luck next time.


Don Kong is a Trainee Scheme coordinator at the BBC Academy.

For further careers advice why not head to the College of Production, which has guidance on everything from sprucing up your CV  to how to shine in a media job interview  to how to get into tv and radio . Or see the BBC Careers website.