For every journalism job, there are dozens and dozens of applicants. So how do you make sure you get that coveted role? Firstly, by having a great application, and secondly, by giving great interview. I’ve sifted through many, many job applications and conducted and sat in on more than my fair share of interviews, so here’s a quick guide to some things (I think) can help you get the job you want, whether it’s as a reporter or a news editor.
If you’re applying for a reporter position and you haven’t got a shorthand qualification of 100wpm or more, your application is going straight in the bin. If you haven’t got 100wpm shorthand, I can’t send you to court. If you haven’t got 100wpm shorthand, it’s going to take you twice as long (at least) to write up interviews, because you’ve got to transcribe them first. And if you haven’t bothered to get 100wpm shorthand, why should I believe you’re dedicated to being a journalist?
I’ve been on both sides of this – as a recruiter and as an applicant. With the latter there was a typo in one of my job applications, and it was really, really embarrassing. I wouldn’t have interviewed me, but luckily the editors were much kinder than I am. I take a hard line – if there are errors in your application, then my first impression of you is that you’re not good at proofreading, and that you don’t take care over your work.
Anticipate the questions
Sure, the interviewer could spring something really horrid on you, but you can prepare for some of the questions you’ll be asked. Every interview I’ve done (on both sides) has included at least some variations of the following:
- Tell us about yourself/your career to date
- Why do you want to be a journalist/stay a journalist in this tough industry?
- What’s your proudest achievement/biggest story?
- What qualities do you have that make you a good journalist?
- Why do you want this particular job?
Know the basics
In addition to the questions above, you’re probably also going to be asked a few law and ethics questions. These will largely revolve around the PCC code and your basic law for reporters – contempt of court and libel. If you don’t know your 10 points for magistrates’ court, what libel and contempt are, and if you aren’t well versed in privacy guidance (especially with Leveson having just happened) and the rest of the PCC code, then what have you been learning?
Taking 10 minutes to answer the first question in an interview (“tell us a bit about yourself/your career”) is not going to endear you to the interviewer. Keep your answers to the point, expanding where necessary and stopping when you’ve run out of things to say. Don’t be tempted to keep talking because the interviewer is pausing to write things down, a little silence never hurt anybody.
Familiarise yourself with the product
Please, please, please don’t go into an interview without having read the newspaper/website you’re interviewing for. And, if time permits, make sure you’ve glanced at it on the day of your interview.
Show some life
Journalism – whether you’re a reporter or a news editor – is about communication with people in person as well as through the written word. Be engaging in your interview, show you’re going to be good at the people stuff as well as the computer stuff.
Reveal your passion
Not as risque as it sounds, this is all about showing you’ve got that hunger for the industry. I want to see you’re passionate about your chosen career, whether that’s through your work experience history or through your enthusiasm for devouring the latest news and newest social media innovations.
Don’t be afraid to be nervous
Nerves can help if you channel them in the right way, and being a little bit nervous before going into an interview shows that you care about the outcome. Just don’t let the nerves overwhelm you.
What it says on the tin.