How NOT to Apply for a Job (With Examples)

By Vince Duffy, RTDNA Chairman

Graduation is on the horizon for many journalism, broadcasting and communications majors. Unless they have a strong desire to move back in with their parents, most are probably sending out resumes and links to their work, trying to land that first real job.

Here’s some advice: Don’t let a stupid mistake eliminate you from the applicant pool.

I’m currently hiring. (No, before you ask, the application period has already closed.) I’m amazed at the mistakes people make when they send me application materials. Newsrooms (well, the good ones anyway) like to hire people who don’t make sloppy mistakes that can be easily corrected by paying attention. Newsrooms find enough complicated ways to make mistakes, we don’t need the easy ones too.

Yes – for your entertainment I have examples. All of these mistakes could have been fixed by just slowing down, or double checking the material before hitting send.

One cover letter informed me that the applicant’s lifelong goal was to work at a station that was not my station. I wonder if the news director at the station he wants to work at so badly got a letter saying his lifelong goal was to work at my station? Either way, I didn’t want to keep this applicant from realizing his lifelong goal by hiring them for their second choice job.

Another cover letter arrived attached to an email. That’s fine. It was well written, the very model of what a cover letter should be. Unfortunately, the second page of the document was the model. The applicant had filled in a template to create her cover letter, but forgot to delete the template. The only thing I learned about her was that she could fill in forms.

A different type of mistake is to tell me more than I need to know on your resume. At a recent regional SPJ conference, a young lady came up and asked me if I would look over her resume. It was mostly what you’d expect from a recent graduate, except that under “education” she listed a school she had attended for one year, and put her grade point average as 1.2.
When I asked her about it she said, “Well, I had a really rocky start to school and I failed out my freshman year. Once I started over at a new school I did just fine.”

I told her she should never lie on her resume, but she wasn’t required to list her failings. I only need to know where you got your degree. Putting this on her resume was like listing under her activities, “Tried out for volleyball team four times, but never made it.”

Don’t pad your resume, but don’t torpedo it either.

The last mistake is forgetting to make sure that your online presence is professional. I know people send me links to their best work when they apply for a job, but if they’ve worked for a station before, I like to go to the station website and check out some of the stories they didn’t send me. If you’re applying for a job, clean up anything you don’t want me to find.

This goes for social media too. While the courts are now discussing whether I can ask you for your Facebook password in a job interview (don’t worry, I won’t), it’s pretty easy to look at your Facebook page if you didn’t activate any privacy settings. 

One of my recent applicants has a picture of herself on her Facebook page wearing nothing but body paint at an outdoor music festival. I can only assume that’s not the impression she wanted to leave me with. 

About to graduate and looking for your first news job? Download our complete guide to landing your first news job, incuding more on crafting your demo reel, how to write a strong resume and cover letter, why and how to network and what to expect on day one. Let's get you hired! 


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