I have the privilege of talking to job candidates every week. While it takes a lot of time to find the great in a large pool of good or average, it’s a fun part of the job. Finding the perfect journalist to fill a slot on a team is a great joy. But what makes a journalist a more likely hire for me? Here’s what I’m looking for:
Meet the needs: Nothing else matters if you don’t have the skills and experience I need for this position. If our ad says 2-5 years required, and you have only one, it becomes almost impossible for me to hire you. Those specifications are there for a reason. If our ad says 2-5 years preferred, then there’s some leeway. Further, can you prove that you can do the work for which we require that experience? You need to.
Google the station; Google me: Spend a few moments researching the outlet you’re hoping to join. It’s not hard to Google call letters or a news director’s name. That doesn’t mean you should outright patronize either the station or the news director with pointless recitations of things we already know, but where you find something in common or a relevant story from your own past, throw it in to your cover letter or as part of your opening chit-chat during the interview.
Be interesting; be exceptional: Surely you know of at least one thing about you that’s interesting to other people. Or something that makes you stand out from others. Preferably this thing of interest is in your journalism career, but if you’re just starting out, perhaps it’s something from your other pursuits (education, athletics, arts, etc.) Tell me what makes you special. If you were a President’s Scholar, or a state champion, or a team captain, highlight that.
Tell me a story: In our interview, I’ll ask about some things from your past. Make it in a great story; make me care. If you can’t do this for your own stories, I bet you’re not very good about doing this for other people’s stories.
Be ready to work: Whether you see my newsroom as your dream job or a stepping stone, be ready to run every day. This job’s too hard not to have fun doing it. If you’re not having fun, maybe you’re in the wrong place.