Treat your job hunt like a big story. Just as you research a source thoroughly, looking for clues and connections, you do the same with a prospective employer or company.
If the employer blogs, read lots of blog posts. Read stories by and about people who will be interviewing you. Follow them on Twitter. Just like thorough research helps you ask the right questions in an interview when you’re a reporter, thorough research will help you nail the interview as a job applicant. I’m not talking about gratuitous praise of the prospective boss’s blog. But when you’re thoroughly prepared, you’re going to say something that will show your preparation. And everyone wants to hire smart people who prepare well.
This is one of several tips from myself and others that I will share with journalism job-hunters in a workshop today with Ken Sands of Bloomberg Government at Georgetown University’s Clarendon center. My slides for the workshop are at the end of this post. I can’t tell you which of my tips or Ken’s tips or tips from others that we share will nail that next job for you. Just as it is with reporting a story, the eventual success will come from a combination of techniques (perhaps a different combination every time) and from general resourcefulness and persistence.
Several other reporting techniques will also help you in job-hunting:
- Work your connections, and make new connections.
- Nail the face-to-face interview.
- Never say no for someone else.
- Don’t let obstacles become excuses.
Many of the tips I will share were covered in an earlier post last year after I found my job at TBD and hired five staff members: Some tips on landing your next job in digital journalism. I also have blogged previously with advice on building your digital profile, elevating your career and redirecting and rejuvenating your career.
I’m pleased, though, to also share advice from several other people (I have greater appreciation and respect for aggregation than Bill Keller):
- Justin Karp, recently hired as a web producer for the TBD.com/WJLA.com production desk, shares lessons from his recent job search. Best tip: “Don’t be afraid to be bold when you meet someone.” Be sure to watch the video introduction to his online resume (which I’ll show at the workshop).
- Jessica Binsch, also hired as a web producer for our production desk, also shares lessons from her job search. An excellent tip from her: Participate in a Twitter journalism chat. You’ll learn from the chat and make some connections who might help you in the future.
- Jennifer Gaie Hellum shares advice for maintaining your personal brand in social media. Outstanding tip: “look at your Twitter page (not TweetDeck or Hootsuite) stream of tweets collectively as a snapshot of who you are as a journalist.”
- Jaclyn Schiff made a creative pitch for a social media job, developing an Xtranormal video interview of herself and posting it online, demonstrating her creativity and her skill with digital tools and social media as well as a sense of humor). And she landed the interview (still waiting to see if she gets the job).
I will suggest that people looking for jobs use Google’s Search Stories tool to make a search video that will quickly tell their stories. I haven’t done a search story about myself yet (that’s a challenge; you want to promote yourself without seeming too boastful). But I’ll show them this video that I made quickly to promote the workshop.
Troy Melhus, Regional Editor for Patch in Minnesota, got in touch with me this week, asking me to steer him to some good Midwestern journalists for some jobs he is filling. I told him about this workshop and asked what he’s looking for in hiring. He shared this advice:
Here are a few qualities I personally look for, right now, when I’m interviewing for Local Editors. And again, I’m hiring right now.
Get a website! Nothing shows me faster that you understand the Internet than when you’re on it demonstrating what you can do. I can’t even tell you how many candidates to whom I’ve given this advice. I shouldn’t have to. Every serious digital journalism candidate should have a web presence — as well as be active on Twitter and Facebook.
Multimedia experience. Even if it’s producing home movies on iMovie, I want you to show me you get how it’s done and that you’re open to the technology.
Show me, don’t tell me. Direct me to where your work can speak for itself. We hire as a team, so it’s not just me you have to impress. There are others out there with whom you will never speak who will have a say in your hire. Your interview is just one small part of your hiring process, so make sure you have plenty of work that can speak for itself.
Know what you want, and know what you’re applying for. I want candidates who can tell me what they want to do in a community. That shows initiative as well as demonstrates their knowledge. They may not be the right fit, but that’s fine too: This is a mutual decision. And don’t talk to me about what you want to do next. Not yet. Work this job first, and then I’ll help you reach your aspirations.
Don’t tell me what you can’t do. I’m hiring journalists to cover communities and who want to make a difference. So the last thing I want to hear in an interview is how the community is so small they won’t be able to find a lot of stories. When a candidate tells me that – and I have been told that a lot – the conversation is over in my mind.
Know AP style. And demonstrate it in your cover letter, on your resume, and in every communication with me you can. And please, please, spellcheck. It still matters, even in the digital age.
I’ll add here that spelling matters, especially in the digital age. Every newsroom, digital or print, is operating with fewer editing safety nets for sloppy writers and editors. If your organization has a copy desk at all, it is overworked with multiple new tasks. You can’t rely on anyone else to clean up your copy. Take responsibility for your own work.
Other resources to help with job-hunting:
- Joe Grimm’s Jobs Page, especially his recent series on trends and strategies.
- Alexis Grant’s “job search” blog posts.
- U.S. News Careers page.
- Ethan Klapper’s 5 tips to help you land an online journalism job out of college.
Final note added April 23: Do not interpret anything I’ve said about creativity or showing your personality to encourage sending a prospective employer a resume like this one.
Here are the slides I will use in the workshop: