This continues a series on advice for new top editors in Digital First Media newsrooms.
I hardly care about a job candidate’s résumé or the clips she sends me. That’s the story she wants me to know. What I’m interested in is the more complete story I can learn about her online.
When you’re hiring journalists, you need to conduct an extensive examination of their digital footprints.
Check social media
Social media use tells you a lot about a journalist. First, if a journalist isn’t even on Twitter or Facebook, that will raise significant concerns about his suitability for a Digital First newsroom. Beyond that, how they use social media will tell you a lot about their journalism. For one thing, social media posts are nearly always unedited. If you want to look at a reporter’s raw copy, Twitter and Facebook are great places to find it.
If you’d like a chance to watch a job candidate in action, look to see whether he has done some livetweeting events and/or crowdsourcing. You will see resourcefulness if she is resourceful. You will see how she relates to the community, whether she is engaging or aloof, arrogant or fun.
I like it when I see a journalist who can show some personality and still behave professionally. Personality is, after all, part of being social.
You can also see in social media whether a journalist is reckless in expressing opinions or disparaging sources (or editors). If you’re interested in learning about a journalist’s attitude, you’re more likely to see the true attitude on social media than in an interview when she’s on her best behavior.
Be sure to check Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (more on that shortly). But also see what other social tools someone is using. Instagram, Flickr, Tout, Pinterest, Tumblr, YouTube and other tools can show you someone’s visual skills.
In my digital check of a candidate to be an editor of a Digital First newsroom, I first noticed that he hadn’t tweeted much or for a long time. When I went back through his tweets (didn’t take long; he hadn’t tweeted much), I noticed one a few years ago about attending a conference where I happened to be a speaker. I looked back on my slides for that conference and noticed that I gave several examples about the value of Twitter and why a top editor needed to lead the newsroom in Twitter use. This editor wasn’t doing that, so I could be pretty sure he wouldn’t be following my advice if given a second chance. A Facebook post raised another concern about this editor’s leadership.
The editor had interviewed well, but the social media check raised questions to address in a subsequent interview. In answering those questions, I started hearing excuses, and I have little patience for excuses. We kept looking and found a better editor.
Check digital résumés
The résumé that a candidate sends me is just a starting point. I’m more interested in what I can find online about someone’s career. If someone has an About.me page or uses a tool like Intersect, Timetoast or Pinterest to tell about her career, I’m going to check out what’s presented there. In addition to telling me about her career, she’s also showing me something about her digital skills.
LinkedIn is an essential stop in checking out someone’s digital profile. A person who isn’t even on LinkedIn is telling you a lot about his lack of interest in digital tools and networking. The LinkedIn profile also provides detail that the résumé usually doesn’t. (You want people to send you a one-page résumé, but for the most important candidates, you want more information than a single page and LinkedIn is a good place to look for that depth.)
The LinkedIn profile also is helpful for references. The person’s recommendations and endorsements tell you what colleagues think of their skills. If you see someone you know who provided a recommendation, you can contact them to discuss the candidate at greater depth. Or you can contact someone you don’t know who wrote a recommendation with some interesting insight.
In addition, you can check connections to see which people you know also know this candidate. You could call them for references as well.
Check digital clips
A candidate will send you samples of her best work or links to her best work. You want to see that, but you also want to see the routine work. You do this by Googling the candidate’s byline and the name of his or her publication. Use Google News and you’ll see the most recent work: what you’d get if this candidate had been working for you last week.
One of the résumé pages might include links to more work than a candidate sends to a prospective employer. Check those links. Check the dates. Is the candidate’s work improving as he gains experience?
Check the candidate’s blog
A job candidate’s blog is an important place to check. If she doesn’t blog, that may tell you something. If she does, the blog is a place to see unedited copy. It’s a place to see not only digital skills but digital thinking. A blogger who uses links and embeds is demonstrating some understanding of digital culture that will be helpful to success in a Digital First newsroom.
Take notes, ask questions
The digital check isn’t going to dictate hiring decisions. It’s part of a process of at least four parts:
- Résumé and cover letter
- Digital check
- References (both those provided and those you seek out).
A weak background check might eliminate a candidate who appeared in the middle of the pack based on résumé and cover letter. But if a candidate looked like a strong candidate based on the résumé and cover letter, don’t jump to conclusions as you conduct your digital check. Take notes about the red flags and inconsistencies you see as you check and discuss them with the candidate and with references. Good answers might show you someone who is learning from mistakes.
Links to help develop a strong digital profile
After posting this, it occurred to me (and a comment here and some on social media indicate as much) that some people reading this will not be new editors, but the journalists they might be considering for jobs. So here are some links that might help journalists seeking jobs to develop strong digital profiles:
Want to contribute a guest post?
If you’re another Digital First editor (or a leader or former leader in another organization) and would like to propose a guest post as part of the series, email me at sbuttry (at) digitalfirstmedia (dot) com and we’ll discuss. Sue Burzynski Bullard provided such a post on organizational tools. Nancy March wrote about balancing work and personal life. Dan Rowinski wrote about mobile opportunities.
I’m not interested in a post of general leadership tips. I’d rather have a post on a particular leadership topic. Feel free to suggest a post that might address a topic I’ve already covered, but from a different perspective. I welcome posts that disagree with my advice. I will invite a few editors I respect to write posts.
Earlier posts with advice for editors
Here are topics I am planning on covering in this series (the order is uncertain). The pace of these posts has slowed, but I’ll still try to post something weekly. What other topics should I cover?
- Developing new leaders