Tips for journalists attending job interviews

<a href=",_National_Network_Meetings,_GINKS_IMG_3920_(5348319263).jpg" target="_new">Image by Upwardly Global</a> released via <a href="" target="_blank">Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0</a>
Image by Upwardly Global released via Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Advice from those who do the hiring

An interview for a job in the media is often the culmination of weeks of hard work searching for opportunities, filling out application forms and waiting. So it’s important to make the best impression on the day. The following tips are offered by media professionals who’ve had experience sitting on the other side of the interview table.

1: Familiarise yourself with the output

Bob Doran media strategy consultant and trainer says you must prepare for your interview

“Make sure you are familiar with the programme, station, newspaper, or website concerned. Listen to, watch or read it regularly in the run-up to the interview. Or at least check it out on the Internet. As a programme editor interviewing applicants, I was amazed at how many said they didn’t actually listen to the programme. They never got very far. I reckoned that if they weren’t familiar with the programme, they wouldn’t be very good at working for it. And, most importantly, if they weren’t smart enough to realise that knowledge of the programme would help them at the interview, they weren’t smart enough to work for it.”

Tip: Do your homework

2: Media awareness

Make sure you know all about the strengths and weaknesses of your prospective employer’s main competition. Try to show where you can help your future employer establish a content differential and challenge the competition. You will have to have a good knowledge of the local media scene.

Those on the other side of the interview table will be aware of the threats and opportunities they face and they will expect you to have some understanding of where they are succeeding and where they are falling behind. They will expect you to know what they are up against.

Try to show where you can help your future employer establish a content differential and challenge the competition.

Tip: Ensure you have a good knowledge of the local media scene

3: Offer exciting ideas

You need to come out with some great, well thought through ideas including the necessary production elements. You will probably be asked what stories you would cover if you were working in the newsroom. That is not the time to stare at your hands and mumble. You should always arrive at a job interview with at least three well thought through story ideas.

You need to come out with some great, well thought through ideas including the necessary production elements. Don’t be worried about them picking up your ideas and running with them; it’s a gamble you need to take and part of the process of showing the value you would bring to the media organisation.

Tip: Prepare at least three story ideas for the interview.

4: Showcase your best work

Imelda Salajan a public awareness and media specialist from Indonesia says it’s important to prepare a portfolio of your best work.

“Don’t forget your show-reel or cuttings. The editor needs to hear your voice/see you on screen and judge your writing style. This is your chance to show off your skills – so make sure you pick a short but powerful selection from your published work. If you want to refer them to an internet version – make sure it is appropriate for the editor to see rather than showing them a general site where you have included flippant comments for your friends – as I was sent recently!”

Tip: Ensure you submit appropriate material.

5: Prepare like a professional

Mustafa Eric a media development officer at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) says thinking through what you might be asked and preparing your answers in advance is crucial.

“Make sure to impress the interviewer with your knowledge and skills. As you get prepared for the interview you need to make a list of possible questions you will be asked and try to make ready your answers in a way that will bring out to surface what you do best. It will also depend very much on the type of reporting job you are applying for: Is it an all round journalism assignment for a community newspaper or will you be covering a certain beat for a broadcaster? Answering questions confidently helps, boasting around doesn’t.”

Tip: Think through what questions you might be asked in the interview

6: Stay positive and avoid any negatives

Put bad experiences to the back of your mind and focus on the plus points of your intended move. If asked why you want to leave your current job have a positive but honest answer.

I have seen good candidates miss out on being appointed because they spent too much time bad-mouthing their previous employer. It does you no favours.

When asked why you want to move be honest and straight but look to the future – and if you can’t see a positive in joining your new employer don’t turn up for the interview.

Tip: Never criticise your previous employer – it sends out bad signals

7: Sit up and look smart

If you slouch and mumble, play with your hands and look at the floor it might work against you. Those interviewing you will be imagining you representing them and their brand.  Also think through what you wear. You will be expected to turn up for the interview looking smart – it shows you have made an effort. You may never have to dress that smart again, but it will do no harm to dress properly for the interview. You will want the interview panel to have a good impression of you.

Tip: Many prospective employees fail to make the right impression because of the way they act (not say) during the interview.

8: Make eye contact and listen

An interviewee who doesn’t listen properly to the questions being asked is unlikely to progress. The questions that will be put to you will have been carefully worked out and checked. All the other candidates will probably be asked the same questions.

If you don’t respond properly, and instead push the points you want to make, you could miss out. Make sure you answer the questions you are asked

Tip: Be aware of what the interview panel want to hear, and listen closely to follow-up questions.

9: Don’t be afraid to offer constructive criticism

Those on the interview panel don’t want to be praised. They are looking for the perfect hire to make their output better.

You might be asked what you think of the media organisation’s output. Don’t just praise the good stuff.

Of course you should mention where they are doing well, but don’t be afraid to point out where they could do better – and when you do, make it clear where you can help them improve in that area.

They will have discussed any programmes that are not up to scratch, and if you can touch on those points with positive suggestions you may well tick a few of their appointment criteria boxes.

Tip: Try not to come across as a yes man/woman.

10: Interview for the next job

Editors will be looking for a candidate who will develop and grow. In my experience editors are seldom investing time and effort to hire for the current vacant position.

Although it’s important to convince them that you are the perfect candidate for the advertised post, you will also need to show them that you have ambition to develop and take on more responsibility if required.

Tip: Show your potential as an asset for the future.

And finally, say thanks

Even if you had a bad interview and it all went wrong, it’s always good to thank the interview panel. If you don’t get the job, consider dropping them a line thanking them for the experience. You never know, you might have been an also-suitable candidate, and you might get a call back if the person selected drops out.