I could not help but utter out loud “Can I get an Amen?” when I read a recent DM from a managing editor I love talking with on Twitter. She requested an article on job hunting etiquette in 2014. Then she gave examples like bailing on job interview plans with an email or phone message. Can you imagine booking a plane flight for someone then getting a reply email with the itinerary saying “never mind?” It happens. Another example: Turning down job offers by email or phone message. Recently an AND mentioned to me how casual job candidates are becoming on email. An example he gave was emailing a job candidate about when the person could talk the next week. The reply, 1 line “I’m busy.” No, “Thanks for reaching out.” No, “Dear (name and title). Just the 1 line. “I’m busy.” Believe me when I tell you that AND got too busy to talk to that candidate real quick. Another candidate made fun of the station he was heading to on social media and the hiring managers saw the rude comment as they were waiting for the candidate to arrive at the station. I really could go on and on with more examples. But this one really covers a lot of the issue. Another hiring manager told me that a recent candidate told her to call back, because the candidate was at the gym and too busy to talk. It’s not about what’s convenient for you. It’s about whether you are good enough and responsible enough to do the job. Saying you would rather go to the gym sends a pretty clear message about your priorities.
Look, we dinosaurs get it that the world is more casual now because of email and text messages. We get it that etiquette is not as much of a given. But there are some guidelines that simply must be followed if you ever want to be taken seriously in this business. And you must understand, just avoiding these difficult but necessary conversations will give you a bad label and fast. You do not want to be known as difficult, righteous, clueless and just plain rude. There’s no way to sugar coat this. If you think the news biz is small (and you should) understand that the pool of hiring managers is even smaller. And they compare notes and dish on names. So if you ignore the job offer emailed to you, or make fun of a station on Facebook or bail on a job interview with a phone message, you are not just turning that one potential job down. Those managers have buddies in the biz and they will know what you did as well.
So let’s outline some expectations hiring managers have for potential candidates.
Job Hunting Etiquette Expectations
Spell names correctly
Be available for calls
Call and talk to hiring manager about job interviews and offers
If job hunting in the company, tell your boss
Do not trash stations or towns on social media
Say thank you
When you get an email from a station, respond back with some sort of salutation. Let’s use the name Joe Smith for example. When you reply, start off with “Dear Mr Smith”, “Dear Joe”, “Mr. Smith”, “Joe”, “Hi Joe”, or “Hi Mr Smith”. Something other than just the reply itself, with no salutation. This person could be your next boss, show some respect.
Also, spell their name correctly. I cannot tell you how often this does not happen. You are a journalist, who supposedly cares about the facts. If your potential boss’s name is not important enough to double check, will those facts in your story be important to you? Hiring managers are not going to say, “Well, typos happen to everyone.” They will hit delete, and you are done.
Be available for calls. I understand that sometimes hiring managers can leave you hanging. I understand that sometimes they say they will call at 2 and don’t call until 4 or even the next day. Truthfully, most will send you an email or text apologizing for getting caught up in an emergency. They are handling big issues. The fact you like to go to the gym at 3PM every day is not a good enough reason to miss a call or cause scheduling difficulties. If you work overnights, it is okay to tell the hiring manager when you are awake and even to set an appointment time to call. If you work dayside, hiring managers understand they may need to wait to talk to you until after your live hit or newscast. But you do need to make yourself available. You need to give several options and possibly skip the gym for a day to talk.
If a station is flying you in or inviting you for a visit, or making an offer and you are turning it down, you need to talk about it with that hiring manager. This does not mean leaving a “bail out” message on VM. You need to show respect. Talk about it. If you got another offer, say so. If you decided the station is just too far from home, apologize and say so. Again, if you cannot have this kind of conversation how will you handle tough interviews as a reporter, and difficult situations as a show boss? These hiring managers are people too. They can relate a lot better than you might expect. Think of how you feel when you are just bold face rejected. Stations can feel the same way. Candidates have to take the high road, fair or not. You have more at stake.
The same applies if you want to check out a job in the same company at which you currently work. You cannot just go for it and not let your boss know. Companies have policies where the new station will call the station where you are and make sure it can afford to lose you. You do not want your boss to get a “surprise” call like this. It makes your boss look bad.
When you are on a job interview, do not trash the station if you did not like it. Do not trash the town you are checking out. Do not try and make witty jokes about these locations to seem clever. They can be taken the wrong way. Expect your potential new bosses to be monitoring your social media accounts. Obviously they do not mind the city the station is located in, or they would not live there! Picking on the place, is just not smart. It will not be taken as funny or witty or clever. You will be labeled low class and they will tell others.
Lastly, say thank you for a phone call, job interview and/or offer. It is surprising how often a station will fly out a candidate and then never hear anything back. Yes, I know stations can sometimes be low class and blow you off inappropriately. Once again, you have more at stake. You need to be professional and appreciative at all times. That ND may not have impressed you but likely has a lot of ties in the industry that could kill your chances at your dream job later. Do not burn a bridge. Be classy and AT LEAST email a thank you.
Remember, the more respect you show potential bosses and stations, the more likely you will get the same respect back. It is not uncommon for a station to pass on a person, but then give your name to another station looking to hire. And frankly, with so many mergers and more emphasis on collaboration, that manager you blew off, could end up at your station or broadcast group one day. Memories are long, when you lack etiquette during the job interview process. You simply cannot risk getting a bad reputation. So mind your manners, even now in the age of email, VM’s, DM’s and text messages. Hiring managers will thank you for it, one way or another.