Job hunting journalists need to know that they have the right to ask for information during interviews to determine whether the station/job is right for them. I say this because lately I am hearing about some rather interesting station and company policies that are counter to this concept.
So here’s a bill of rights job candidates should keep on hand. If these things do not happen during the interview process, walk away.
Job Hunting Bill Of Rights:
You have the right to be flown/brought in for an interview
You have the right to reimbursement for cab fares/lodging/gas during the interview
You have the right to entertain many job opportunities
You have a right to meet staff you will be working with
You have a right to make a counter offer
Let’s start at the beginning. How can you decide if you want a job, if the station is unwilling to bring you in to see the station and meet potential co-workers? One large broadcasting company with plenty of cash, has decided that stations should not routinely fly candidates in. One of its stations even gets crappy about paying for gas reimbursement if a candidate drives to the station. This is simply unacceptable. If they care so little about making sure you see what the company is about, why invest your time, passion for news and career with such a group? Pass.
Station/company: If you tell a candidate they will have to pay upfront for cab fare, hotel rooms and or gas during the interview, then reimburse the expense right away. Ask the candidate to collect their receipts and provide them during the interview. Then as they leave, hand over a check or at least get one in the mail within 10 days of the interview. It is just common courtesy to not spend someone else’s money. Remember these candidates can go elsewhere, including the station across the street that is already kicking your a*s! That 30 dollar cab fare you screwed the person on, can and will become the stuff of urban legend in networking circles. Don’t be cheap. Choose classy. Job Candidate: If you are stuck with the bill and no reimbursement, do not be embarrassed about hounding the station’s human resources department for the cash. You are in the right!
Another station, in a top 5 market, has decided to require candidates to “commit” before the interview process is completed. When I say before, I’m talking before even being flown in to see the place. This is a huge sign that you need to just pass. If a station bullies before you even get in the door, the treatment will only become worse once you are there. This station wants to prevent candidates from entertaining several job opportunities. In fact the ND even has been known to threaten candidates who say they are looking at several options, mentioning that “it’s a small biz” and “strings can be pulled.” Years ago another group tried to pull something similar on friends of mine. Job candidates: Never fear a scenario where stations have to vie for your services. If they are not even willing to try to woo, you need to say bye-bye.
You have a right to meet the staff you will be working with. Let’s say you interviewed to work nightside, then you get a call with an offer for dayside. Problem is you did not meet a single dayside staffer. Say that you are flattered, and ask that some of those staff members call you. Also if you are flown in for an interview on a weekend for a weekday gig, it is not unreasonable to expect that at least the manager you would work with, shows up for the interview. Again, I emphasize, this is what you should expect, AT THE LEAST. It is crucial that you are able to relate well with your co-workers. News requires too many long work hours, and too many pressure cooker situations to work around people with whom you do not relate. Team cohesiveness is crucial. Demand to get access and see if it’s a group with whom you want to be aligned.
Lastly, you have a right to counter offer. Many stations are getting better about coming to the table with the top money they can give. Many more intentionally go lower to see how little they can spend to get you in the door. This part of job hunting can be a real game and candidates often feel they just cannot ask for more. Ask! If you don’t get the most you can, coming in the door, you will never get much once you are there. Even if the deal sounds great, ask for more. Make sure the station is doing the most it can to show it values you, the position and the impact you will have. Don’t sell yourself short. If you are not confident in yourself, no one else will be confident in you either. Make a counter offer even if the ND says the initial offer is the best they can do. You have to call the potential bluff. Managers expect to negotiate.
Now that you have a job hunting bill of rights, hold stations and broadcasting companies to them. Each time each you do you not only improve things for yourself, but you help pave the way for everyone else. This is a crucial time to make sure broadcasting companies remember who is the most important in their newsrooms. It’s the people busting it every day. And it all begins with your first impression. Be strong!