Job Hunting Etiquette 101

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

Use salutations
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.


The one thing you should ask about in a job interview, but probably don’t

We have talked a lot about ways to feel out a station when job interviewing.  We have discussed not judging a place by its market size.  Now let’s talk about the one thing you should ask about in a job interview, but probably don’t.  It is: How does your boss juggle work and family life (and what does he/she do to promote family life for employees)?

Stations continue cutting back on resources and many are chronically short staffed because of budget cuts and the constant threat of layoffs.  So, this may seem like a crazy question to ask in a job interview.  It’s not though.  The reason:  You have to be able to balance your life wherever you end up.  If you have a workaholic, eat three meals a day at the office desk, sleep on a cot when necessary kind of boss, then you can pretty much kiss quality family time goodbye.  If the boss doesn’t get it, you don’t get it either.

Of course all of us understand that TV news is far from a 9 to 5, punch in and out, kind of job.  (If you don’t you are going to be very frustrated!)  Still, some managers take gross advantage of salaried status and work us to death.  Often it isn’t even because of short staffing.  It is simply poor organization.  If you read through our section “Picking a Shop” you will see this is a big theme.  Poor organization, means poor management, means premature greying and a possible heart attack or bleeding ulcer for you.

Sitting in a job interview and asking a potential mentor how he/she manages to juggle work and family is a fair question.  You are getting advice.  You are also getting great insight into how this manager ticks.  Is this a person who will be reasonable when a life crisis happens?  Is this a person who will consider a crews safety during dangerous stories, like natural disasters?  The simple, “How do you juggle family/work?” question helps you naturally delve into these types of scenarios.  You will get great intel on your potential future boss.

If family is very important to you, it is best to be upfront about that from the get go.  If this is a run and gun, take no prisoners, work until you drop type station then you are going to be miserable.  It is possible to balance family life and be a successful highly productive journalist.  It requires organization.  And not just from you either.  Team effort is crucial.  You are not being selfish wanting to protect your family life.  You are maintaining a balance, so you can excel while at your job, because you know your family is fine at home.  A lot of managers get this, but even more need to be reminded.  Small rewards, like occasionally letting you head home early when your work is done, lead to big gains.  When the breaker happens on your day off, you are going to be more apt to call in and offer to help.  Managers, who respect you, get respect and extra effort in return.  It’s only natural.   So, go ahead, ask the question.  Your personal success is at stake.



Mentoring etiquette. Why giving thanks gets you more.

The point of is to help journalists grow and network. The goal is to help create mentoring relationships, since social media can eliminate the cut throat “this town is too small for us both” type of competition.  Basically, we hand out free advice and do it happily.  In return, I am getting really interesting insight into “netiquette.”

Overall I am finding Twitter to be a very polite “place.”  You see please and thank you’s despite the small character limit.  #FF is still used to show respect and gratitude.

Netiquette on Facebook gets more interesting despite having more room to write.  I see a lot less courtesy there when I peruse.  And not just for the survivetvnewsjobs account.  I notice it on my personal FB page as well.

Then there’s email.  I am surprised at the number of emails I receive asking for advice, that are replied to and then no follow up thank you.  So I checked with some other mentoring types.  They see the same pattern.  For those of you guilty as charged, so to speak, this is not an article admonishing you.  (Again, the premise of the website is to help.)  Instead, this article is a reminder that people who mentor, professionally and personally, like to know that taking the time out is appreciated.  Even more basic, we want to make sure when we replied, the email or DM actually went through.  We don’t want to be rude on our end of the equation either.  Replying lets us know it went through and we held up our end of the deal.

If you get great advice from a coworker or another journalist, make sure and say thank you.  Wait a few days and pull them aside or call and say thanks.  Better yet, put it in writing.  A note in their mailbox at work goes a long way.  Journalists especially appreciate something in writing.  It is rare for us to get and therefore noticed.  It does mean a lot.

This is another opportunity for you to gain an edge.  If you ask someone for advice, send thanks.  It can be a simple one sentence reply, or a quick two line handwritten note.  No one I talked with expects gushing (including me).  Since thank you notes are such a largely forgotten art, they go a long way.  I still have a short list in my head of all co-workers and interviewees that wrote me thank you notes.  It is a sign that the person is classy and respectful.  It shows that person can let bygones be bygones for a greater good.  When I get reference calls I make a point of telling the caller how classy these people are.  I say, these people wrote a thank you note when…  It is a tangible way to show that these people are worth taking a chance on.  They go the extra mile.  They are respectful and chances are high they will be great representatives for the station.  Others I have talked with say the same thing.  Respect breeds loyalty.

So when you ask for advice and get it, write a thank you.   It’s simple etiquette that could pay off in dividends for years.


Is bigger better? The truth about market sizes

I get a lot of tweets about what it takes to get into larger markets.  That’s always the goal right? The bigger you go, the better the money and the easier the job because you will have experienced co-workers around you.  You have to aim high.  Or do you?

When I graduated college, I quickly had an opportunity in a good station in what was market 28 at the time.  I was intimidated but a professor of mine said, “Newsrooms are all the same, just go for it.”  Guess what?  They are not all the same.  I have worked in small, mid and large markets.  Small markets have a high novice factor usually.  Large markets have some novices, incredible rising stars, people burning out and veterans enjoying the professional success they have.  There is definitely more of a cut throat feeling (at least in my experience) in large markets.  However, I learned the most from them because of that diversity of people.

Mid markets are often little gems many people overlook.  Nowadays many mid markets pay more than large markets.  Yes.  You read that correctly.  The mid markets appreciate their talent and try to encourage them to stay, so the newsrooms are often more stable.  Small markets know they are largely revolving doors, training grounds for reporters and producers.  Large markets know everyone wants to come work there.  Competition is fierce getting there, and doesn’t let up once you arrive.  It can be thrilling, until you want to settle down and have a family.  Mid markets realize this and tend to offer very talented journalists nice contracts and more stability.  You get to live in a place that’s great for raising kids and you get respect for who you are as a journalist.  That can be harder to come by in small and large markets, though not impossible.

So when considering a market, focus less on the ADI size and more on whether the place will fit well with your lifestyle and, if applicable, whether it’s a good place to raise children.  You may end up a lot happier that way.