Decoding applications: How to apply for jobs.

A couple of journalists emailed questions about job hunting recently.  Now that sweeps is over, the flood gates will open.

One area that many asked about is the actual application process.  Do you go through Human Resources?  Do you really need a cover letter?  Do you send an application by email, snail mail or both?  Are there any tricks to knowing how to fill out applications for jobs?

So let’s delve into these questions.  First, should you send an application to Human Resources.  Many companies require an application be filed in the corporate HR system before a news director is allowed to contact you.  So if you don’t apply through HR your application may never actually count.  So, fill out the paperwork online then email the ND a cover letter and resume stating that you have applied and are very interested in the specific job.

So the answer to whether you email or snail mail your application is a little of both.  Electronic is the way the corporate world works nowadays.  But it doesn’t hurt to follow up with a letter to an ND making sure the person is aware your application exists.

Do you need a cover letter?  Consider it an opportunity to really explain who you are as an employee.  Where else do you get to describe your work ethic, journalistic goals and strengths clearly?  A well written cover letter still impresses.  Just  make it more than, “Hi, I am so and so and I am applying for _____ job and can be reached at _____ number.”

When filling out applications, really watch for typos.  Keep in mind that many companies use programs to scan for keywords and weed out people without the required experience for a job.  Another good reason to go ahead and send a cover letter and resume.  You just never know.

Finally, as obvious as this may sound, make sure you spell the news director’s name correctly.  If you don’t, nothing else you say or do matters.  I’ve heard many ND’s talk about how often this happens.  A cover letter is sent with their name spelled wrong, a completely different name or the wrong call letters.  If you are sloppy, you will pay for it.

Hope this answers a lot of your questions.  Good luck in your search!



Wanted a new job: Will your social media account help or hurt your search?

I have almost no doubt you have heard plenty of talk about the importance of being social media savvy, especially when job hunting.  But is your account truly ready for potential bosses “checking in?”  Now that I am also researching and in some cases recruiting journalists for jobs, I am finding that social media accounts are a gold mine of information.  A lot of it you may not even realize.  Until now.

What prospective employers are looking at.

  • Your personality
  • Who your friends are
  • Who your friends are not
  • Potential liabilities

Prospective bosses are reading your tweets, FB postings and any other social media sites they can find you on.  If they get your name or a resume reel, they immediately hop online to check you out.  Count on the fact that they will read what you say from then on, regularly.  So if you complain that all the other women in the newsroom hate you, make fun of viewers, or gripe about everything under the sun, you are sending a clear message that you are a pain in the a#! and hiring you should be avoided.  I am not saying that every tweet has to be sunshine and roses.  You can be real.  You just don’t want to come across as bitter, neurotic, high maintenance or just plain difficult.  That will hurt you immensely.  Also, do not make your twitter account your outlet for your hobby only.  This is really meant for major sports buffs.  If almost every tweet is about your favorite team, consistently over several weeks, you won’t be taken as seriously. (I am talking to news people here, not sporto’s.)  Potential bosses are looking for people who provide thought provoking conversations on a variety of subjects.  They are looking to see if you have the ability to network, and how you interact with your “audience.”

Also, you should be aware that potential employers cruise through your list of friends on your social media accounts.  They monitor which groups you hashtag with regularly on twitter.  The reasons are fascinating.  In some cases, they are checking to see if you are already a Twitter pal with people in their own newsroom.  Maybe you are buds with another reporter/producer/anchor candidate up for the same job.  It is a way to see if you have “friends” in common.  Then they know of ways to check you out, besides that reference list you provided.

They also check to see who you are not friends with.  Do you tweet with coworkers at all?  Do you seem to only talk to fellow Giants or 49er fans?  Do you have broad appeal or are you a one subject wonder surrounded by “followers” of the same thinking?  By reading your friends list, a manager can figure out a lot about how well you integrate with all types of people.

Finally, they look for potential liabilities.  Do you tell off the viewer that balls you out on your Twitter feed?  Do you talk about getting drunk last night?  Do you use the f-word or make crass comments. (Yes, this includes posts on any personal accounts.  Assume they will get access one way or another.)  A lot of GM’s and ND’s have interesting Twitter identities you would never guess, just so they can check on unsuspecting employees and/or potential hires.

Now that you know what potential employers are checking out, make sure you give them a clear look at all you have to offer.  Show off your personality, networking abilities and interaction with your viewers.  Your social media accounts, especially Twitter, are an easy way to really give insight into your worth.  Just focus on your strengths, and give yourself an edge over the competition.


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.



Preparing for job interviews, what to research and watch

This summer I have had both experienced journalists and soon to be grads asking how to prepare for a job interview.  As great as we journalists are about researching issues, we sometimes fall short when it comes to job interviews.  In fact, several times when I was asked to interview people, I was struck by how little information they seemed to know about the prospective city and the station.  You have to do your homework!  You are providing a first impression of what kind of skills you will provide the station.  If you come across as thinking, “I’m here and my work on my reel stands for itself.” you are letting management know you are not dedicated to research.  Why does this matter?  It makes you look sloppy, self indulgent and therefore a potential liability.  You want to let your potential new bosses know that you are genuinely interested in the area you may soon call home.

So how do you this?  For starters you must catch up on current events in the city where you will interview.  The internet and Twitter are great places to see what’s happening.  Next, watch the station’s newscasts online.  Get a feel for the news philosophy and what skills you might be able to bring to the shows.  If you are a producer, look for ways you could improve the show you are interviewing for.  If you are a reporter, look for the type of perspective that might be missing in the newscasts that you can then offer.  This will also entail researching the news director and Assistant News Director to see what their news philosophies are.  ( See “When the interview really counts” and “Interview the station” for more on how to do that.)  Have some ideas on how you would help cover a local event at the station where you are interviewing.  Be prepared for the question, “So what would you bring to this story today if you worked here.”

It is not uncommon to be given a pop quiz on the movers and shakers in the city where you will interview.  I was given tests like this many times.  Stay current on where you are living also.  ND’s gave me pop quizzes on stories from where I currently lived to make sure I stayed on top of issues even when out of town.

You can also give a sort of pop quiz to the ND.  ND’s especially like to tell you “war stories” while in an interview.  They like to check out your reactions and they are trying to see if they relate to you.  A great way to facilitate a connection is to research the ND and bring up a story he/she once covered and ask for more details.  This also helps you get a moment to catch your breath, while the ND tells you all about covering that event.

Another interesting question you should prepare for:  “What are you reading right now?”  This is trickier than it may seem.  The ND probably doesn’t want to hear about a trashy romance novel.  A super highbrow book may not actually impress either.  Again, the ND wants to see how curious you are as a person.  (Read “Reality check” for more on the reasoning behind this.)  Do you research things besides news?  What subjects are you passionate about?  This not only helps the ND get a feel for you as a person, it also helps him/her figure out if there’s a “beat” available that fits you well.

Finally, be prepared to get a little personal.  I had many deep conversations about “life” with prospective ND’s and GM’s.  They might go there and ask you if your spouse is ok with a move or if you can find a church to get fulfillment.  We’ve talked kids, insecurities that drove us and also about bad decisions made that motivated us to be better.  Covering news is voyeuristic.  It can be intensely personal.  There are a lot of issues that need rational minds to really delve into.  Your ND will do whatever she/he can to see if you are a good fit.  Get ready to get real.  Stay true to who you are.  After all, many journalists give a piece of themselves in every story:  Might as well in the job interview too.