How Not to Get a Job in Journalism

newspaper-2Louise, a senior in a Journalism program at an Australian university, had an encounter with an astute hiring manager who used a practical interview exercise to evaluate potential new hires. Louise writes well, so perhaps she has some skills needed for this craft, but her first experience in actual Journalism was memorable but not successful.

A practical interview exercise is a hiring method where the applicant is evaluated on their ability to perform a series of actions that are directly related to the job they want. Examples include asking welder candidates to join a seam, asking heavy equipment mechanic candidates to troubleshoot a faulty hydraulic brake system, or asking recruiter candidates to write up a job posting on a tight deadline. Anyone can talk a good game, but a practical interview exercise asks the candidate show what they can do.

Here’s how it went, as Louise described on her Student Journalism 101 blog:

“Hi, I’m Peter. The editor. The one who you have been conversing with over the emails.”

He seemed very official, very serious, very busy, very… all the describing words that make a job applicant feel more lacking in self-assurance and the situation all of a sudden very real.

“Hi Peter, yes I assumed that. Nice to meet you.”

“Come with me to my office and we’ll have a talk about what’s going to happen today.”

Interview time. Game face: on.

“I will not be interviewing you.”

Great.

“I don’t believe in interviews, they don’t tell me anything. I find that a lot of the time people will sound like an excellent candidate in words, yet their work is not very good at all. Instead, you will spend today doing work tests that will be led by the chief of staff. Not only do you have to impress a grumpy old editor like me, you also have to prove to the other journalists that you’re the right candidate for the job. At the end of the day, because they are such a tight-knit group, it is up to them to decide whether they like you or not and believe me, they are a tough bunch.”

“So… what exactly will I be doing in this work test?” I tentatively asked Peter, trying to hide the nerves in my voice.

“You will be writing two articles for the paper tomorrow.”

Gulp.

“The head of staff will assign you stories which you are to complete. Oh and by the way, these country folk will be able to smell out whether you are an experienced journalist or not. If you don’t seem credible enough or they begin to wonder if you really know what you’re doing, they’ll eat you alive.”

Wow! “…people will sound like an excellent candidate in words, yet their work is not very good…” is an insightful comment from brilliant hiring manager. Yes – anyone can talk a good game, especially in a word-driven field like Journalism. His practical interview exercise offers both a realistic job preview, and tests the real skills needed to survive in the role.

a-u-map

As it turns out, the classwork that Louise had completed for her major had little relevance to how the field actually works. (This is not a specific knock against the Australian University System <above>. The same problem is endemic throughout the USA’s University System too.) Louise reflects:

At university, we have weeks, if not a month to write an article and submit it for assessment. Obviously, I knew I didn’t have weeks in which to finish my story today, but in only a couple of hours?

In all my years of studying, I have never been under this type of pressure before. Nor had I ever learned how to cold call from a list of PR numbers or anything even remotely similar.

I believe that’s the problem with the majority of today’s journalism courses. Students spend months and years analyzing texts, studying media convergence, writing essays about journalistic standards, outlining business proposals and critiquing god knows what and what for – but this has largely nothing to do with what really goes on in the day to day jobs of working journalists.

University may enable degrees, but they do not prepare students in the slightest for the real world of journalism work.

Louise learned an important lesson about the disconnect between school and work. One hopes that she did not take on an extraordinary student loan debt to learn this lesson.

Please see the whole article here:
http://studentjournalism101.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/how-not-to-get-a-job-in-journalism/

A few extra thoughts for Louise:

  1. Good on you for starting a blog. Blogging is great practice for print journalism, especially if you work on a deadline. See the master, professional journalist James Lileks at lileks.com.
  2. Good on you for trying to get an cadetship (which I think is Australian for “internship”). Your trial by fire gave you a look into how your profession works. Better to know now how it works, instead of getting hit after graduating and getting hired.
  3. Keep at it. You’ve had a taste of the profession – hopefully you can make your way back into the field.
  4. Please write more.

Hopefully, we’ll hear more from Louise, preferably in print.

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11 October 2013 at 12:27AM Leave a comment

Sam Shank: The 5 People You Should Never Hire

All Five Marx Brothers

All five Marx Brothers: Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Zeppo & Gummo.

CEO Sam Shank is hiring for his company, HotelTonight. In the spirit of NotJobs, Sam penned an article for the LinkedIn series How I Hire which he titled, “The 5 People You Should Never Hire.” Regular NotJobs readers (and our lone subscriber) shouldn’t be surprised at his list of the untouchables:

  1. The One Who Hasn’t Used Your Product
  2. The One With the Typo
  3. The One With the Out-of-Date LinkedIn Profile
  4. The One Who’s Inappropriate on Twitter
  5. The One Who Isn’t Motivated to Do Great Things

Shank has a good idea of what he IS looking for, which includes enthusiasm, passion, energy, pragmatism, intelligence, and thoughtfulness. Those are the qualities that will make his enterprise grow.

The entire article (which is highly recommended) is here:
http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130924101629-417196-how-i-hire-the-5-people-you-should-never-hire

5 October 2013 at 12:29AM Leave a comment

‘I Would Be Absolutely Perfect For This,’ Report 1,400 People Looking At Same Job Posting

The Onion nails it with a story that all recruiters will believe about the number of perfect applicants for a marketing job at Swensen Digital:

‘I Would Be Absolutely Perfect For This,’ Report 1,400 People Looking At Same Job Posting

SAN FRANCISCO—Upon coming across the same job posting Monday for a full-time position at a local startup company, an estimated 1,400 people reportedly described the opening as “a perfect fit” for their qualifications, saying it was exactly the opportunity they’ve been waiting for. “I have all the skills they want, my experience matches up—I honestly don’t know if there’s anyone out there better suited for this job than me,” said unemployed man Charles Duncan, echoing the sentiments of 1,400 others, 900 of whom believe their facility with social media and knowledge of web design will definitely make their application “stand out from the rest of the pack.”

See the video or the full text story to see how it worked out.

5 July 2013 at 2:19AM Leave a comment

Recruitment Ad for Evil Minions

Ad for Evil MinionsWANTED

EVIL GENIUS seeks minions to sacrifice their lives in world domination attempt. Must be prepared to work 24-7 for fascist psychopath for no pay. Messy death inevitable but costumes and laser death rays provided. No weirdos. Call: 1-900-MWAH-HAHA

30 June 2013 at 1:07AM Leave a comment

One for the Class of 2013…

entry-level  Jobs

23 May 2013 at 12:34AM Leave a comment

How Not to Get a Job as a First Round NFL Draft Pick

CareerBuilder asked hiring managers about frequent mistakes that will destroy a candidate’s chance at employment, and 60% cited answering a call or texting during an interview as one of the biggest deal breakers. Sixty-two percent said one of the most detrimental mistakes a candidate can make is appearing uninterested.

— Forbes: The 13 Most Outrageous Job Interview Mistakes

wvu HelmetEugene Cyril “Geno” Smith III had leveraged his experience with the West Virginia Mountaineers football team into a shot as a first round pick in the 2013 National Football League Draft. However, Geno Smith did not get picked in the first round. During his visits to potential employers, he ensured that he would not get the job.

helmet1-jetsMuch of the pre-draft buzz was around how Smith would be the first quarterback taken in the first round. Smith was drafted in the second round by the New York Jets, the 39th pick overall. The first quarterback in the draft was E.J. Manuel, taken 23 picks earlier by the Buffalo Bills as the 16th pick in Round 1.

On YahooSports, Jason Cole describes what might have changed the front office’s perceptions of Smith:

Two sources indicated that when Smith went on some visits to teams, rather than interact with coaches and front-office people, he would spend much of his time on his cell phone. Instead of being engaged with team officials, he would be texting friends or reading Twitter or a number of other distracting activities.

“All these other players who were in there were talking to the coaches, trying to get to know people and he was over there by himself,” one of the sources said. “That’s not what you want out of your quarterback.”

One must wonder if any text message is worth losing a millions of dollars to read. First round picks get salary/bonus contracts that average around $12M. Contracts for second round picks average between $2M and $800K.

Smith is a member of the Millennial generation – the most technologically connected generation on Earth. However, both Careerbuilder and Jason Cole show us that some Millennials have trouble knowing when to connect through social media, and knowing when to focus on the real live people in the room.

Is it smart to let your smart phone cost you the job?

3 May 2013 at 7:55AM Leave a comment

NotJobs: Repetition as the Root of Insanity

A little bit of advice for the applicants who continue to submit the same resume/cover letter/application to the same company time after time after time.

always-do-flowchart

If it didn’t get you an interview last time, what makes you think that it will get you an interview this time?

If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.

This type of job search action usually indicates a desperate but lazy job seeker. “Desperate” because they are obviously making an effort to find different employment. “Lazy” because it looks like they can’t be bothered to take even a few minutes to update the information they submit.

Perhaps the good Doctor said it best:

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

The tips and take-aways are, “Always update your personal information, resume and other job search weapons, before submitting to a job opening.”

27 April 2013 at 12:38AM Leave a comment

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My Core Ideas

1. "I can't tell you the best way to get a job - because there is no one best way. After 21 years of recruiting, I CAN share things I've seen candidates do to guarantee they DIDN'T get the job."

2. "Most companies don't realize how their recruiting process impacts their candidate pool, and their business. Attention to simple things will result in big improvements."

About the Author

Troy Bettinger, SPHR is a Denver Recruiter, Public Speaker, HR Metrics Analyst and Human Resources Leader who has been recruiting in corporate and municipal environments since 1991.

He specializes in the complete hiring process: defining, sourcing, recruiting, testing, interviewing, offering and orienting new hires. He's also well versed in strategic human resources, college recruiting, diversity recruiting, AAP, EEO, ATS integration, recruiting metrics, social media, recruiting leadership, training and employment branding.

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