How to succeed at a journalism job interview

There have been times when I’ve come close to throwing would-be reporters out of an interview.

The tipping point usually followed the question ‘Have you read our paper?’

When the answer came back in the negative, the game was very much up for the hapless candidate.

It was then very much a case of how long could I decently leave it before bringing this waste of all our time to a halt.

One way, then, to destroy your chances of getting a job as a journalist is to show no proven interest in the product for which you allegedly want to work.

I’m old-fashioned enough to reckon that just looking at the website when you’re going for a job where there are also print products ain’t good enough.

You need to have looked at a few copies of the paper or magazine.

So what else can you do to maximise your chances of success at an interview?

* Make a memorable first impression: And in a good way. This applies to any interview in any sector. That first minute or so is crucial, however much of a cliche it sounds. Eye contact, a firm handshake, a genuine smile and a confident style all go a very long way. As do clothes which are smart but instantly forgettable. Avoid being remembered for your clashing shirt and tie combo rather than that smashing comment you made about how the website could be improved.

* Do your homework: Make sure you know what the running stories are, who the key people are, and how the paper and website tackle issues. Come armed with an idea of what you like – and some diplomatic proposals for improvements.

* Ask the right questions: Try to use your questions to show your skills and your commitment, and avoid working your way through a tedious list of administrative points.

* Be ready to show your commitment: You might need to work for a day to show your worth, particularly if you are what might be regarded as an unproven trainee.

* Be prepared for predictable questions: Have an answer to questions such as ‘what’s the best story you’ve ever written’, ‘what apps do you use’, ‘who’s your best contact’ and ‘how would you go about getting to know the area’.

* Show you love writing: Talk about the papers and websites you admire, and the columnists you read.

Above all else, be confident without showing arrogance, and enthusiastic without becoming annoying.

And the very best of luck.


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