So, your CV has sparkled, and you’ve got yourself a work trial day – and an interview at the end of it.
Your mum’s already probably given you one crucial piece of advice.
With huge apologies to our new graduate Curtis (he’s the man in the picture), don’t underestimate the importance of looking sharp – and that includes those shoes.
But what else do you need to know as you prepare for a testing day – in both senses – in a newsroom?
Most employers looking for trainee journalists will now insist on a work trial day – and it makes sense for both sides.
Quite obviously, it gives managers a useful insight into the attitudes, character, and skills of a would-be employee.
But it also allows jobhunters to work out whether an employer is all they’re cracked up to be.
So, here are my top tips for making the most of a journalism work trial day:
- be smart, like your mum says. If you’re a bloke, that doesn’t necessarily mean wearing a tie, but it might mean wearing a suit. At least if you’ve got a tie, you can take it off if you find yourself overdressed. You’ll find it difficult to go in the other sartorial direction.
- be on time: plan your journey and give yourself plenty of time for train delays, roadworks, accidents etc. If you’re stuck in a traffic jam, at least tweet a picture to the newsdesk.
- do your research: find out who’s going to be interviewing you, and make sure you remember their name and what they look like.
- do your research again: read the website, and ideally any printed products. Be up to date and ready to talk about the latest stories, live blogs, videos etc. Know the area.
- bring a story of your own: even if it’s just a decent and original FoI request idea
- follow orders: if you’re asked to write 300 words, don’t write 150 or 600. Listen to the brief. Ask intelligent questions and make suggestions. Actually, ask stupid questions too, if it stops you getting the wrong end of the stick.
- make your intros sing: today is about making a really great first impression. That’s why you got the shoe polish out. Well, polish that intro, too. That way, you’ll put your possible future bosses at ease rather than on edge when they click on your copy.
- make the tea: it’s a horrible cliché, but like all good ones, it’s rooted in truth. Offering to make a drink shows your potential new colleagues that you’re a team player.
- talk to people: equally important in showing your ability to get on. You can bet your bottom dollar that the people interviewing you will have taken soundings from their workmates while you were making that tea.
- use the phone: phone rather than email. And make sure you sound brilliant.
- cope: or at least, look like you’re coping. One of the most important qualities of the 21st century journalist is the ability to multitask as priorities change.
And when you get to that interview stage?
- smarten yourself up – it’ll be at the end of an exhausting day
- prepare for the obvious standard questions
- be honest if you’ve decided the job really isn’t for you
- get feedback – ask how you’ve done, and whether they have any concerns about gaps in your knowledge or experience.
Above all, try to be a walking, talking definition of my favourite journalistic quality, confident humility.
And good luck.