Killer tips for acing your journalism job interview

To borrow a phrase: it’s not your imagination, there are more journalism jobs. Be ready for your next newsroom job interview by following these tips.

Know the day’s news

One surefire way to get your résumé thrown in the “don’t call us, we’ll call you” pile is not knowing current events, especially the news of the day. Make sure you read the day’s paper, watch or listen to the newscast, and review the online coverage before your interview. This will save you some awkwardness when you are asked “What did you think of today’s coverage?”

Know the competition

It’s not enough to know the newsroom to which you are
applying inside and out, you must also know what the competition is doing. What have you seen the newsroom’s competitors doing online and off that you liked or disliked? Be able to give a smart and concise synopsis on ways the newsroom can learn from others in the same market.

Bring a copy of your résumé

You probably attached your résumé and cover letter to the email you sent your interviewer, but with all the emails journalists and editors receive a day, it may get lost in the pack. If your interviewer asks to see your résumé, be ready to hand over a physical copy and keep extras on hand just in case.

Also, one typo can ruin your newsroom ambitions. Make sure this doesn’t happen by running your résumé through a good spell checker, then eyeballing it for mistakes a spell checker can’t pick up, then handing it to someone else who can look at it for you. Bonus points if that person is a copy editor.

Have an online portfolio
All journalists should have an online portfolio, especially those who deal with multimedia, video, audio, graphics, etc. The web address of your portfolio should be listed on top of your résumé, which will give the interviewer time to pull it up before your meeting. Expect quizzical looks from many interviewers if you hand over a flash drive, tape, or CD.

Have a Twitter account

Whether you use social media professionally or semi-professionally, you should have an active Twitter account, especially if the position you interview for relates to the web. Many newsrooms will excuse a private Facebook page, but a candidate who does not use social media raises a red flag.

Bring ideas to the table

Newsrooms everywhere are looking to innovate their coverage and are often hiring people who can bring fresh ideas and perspective to the table. If you don’t have at least a few ideas for ways the newsroom can improve, you will hurt your chances of getting hired.

Remember soundbites

Journalists are busy people, so make sure you can encapsulate your experience or thoughts in short soundbites, rather than giving a drawn out answer to a single question.

Have your own questions

One of the biggest interview killers is answering “No” when someone asks “Do you have any questions?” Have a few smart questions ready — even if you perhaps know the answers to them — so you sound engaged and willing to learn. Some good questions include “What do you like about working here?” and “How do you see the newsroom changing over the next few years?”

Also, many interviewers will ask the same common questions: “Why do you want this job?” “Where do you see yourself in five years?” “What did you do at your last job?” and “What are your strengths/weaknesses?”

Have answers ready, but don’t rehearse them, because too much preparation can be spotted easily and creates the appearance that you cannot think on your toes. On the other hand, be prepared for curve-ball questions and don’t get frazzled when they are asked. Instead, take a few seconds, breathe, and answer. It’s better to have a good answer than a quick one.