Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Why you didn’t get the job – unsuccessful applications analysed

A friend of mine has been interviewing applicants for a reporter’s post. The ideal candidate would have two or three years experience on a newspaper or B2B magazine, but an impressive recent graduate of a practical journalism course would also be in with a good chance.

I’m not going to name the publication or identify any of the applicants. Suffice it to say that many dozens applied, and almost all of them could be rejected out of hand – because they made one of a shortlist of fundamental errors in their application.

So what I’m going to do here is analyse where the unsuccessful candidates went wrong. This is  a case study in how not to get a job.

You didn’t address your application to the editor by name
Many editors don’t put their name on the ad as a simple intelligence test – will you find their name and spell it right?

If you write to 'dear sir' (the editor happens to be a woman) 'dear sir or madam', 'to the personnel officer' or 'to whom to may concern', you fall at the first fence

Your CV let you down

You didn’t read the ad properly
Of if you did, you didn’t make sure your cv and two paragraph covering letter covered the key points it contained.

Your cv was generic
It had not been tailored to the job you were applying for, and hence gave no hint of why you might be suitable for the job

Your cv was too long
If it covered more than one sheet of A4 it was too long. If it was more than two pages it was way too long. You’re not that interesting.

Your cv was poorly structured
It did not start with your relevant employment history, work experience or internship, which means you failed to apply the inverted triangle structure to it.

The editor wanted to see immediately whether you were potentially a serious candidate. If you made them wade first through your GCSEs, A Levels or anything else you were wasting their time. Put your current job/work experience/internship first, then work backwards.

If the editor sees that you are doing work that makes you potentially suitable, you have hooked them enough to get them to read on.

You don’t have an accredited or practical qualification
The next thing the editor wants to know about, so it should come immediately after your employment history or work experience, is your journalistic qualification. They want you to have completed a practical course accredited by either the NCTJ or PTC or, if unaccredited, then the qualification should come from a journalism school with a very high reputation of its own.

You may have an MA in comparative journalism or some other high-faluting theoretical qualification, but lack shorthand and law. You’ve never reported, attended a meeting, press conference or other straightforward event. 

If your 'journalism' degree left you in this position, while telling you it prepared you for a career as a journalist, you wuz robbed.

You’ve done too little
There’s little evidence you have done all you can to gain practical journalistic experience. You haven't worked on a student magazine, paper, radio or TV station; you don't have your own blog or website; you have had few, if any, work experience placements.

You’ve done too much
You have such extensive work experience that the editor decided you must be rubbish or someone would have offered you a job by now

The shortlist

When this editor had finished rejecting those who failed because of one of the points above, she had very few people to interview. So the lesson is: present yourself properly and you stand a good chance of getting on a shortlist.

 You made the shortlist but you interviewed poorly because


You inflated your experience
Under questioning the editor found that your employment history/work experience was fabricated.

For example, claims to have done reporting for a number of national newspapers actually meant you did product  fact boxes for the lifestyle section


The editor discovered that your claims to have interviewed a number of famous people was false – you just transcribed the tapes of the actual interviewer


Your claim to be interested in the subject the magazine covered was false
You were not up to speed on news in the given area. You could not explain common terms and concepts necessary to covering the given area.

You came without story ideas
When the editor asked what you’d be writing today if you were on the magazine you hadn’t a clue.

The successful candidate
Interviewing left two, perhaps three, serious candidates for the job. The successful candidate avoided all the pitfalls above, won a tick against all the things the editor wanted and then, finally, seemed most likely to fit in.

So here's one thing you can't work on, it's just the invaluable luck of the draw when you apply for a job: Have a face that fits.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Can journalists make money out of face time?

This is a tale of two Andy Bulls. One is an Australian pop star, the other is me. 
Pop star Andy makes his music available for download on the internet. That's him on the left. I don't look much like him. I suppose I might look something like his dad.

He is big on social media, with a Facebook page, a MySpace one and a Twitter account. Fortunately I got to the Twitter username andybull before he did, which means that, on occasion, I get a tweet like this: "OMG I just bought your new album." Or: 

My namesake has a new CD out, and he promotes it on social networks. I don’t know how much he expects to make from sales of his recorded music, but if he is like the average performer, it is not going to be the main part of his income. It’s much more likely that live performance earns pop star Andy his money.

Because the economics of the music industry have shifted. Once you toured at a loss to promote your records, which you made your money on. Now you pretty much give your music away in order to market your live performances.

In the music industry, they know that paywalls are exceedingly leaky things. Something maybe Mr Murdoch has yet to discover.

So what can journalists learn from the music industry? Can we do live performances?

I suspect most journalists’ immediate response will be no, obviously not. But let’s think about it. Because it’s not as ridiculous as it sounds.

Let’s take B2B as a sector. It’s long been part of the model to have live events – from conferences and conventions to exhibitions and awards ceremonies. Indeed, there are titles where the print publication makes little, but the events connected to its brand name are comfortably profitable.

But is there more that can be done with this model? I ask because the subject came up twice last week when I was interviewing two B2B practitioners for my project: Multimedia Journalism: A Practical Guide.

One publishes business titles and spoke of how readers were very keen on face-to-face events at which they could meet industry movers and shakers, and that his titles were facilitating that as part of their business model.

Another, serving the drinks industry, said that his title had a club, limited to 200 prominent readers, who met quarterly to learn about the latest techniques for improving their businesses.

So it seems that, certainly in B2B, the face-to-face model can work. I suspect that brighter minds than mine will find many ways to make it work much more widely.

But how about consumer and general news media? Part of the Murdoch paywall initiative is a club for Times and Sunday Times readers which gives them benefits. Alongside the priority tickets and exclusive openings there are events featuring high profile journalists.

I’m not sure that would sway me to cough up, but let’s not knock it until they’ve tried it.

My MMJ project follows the face-to-face model. It’s a book, website and community. I’d like the book to sell some copies, and you need an access code found inside the shrink-wrapped book to get onto most of the accompanying website, and contribute to the community. However, it’s obviously going to be hard to keep non-buyers out.

So, while I hope this project will earn me something, I don’t expect it to pay the rent.

What pays the rent is my multimedia journalism training business. So I also want the MMJ project to market that. Like pop star Andy I make most of my income from these face-to-face sessions.

So I’d suggest that any journalist, any publisher, ought to ponder the face-time conundrum and see if it can work for them.

You can watch video interviews with the two B2B specialists mentioned here. But only until Saturday. After that they go behind my paywall.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Today's essential reading for journalists

Every journalist needs quick access to their most important sources of information.

One of the most effective ways of ensuring you don’t miss anything is to set up feeds from those key sites, individuals and publications from which you get the most news, information and ideas.

I’ve bundled the RSS feeds that I find most valuable into a combined feed. It appears to the right of this post.

You’ll want to make your own, tailored to the work that you do. Actually, you may well want several, focusing on different subjects.

If you are following Multimedia Journalism: A Practical Guide and are a journalism student, you will want a feed for each of the publications you are creating as part of your course, and  for any reporting beats you have been assigned.

My beat is multimedia journalism and I suggest that, if you want to keep up to speed with developments in the media, it should be one of your beats too. So you might find my feed useful as a starting point. You can preview it by going here, and then subscribe if you find it useful.

There are 17 feeds in my bundle. Not all of them post every day, but some of them post several times a day. I have set up this bundle to give me what has been posted just that day, hence it’s called Today’s Essential Reading.

Here’s what I value each of them for

This is one of my top three sources on innovation and learning. I like it because, in the words of 10,000 Words, it is: “a resource for journalists and web and technology enthusiasts to learn the tools that are shaping digital journalism. The site offers examples, resources, and tutorials of both new and established technologies used to enhance journalism.”

Jeff Jarvis is journalism professor at City University of New York, one of the very best educators, and another of my top three. He understands better than just about anyone how multimedia and social media affect journalism. He’s also very good on entrepreneurial journalism and much more besides.

Dan Blank specialises in B2B and is way in the lead on how this sector can keep up with web developments and cope with profound challenges to survival. He offers great, detailed advice in long posts on, for example, optimising the use of Twitter and Facebook, and the future of magazines. He completes my top three.

I also have three most-trusted sources of news about journalism:
The latter is also invaluable for tips on new developments in multimedia and how to learn about and use them

I could easily add the also-excellent Press Gazette and Holdthefrontpage to this list. Check them out, you might prefer them.

The rest of my 17 have their own specialisms

Expert information on developments in social media

Martin Belham’s blog. He’s part of the Guardian’s web development team and is very good on newspapers and the future of news and information online

Robin Hamman devises, implements and manages social media projects, particularly within broadcasting. He posts daily clusters of links to posts on a wide range of topics. A recent post covered geotagging, coping with negative feedback on social media sites, community management, new tools for journalists, and paywalls, among others. A great way to survey a lot of potential leads swiftly.

Does as it says.

Good on social media and internet marketing. Publishers have to get much better at marketing themselves through social media, and thereby reaching out to new audiences, and this blog covers this area well.

Martin Stabe’s the online editor of Retail Week magazine. He posts a daily bundle of links to things he has spotted across the media.

Part of the Knight Digital Media Centre , which “is dedicated to helping good journalists and good journalism succeed in the 21st century” through training. So it helps the working journalist get better, by keeping them abreast of developments and demonstrating how they can be used.

Covers “the UK’s digital economy” under headings including digital Britain, newspapers and the BBC.

Explores the challenges faced by newspapers in the digital age

Is “a blog covering Web 2.0 and mobile start-ups” edited by Mike Butcher.

How do you make a bundle?
I did it in Google Reader. If you have found other software that does good bundles, feel free to share by adding a comment.