How to prepare for a journalism job interview

Knowing how to prepare for a journalism job interview might seem worlds apart from that part-time job application you filled out when you were 15.

But never fear, we asked our award-winning editorial team what it takes to make you stand out so you can fulfil your dream and become a journalist.

From coffee-stained shirts to getting the name of the newspaper wrong – we’ve made the mistakes so you don’t have to.

We’ve skipped the basics like turning up on time, not chewing gum, knowing who’s interviewing you and dressing smart because we’re sure you’ve been told that hundreds of times.

Before the interview:

Make sure you are up to date with current affairs

This goes without saying. Make sure you know the biggest news story of the last seven days, who got the scoop and how it was reported.

Then make yourself stand out. Would you have covered it differently? If so, how and why?

Do you always go straight to the back page? Don’t just read the bits of the paper you are interested in. It’s best to know a little about a lot, than a lot about a little.

You should read a variety of different papers and sites too – it’s good to compare how they cover the same story.

And expect to be asked for your opinion.

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Check your CV with a fine-tooth comb

You want to become a journalist so it is essential there are no spelling mistakes in your CV.

Make sure you’ve double-checked it. Then get someone else to read it. Then read it again.

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Top tip #1 – It’s driving licence not driving license
Top tip #2 – You have four As in your GCSEs not four A’s in your GCSE’s

Do your research

Make sure you know the demographic and circulation of the publication you are applying for.

Also, ensure you know the patch well – that includes the geographic boundaries, MPs, football teams etc.

For bonus points mention any contacts you have in the area.

Finally, make sure you know the competition too.

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Re-read the job description

The job description is basically a list of competencies needed for the job – for example, working to tight deadlines and working in a team.

So have examples ready to talk about when you have displayed these attributes – these don’t always have to be journalism related.

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Be active on social media

But for the right reasons.

Your interviewer will undoubtedly check you out on Twitter before the interview. So make sure you are tweeting informed opinions on current affairs and not just retweeting memes and posting pictures of your brunch.

Avoid criticising news organisations and posting pictures of you in worst-for-wear states.

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During the interview:

Have a copy of your CV to hand

You’ve probably already emailed it but journalists get a lot of emails and it could well have got lost in the pile with everyone else’s.

And have a couple spare in case there is more than one person interviewing you.This will make you look proactive and organised.

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Bring examples of your work

Your clippings are the best way of selling yourself. It’s one thing to say how great you are but it’s better to prove it.

This is the perfect opportunity to build your journalism portfolio by organising your clippings in a presentable manner – you don’t want to spend ages flicking through mountains of papers getting flustered to find an article.

You also don’t want to pass round a tea-stained bit of paper missing the corner because you needed somewhere to put your chewing gum.

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Pitch a story

Newsrooms are looking for innovative people, so you might as well start now.

But don’t just go in with an idea, you also need to know how you’re going to pull it off. What contacts are you going to use? What are you going to do to make sure people read it? And make sure they haven’t already covered it.

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Talk about journalists who inspire you

Recruiters want to know you didn’t just wake up this morning and decide you want to become a journalist.

So be prepared to talk about who/what inspired you to be a journalist.

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You don’t have to answer questions they shouldn’t be asking you

It’s no one’s business who you voted for, when you plan to get married and how many children you want.

So, politely decline answering these questions. It’s probably a trick anyway.

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After the interview:

Ask questions at the end

You will usually get asked if you have any questions at the end of an interview and you might come across disinterested if you don’t have anything to ask so prepare a few in advance.

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So there you have it – how to prepare for a journalism job interview written by journalists for journalists.

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Have we missed anything? Share your top tips for journalism job interviews below.

Featured image courtesy of reynermedia, with thanks