Job applications and interviews can be a daunting prospect, not just for recent graduates but more experienced journalists too.
From hundreds of applicants, on average only five are selected for interview, so what can you do to maximise your chances of landing your next job opportunity?
In a podcast with Journalism.co.uk, two recruiters from Reach Plc explain what it takes to land a position at one of its local news titles.
Read the job description
Emily Gorton, internal editorial recruiter, Reach Plc, said that many applicants fall at the first hurdle simply by not meeting the minimum requirements outlined in the job description.
Ideally, applicants should submit a tailored application to the role they are applying for, backed-up by specific experience in their CV, making sure to tick all the right boxes.
"It shows to us that you’ve really read through and you know you are the right candidate for the job, rather than just clicking apply for a few different things," Gorton said.
Maria Breslin, digital editor, Liverpool Echo, added that showing genuine passion and interest about working for that specific company is a basic need.
"You just need to put work into it and make the person on the other end of the process convinced that you actually want that role and why you want to work for Reach Plc, as opposed to another media group," she explained.
Examples of relevant work gives employers an idea of the sort of coverage you would add to the newsroom. A video application can equally showcase more distinctive skills, but Breslin advised proceeding with caution.
"You’ve got to gauge it. If you’re going for a role as a political reporter then we don’t want fun videos, but if it's a more creative role you’re applying for then evidence of your creativity ahead of the interview process is welcome," she said.
Preparing for interview
After making it through the initial selection, it is on to the interview stage. Gorton advised being as flexible as possible in arranging a date for an interview as you do not want to appear difficult to work with.
Being open and transparent with notice periods and planned holidays is also a must, as to not come as a shock later down the line.
Be polite and conversational, feel comfortable to ask about dress code or any required documents and look up the offices on Google Maps beforehand to ensure you arrive on time. Gorton says these qualities are usually early indicators of a successful candidate.
For Breslin, there is nothing more important in terms of preparation than knowing key details about the company and position you have applied for. This does not mean you have to do reams of research, but not being able to answer questions about the brand will sink your chances of success.
"It just implies disrespectfulness. It may not be intentional but you really do need to know the brand, because if you don’t know it, how do you know you want to work for it or that you’re the right person?"
Instead, take the time to understand the company’s values and some of its main beats. It is also worth developing an insight into what the organisation does well and what it could do better.
"Somebody who brings fresh ideas to the table is always a valuable asset," Breslin said.
Selling yourself in interview
When it comes to the interview itself, how can you demonstrate you are the best person for the job?
Breslin said having clear story ideas and approaches which draw on experience gives the employer confidence you will hit the ground running. The interview scenario is an opportunity to showcase your strengths, she said.
"While no one wants arrogance, you really do need to show how good you are. It’s your one chance, so it’s not a place for humility."
Breslin also advised not to pass up the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the interview and have some fall-back options in case your mind goes blank.
You could ask, for example, where the business plans to be in five years time. As an added bonus, this shows a long-term interest in the company.
Dealing with rejection
In the event you are not successful after interview, use it as an opportunity to improve, seek feedback and come back at a later date - even for work experience.
"Those people really stand out in your mind, especially if they’ve interviewed quite well. It shows their intentions and it also helps them showcase their abilities," said Breslin.
"There’s a number of people who have roles here now who were unsuccessful the first time round, came in, showed what they could do. They were top of the pile when the next opening came."
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