Job hunting is a tough experience if you are getting a lot of rejections or, even worse, not hearing back at all. It is true that landing those first few jobs in journalism can be a frustrating situation to be in – you simply have to keep your head up while you knuckle down.

So, to get you on the right path, we asked ten newsroom editors and recruiters for their advice...

Nail the CV and cover letter

Rupert Collins-White, creative director, Burlington Media explained that thought must be given to personalise your application.

"If you lay out your CV in a neat, logical, well-ordered manner, I will be able to see the story of your working and educational life," he said.

"People with spelling or grammar errors in their CVs are almost immediately binned.

"You should treat your CV just like a journalism story: let the facts speak for themselves, put all the facts in front of the reader, be clear, concise and fair, and lead the reader by the hand."

Here at, our owner and founder John Thompson also agreed saying the covering letter is your chance to acknowledge the organisation and show what you would bring to the work force.

"Use the covering letter to demonstrate your experience and address all the requirements stated in the job description with links to your best work."

Make a great first impression

Whether you are entering the PR world or fancy yourself as a high-flying journalist, interpersonal skills always come top of the list – especially when you meet your prospective employers.

"Presentation is important and first impressions count, so looking smart, being on time and having done your research is key," said Simon Corbett, CEO, Jargon PR.

Indeed, showing up to your interview early is a must, and if you cannot make it, ensure you call beforehand.

"Be keen, it is genuinely one of the best ways to get a job," explained Rupert Collins-White.

Hone your skills

Employers will be on the lookout for the fundamental skills that journalists will be using day-in day-out.

"I do not usually consider anyone who has not followed an NCTJ-accredited course unless they are outstanding in other areas. 100wpm shorthand is always a bonus and likely to set candidates apart when shortlisting," said Denise Eaton, editor, Kent Messenger.

"We run a spelling and grammar test on interview and I have a minimum standard for anyone joining our editorial team and it regularly rules otherwise really great candidates out," said Rupert Collins-White.

"I know from long experience that it pays us in the end to have people who are great error-spotters and grammarians."

"Practice writing to tight deadlines. In trending news it is vital to balance speed and accuracy, and we pride ourselves on developing journalists who can achieve this balance," said Kieron Curtis, editorial manager and senior sub editor, LadBible.

"It is a daily occurrence for us to turn around 200-300 word breaking news articles in as little as 10-15 minutes."

Add team chemistry

"Really you are seeking the 'right' person for the role. They need to match the business's values and connect with the target audience," said Rupert Collins-White, also noting that you will need to be able to work well with the current team, but also be able to shake things up.

"They need to charm, learn quickly and give you 100 per cent — ‘difficult’ people will be weeded out."

Simon Corbett noted he hires on personality and attitude rather than qualifications.

"We love people that have been through the good and bad and who are not afraid to talk about it," he said.

"Always turn up with a 'winning attitude'."

Do your homework

"Know a bit about the radio station, make sure you have listened and can offer some kind of critique," said Mark Carter, assistant managing editor, BBC Sussex.

"Come armed with examples of what you have achieved and story ideas you think would be worth pursuing."

Corinne Podger, lecturer in Digital and Mobile Journalism, University of Melbourne explained that "the biggest failing of many journalists is that they have not read the papers, listened to the stations or watched the shows where they are applying or where they fancy working one day".

"Do your research and come with ideas," she said.

"Read as much of the recent content on the site or publication as you can and be prepared to mention what you have read during the interview," said John Thompson.

"Brownie points for finding out who is likely to be making the hiring decision and addressing your letter to them."

Kieron Curtis added it is also about knowing different how their social media platforms operate.

"A lot of people will come to interview with just the knowledge of how their favourite platform works, usually Facebook or Twitter, but Instagram, Reddit, and YouTube play a key role too in sourcing original stories and spotting viral trends too," he said.

Make it a two-way conversation

It is not good enough to simply know the publication, you must understand its values and come with any insightful questions that show you understand the industry. Indeed, Denise Eaton explained that an inquisitive nature during interview is a must.

"Enthusiasm, confidence and a friendly personality - any potential recruit has to be able to summon the courage to talk to people in the street, knock on strangers' doors and also get on well with the rest of the team.

"It should not be one-sided and gives a strong indication of how that person will perform in the role. Demonstrate enthusiasm, confidence and a friendly personality," she said.

Kieron Curtis added: "It is not rude to ask questions at interview, in fact as a journalist it is actively encouraged. By nature journalists are inquisitive and if someone leaves an interview without bringing some questions to the table it is actually a red flag for us."

Draw on your all of your experiences

"Do not just say you did two weeks work experience at company ‘x’ — be specific, show off your articles, headlines and interviews that you did there," said Dominic Sacco, editor of Esports News.

"Bring along a brief portfolio of work with printouts. Of the interviews I have done so far in my career, this has always surprised and impressed prospective employers. It shows you are prepared and gives them something first-hand to look at while they talk to you, rather than just run off an often-stilted list of questions."

Make sure you can deliver

"Every employer wants somebody who is going to stick their hand up and say ‘I can do that for you’," said Martin Tripp, executive headhunter, Martin Tripp Associates.

"This is universal. Employers want people who identify problems and solve them — that is it."

But it is no good simply spilling out all your ideas onto the table - you must be able to deliver them if hired.

"Storytelling is the most important thing, in other words marrying your ideas to techniques and treatments," said Dmitry Shishkin, chief content officer, Culture Trip.

"I often see journalists with ‘big’ ideas but little ability to implement, the practical level of ‘how’ is often missing.

"I do not really care if you cannot edit that well on Mac or if your data skills should be improved, but I do care about your willingness to listen and connect with your protagonists — 'live the story’ with them."

Be honest

"Even if you do not fully meet some of the criteria, do not be afraid to admit that," said John Thompson.

"Better still, explain how you would address any gaps in your skills and experience."

Rupert Collins-White agreed, noting that it is far worse to exaggerate your CV then to be lacking in certain areas, so "make sure you have a section of your CV which outlines which packages you are genuinely proficient at."

Pay attention, and think about your answers

"Listen carefully to interviewer questions," said John Thompson.

"If you do not understand a question, do not try to busk it with an answer, say so, and ask the interviewer to clarify. Do not speak over the interviewer, do not ramble on and do have plenty of questions to ask."

Remember that the interview should not end when you walk out of the room.

"No editor is going to be unimpressed if you present them with next week's splash two days after your interview," said Denise Eaton.

Check out our guide on how to apply and not to apply for jobs.

Head over to the jobs board for the latest journalism opportunities, so you can try these tips and tricks out for yourself.

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