by Elliot Chan
Formerly published in Story Board. Oct. 23, 2013
Competition is stiff for most career choices and journalism is no different. So, in the same way we keep our body in contending shape by going to the gym, we must do the same for our application package. We must work out our résumé, analyze our cover letter, and develop an engaging demo reel. We might break a sweat, but that is all part of the process.
On October 19, 2013, the Asian Canadian Journalists Association of Vancouver hosted a résumé clinic inviting employers from different media outlets — from CBC to the Georgia Straight — to offer young journalists feedback on their résumés and application package.
“The way you want to look at it is—how hard am I going to make the other person work?” askedBhupinder Hundal, News Manager for OMNI. “If you are making me work, I don’t like that already. I want you to make it so simple and easy for me that I get what I need just by looking at it.”
Less is more when it comes to impressing the hiring committee. Don’t overload your readers with information and experiences. Rather focus in on several key experiences that relate to the job you are applying for. You might have had a part time job at Starbucks or a short stint serving at a restaurant—great—but all of this is irrelevant unless you can apply it and explain its importance to the employer. By chopping out the less pertinent material, you’ll have more room to concentrate on what the readers actually want to know and elaborate on that.
“You have a lot of information,” said Hundal, “but it is information that doesn’t apply to me. What you need to do is think about what the person on the other end is going to need and want.”
If you are applying for a researcher job, highlight your research skills. Applicants should take advantage of the fact that more and more employers are viewing applications on a screen rather than on a piece of paper. Have a hyperlink to some of your best sample work (but remember, stay relevant).
“I want a hyperlink in our alpha tracking system that I click on and it plays in every region of the world,” said Zafira Nanji, human resources at CBC. “I don’t want it locked to my email address. I don’t want you to ask me to add this person’s email address so I can share it with a coworker.” She added, “It has to be easy.”
The worst thing an applicant can do is fake passion. Don’t try to fool the hiring committee. If you want to work at CBC, remember the news anchors’ names and actually watch the broadcast. For some this will require some research and time—but there is no alternative. Flex your muscle and develop some character, because above all else, an employer wants to see you making an effort and displaying genuine passion.
“I’ve done the sloppy job of putting a résumé together in 15 minutes,” said Kirk LaPointe, CBC Ombusman Office Advisor, “saying things like ‘I really want to work for you, I have great respect for your organization,’ Come on. Get past the cliché. As we say in the Canadian Press, ‘Avoid clichés like the plague’.”
Good habits are as hard to break as bad ones and as a young journalist it’s important to have more good than bad. Developing a solid, healthy reputation starts with a respectable application package and online presence. Treat yourself like a brand and pay attention to the content you’re posting on social media—because employers will Google you. Separate your personal life from your professional.
You’re young and inexperienced and employers know that. So don’t try to fool them. “Don’t try to make yourself sound smarter,” said Ted Field from Global BC News, “because you end up making yourself sound dumb.” Sometimes “I don’t know” is the best answer to give. Employers don’t care if you don’t know—because journalism is all about not knowing, but then finding out.