This article first appeared in Press Gazette
I promised to write about the journalism CV this month – some basic media recruiting tips. I wish I hadn’t. It’s a minefield. Here are five simple rules, though, which are pretty much universal.
- You will not get a job in journalism if there are mistakes on your CV. Get the spelling and grammar right. We all know how tricky it is to edit our own copy: get someone else to check over your CV for errors.
- A CV should be (relatively) brief. Note to Australians: two or maximum three pages please. No CV should attempt to encompass every aspect of your career; just the most relevant bits (see 3).
- CVs are not a standard document. There is no rule that says it is cheating to adjust it for the job you are applying for. By all means have a standard one ready for generic HR-style applications – otherwise, take your cues from the job description to which you are responding. Make it relevant.
- Do not lie. If you didn’t launch the Daily Snipe’s Saturday Magazine, don’t claim credit for it: the media world is small, and someone will know someone… However, if you were the Features Editor on the launch and created a template for ground-breaking profiles, mention it. The same goes for dates of employment: be accurate, and do not try to cover up gaps.
- Probably the most important of all: CVs should be about achievements. Everyone has an understanding of what a Features Editor does: there is no point banging on about responsibilities. Tell us what made you a great Features Editor.
So, given these rules, an example of work experience in a journalist’s CV might look like this:
May 2000 – June 2003: Features Editor, Sunday Cod.
Team of 15; budget responsibility for £1m; frequent Sunday Editor.
- Commissioned ground-breaking investigation into slavery in the Congo.
- Established William Topp, Jane Solid, and Sunita Pluck as columnists.
- Won Press Award for Best Feature in consecutive years (2002 and 2003).
- Created “Three’s Company” series of profiles, which still run in C2.
- Reduced commissioning budget by 40% while maintaining quality.
As discussed above, CVs are all about relevance. Write your CV backwards: potential employers want to see your most recent role first. Similarly, there should also be a greater weight of achievements highlighted in your recent roles: the implication that you started brilliantly and tailed off is one you want to avoid. For the same reasons, employers rarely like to see your education given a higher priority than your work experience: stick your GCSEs at the bottom please.
And should you include Interests? If they are relevant or genuinely interesting, by all means: it often gives insight to a character, and might give the interviewer something to break the ice with. However, please do not put “Socialising”. It means you are a drunk.
Next month, I’ll be delivering on my promise to provide equally devastating interview tips. Another minefield awaits.