Media recruiting tips: ensure your journalism CV gets you an interview

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.