Media search consultant: how journalists ruin their chances of getting a job…

This article first appeared in Press Gazette

A colleague recently sent me a link to, where “Headhunters Reveal 11 Ways To Ruin Your Chances Of Getting A Job”. A lot of it applies to getting a job in the media market, but it got me thinking about some things that are specific to journalists.

  1.  Think about the future when you write about the present. Of course, you should never avoid telling what you think is the truth: but, unlike any other professions, your words are necessarily on record. When, for a convenient sound bite, you write that “The Daily Smog is the worst example of the gutter press”, don’t expect to be received with open arms when, a year later, you apply for a job there.
  2. Mind your tweets. Social media, an awareness of which has been much advocated here, can be a trap. Celebrities are the high profile victims of careless comments: but photos of yourself inebriated or postings about personal behaviour will come back to haunt you (unless, of course, you want to work on Front). Be careful.
  3. Have a good understanding of what you do. Recruiters are dumb: they cannot cope with someone who says “I can do everything”. Worse, they will put you forward for all kinds of inappropriate jobs that will burn your credibility with potential employers. Work out what your marketable skills are. Highlight those in your CV. Take your recruiter by the hand and tell them what you want.
  4. But don’t pester recruiters. As good as you are, recruiters – and HR professionals – will get fed up with an over-insistent candidate. Recognise that when you have massively miscast yourself, it is better to let it drop. (Having said which, of course, persistence is valued in journalists, so you should certainly make at least one follow-up call or email if you haven’t heard back.)
  5. Get your CV and your covering letter right. This applies to every industry, of course; but a spelling mistake or grammatical error in a journalist’s CV or covering letter will not be forgotten or forgiven. Take the time to make it perfect.
  6. Point 5 again. It can’t be repeated enough.
Image of text document for media search consultancy
Image of text document courtesy of ismael villafranco (Flickr)

Ultimately, although we like to deny it to ourselves, there is no substantive difference between the journalistic recruitment market and any other: talent is a huge part of the mix, as are energy and commitment. But presentation is everything else. Get it right. That’s the view of this media search consultant.


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Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work in the TMT (technology, media, and telecoms) space, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog.