The Package: Effective journalism resumesFeb 28th, 2009 | By admin | Category: The Package
By JOE GRIMM
When it comes to selling yourself on paper, you will find that media managers are tough customers. After all, they put information on paper every day. There are no bonus points for correct spelling, punctuation or grammar. Those are givens. A single error can consign your resume to the circular file. Edit your work, proofread the final copy and then double-check everything. Twice. Have someone else go over it. Make sure the editor is not the first person to see the finished product. Understand the purpose of a resume. It is not intended to get you a job. It is meant to tell prospective employers enough about you so that they’ll look at your work sample or call you in for an interview. Use the interview, tests, tryouts and other steps to land the job. The resume is the earliest of preliminaries. It is Square One.
In a business where word economy is valued, one-page resumes have traditionally been the norm. This is changing, though not with all editors. Even editors with 20 years and several papers behind them limit their resumes to one page. You’re certainly free to exceed that, but it won’t work with everyone, especially when your experience — compare to the editor’s — is modest.
What comes after name, address, phone number and e-mail?
Stating your career objective can help, but only if it matches the opening. An incompatible career objective can eliminate you in a New York minute. It’s OK to omit this.
Put education or experience next, depending on which is more relevant to the job you’re trying to get. If all your work has been outside of journalism, but you have a degree in it, lead with the degree and details about your coursework. If you’re completing a non-journalism degree and have two media internships, list the internships first. The categories’ chronological order is less important than relevance. However, follow chronological order within categories, most recent to oldest.
Go beyond simple job titles
Describe your jobs. Don’t say you were a reporter. Say you were a reporter who covered a school district, two police departments and the local court and that you wrote a Sunday column. Mention the more complicated, difficult or humorous accomplishments you had in those jobs. These accomplishments distinguish your resume from others, tell the newsroom manager something about your interests and abilities and could open the door to an interview.
Use a clean and simple design
Be bold if you can, but not flashy. I have seen cartoon résumés, résumés with little basketballs on them and resumes made to look like front pages. Tricked-up resumes suggest you lack experience or sophistication and do not give you any advantage over other applicants. As more and more companies scan resumes for databases, consider how to make a resume that scans clearly.
Do I include non-journalism jobs?
If you have a short employment history, you certainly may include jobs that are not journalism-related. These help demonstrate that you have worked for others, know how to toil for a living, show up on time and generally are responsible. Emphasize skills that are most similar to journalism: writing, handling information, working with the public, juggling tasks.
What else should I include?
Second languages (but you better have more than the obligatory school minimum), awards, scholarships, extracurricular activities that highlight leadership and personal achievements — if they demonstrate relevant qualities such as resourcefulness, tenacity or responsibility. In one case, I was impressed that a student was a full-time care-giver while carrying a full load of classes.
What about references?
Before you list anyone as a reference, make sure it’s OK with them. Ask whether they can give you a good word. Once, I called a reference, and the person said, “He listed me? That was a mistake.” The candidate’s chances stopped there.
Don’t assume people will be your references; ask them. But don’t stop there, as most will be polite and say yes. Ask them, “If I were to list you as a reference, what could you say about me?” If you like what you hear about yourself, then ask them to be references.
If your resume is getting crowded for one page, you can use a second sheet just for references. I don’t think there’s any need to say “References available upon request.” We assume so.
Omit personal information
It is not relevant whether you are married or single, old or young, a smoker — or a non-smoker. Don’t include those facts. They can say you don’t know what’s relevant and what isn’t.
My curiosity is piqued when someone’s resume carries a list of places visited or lived in. Hobbies can intrigue me, too, but they turn others off. Generally, the more relevant it is to the job, the safer you are using it. Being accomplished at a musical instrument, for example, implies precision, discipline and practice. Saying that you have a passion for coffees or that you bake bread may leave some recruiters cold.