Journalism job interviews: the basics

Mar 5th, 2009 | By | Category: Job Interview

By JOE GRIMM

Journalists who become leaders pride themselves on interviewing people to get stories, but are not generally known as leaders in conducting the job interview. Chances are, they received no training in it, and have had to learn through experience. In fact, they might be practicing on you.

One key difference between a journalistic interview and a job interview is that the former typically attempts to uncover what happened in the past, while the latter should indicate what will happen in the future. Journalistic interviews are usually reconstructive; job interviews are predictive. Let’s make another important distinction right here. There are informational interviews, which I’ll do with just about any journalist passing through town, and then there are job interviews. The job interview is for a current or imminent opening, and involves several people in the newsroom. It is our most important tool in a hiring decision. An informational interview is a no-obligation, low-risk chance for the company to learn about potential candidates, and for the job-seeker to learn about the company. Smart job-seekers take in an informational interview whenever they can. The interview lets them learn about good places to work, hone their job=interview skills and can lead to a shot at a real job.

Interviews generally carry more weight than testing, references, the resume and clips. The trick is getting to the interview. That early paperwork can land the interview, but it is the interview that typically gets the job.

With job interviews, as distinct from informational excursions, you could be in for anything. Your best preparation is to go into the interview with some knowledge of the company and a few good questions of your own, an agenda of the points you’d like to make about yourself and as much serenity as you can muster so that you can think during pauses.

It is especially important to be honest and to be yourself. If you try to guess what the interviewer is looking for and be that person, you’ll invariably fail.

Besides, who do you want them to hire? You, or this stranger you’ve invented for the interview?

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