This is a guest blog by David George, a journalism student at Southampton Solent University.
It may seem obvious to say that a well-written CV is the key to securing a successful job; however, it would seem that many people still overlook this, or make simple mistakes in them.
Corrinne Mills, the Joint Managing Director of Personal Career Management, states that in a survey of 500 CVs “ranging from senior managers to graduates, 98 per cent of the CVs were clearly heading straight for the reject pile.”
To then factor in the level of competition in the field of journalism, it is vital that your CV stands out from the crowd. Here are a few things that journalists can do to create the “perfect” CV.
At the top of your CV, you should put all of your contact details. This means your address, email, home and mobile telephone numbers should all be present. This will make it as easy as possible for your potential employer to get in contact with you.
Something else which you may wish to consider is including a list of your social media accounts. The reasoning for which is twofold; first, with the growing significance of sites such as Twitter and Pinterest, it shows that you are experienced in effective social media interaction, and therefore growing the viewership of a media platform.
Second, it shows your future boss that you are a transparent individual, with nothing to hide. It also shows your passions, your interests and your personality. Employers want to hire journalists who are outgoing and socially engaged.
Finally, the heading of your CV should have a link to your personal blog. Every journalist should have an outlet like this, as a part-time hobby, and an additional platform for your work. Adding a link to your blog is a masterstroke, because it gives people a way to instantly evaluate your writing style and abilities.
As a general rule of thumb, this information should be at the top of every page of your CV, since pages may get separated.
What Goes At The Top?
After looking at your contact details, this will be the first thing that someone will see on your CV. Therefore, in the same manner that you prioritise information in a news story, the most significant information should be at the top.
Many CVs start with a brief personal statement; you can use this to describe yourself to your potential employer. Avoid being cliché and vague – accurately picture who you are, and why you should be considered. Tell the company your objectives, why you’re a good fit for them and what you have to offer.
Remember to re-write your personal statement each time you apply for a job, so that you can tailor it to the role. As Elizabeth Bacchus, founder of The Successful CV Company, said in an article for The Guardian, “An obviously generic CV that hasn’t been written with the job you are applying for in mind is hugely irritating to recruiters and prospective employers.”
Throughout your time training as a journalist, one thing is drilled into your head – experience, experience, experience. As a result, this should be one of the first things you put into your CV.
Another thing you may want to consider doing is listing your work experience in reverse chronological order (your most recent placement being at the top of the list). The reason for this is that it allows your potential employer to see when you last worked in the industry, and consequently decide how relevant and up-to-date you are in an ever-changing field.
As an additional tip, any job promotions should be inputted as separate positions. This will lengthen the amount of experience on the page and allow you to list out the different duties you were charged with after promotion.
The next thing you should include in your CV is a list of skills. As journalism evolves, more and more is expected of industry hopefuls; the ideal candidate is capable of producing copy, video, radio and photography, as well as being proficient in programmes such as Adobe Audition, Photoshop, and Final Cut.
Additionally, if you know any foreign languages, or have extra academic qualifications, put them in here. As an aspiring journalist it’s a good idea to take part in any competitions to get noticed. If you’ve won any awards note them here and briefly detail what you had to do to win.
You should prioritise and rearrange your list based on what sort of job you are applying for. However, a range of skills still shows a passion for the industry and a great ability to learn, thus making you more employable.
After putting in your experience and skills, it is a good idea to write about your education. Employers are always keen to see how you performed at school and university – it says a lot about an individual’s level of self-motivation, intelligence and attitude
With regards to what grades you got at school, it is important to be specific. Stating that you earned “9 GCSEs grade A*-C” leaves room for interpretation, and some may consider that an elaborate way of saying you just have nine GCSE C grades.
As aforementioned with experience, start with your most recent education and work down the page.
From there, talk about your interests, and what do you do in your free time. Of course you shouldn’t discuss your favourite TV shows, but things that show your character and passion for journalism. Talk about online courses you’ve taken, places you’ve travelled and networking events you’ve attended.
Whilst this may seem trivial, and it’s true that some employers may overlook this, it helps to raise discussion points at an interview. Remember, your CV may well be on the desk when you walk in; it’s good to have this included to keep the conversation flowing.
It is practically taken for granted that references should be at the bottom of your CV; the big questions are, how many should you put in, and which ones should you prioritise?
Whilst it may be tempting to put as many references in as possible, Lindsay Olson of U.S.News claims that “no employer is going to call a lengthy list of contacts, so unless you’re asked differently, aim for three to five people, and ask what types of references the employer wants. Some employers only want to talk to previous bosses where others may want to hear from a client as well as a boss and a junior colleague.”
With regards to how you order your references, put them in order of significance and relevance. Any editors or managers of important news outlets should take priority. Make sure you check with them beforehand, and ask if any of their contact details have changed.