Making Your Job Application Stand Out

John Fernandez

BBC Guernsey’s John Fernandez – not afraid to get his feet wet for a story

When applying to roles it’s not good enough to simply tick all the boxes in the job description, as the BBC’s John Fernandez explains…

linchpin of the journalistic art is creativity. Whilst in some jobs you can come in to the office and expect to be given a to-do list of tasks to complete in a set way, in journalism it’s different.

You’re expected to come in with fresh ideas and a new perspective on how to do old tasks. You need to be able to offer suggestions as to how to get your audience engaged by making your content completely different to what the competition is doing.

So why, when you’re applying to a job where the employer is looking for an inventive, imaginative thinker, are you making yourself sound as dull as turgid McDonald’s dishwater? Why are you TELLING the employer you are creative? Why not SHOW them?

For example, say you are applying to a job at a website that has a unique style – a way of writing and producing content which makes them clearly distinguishable from the rest. You want a job there and you definitely want to show them you’re the ingenious, idea-driven person they’re looking for.

Sending them a cover letter telling them how creative you are is going to do as much good as sending them a clay possum you made in year nine art class (part of its foot has fallen off now as well, so it’s even less impressive). No, instead of sending them poorly crafted pottery, grab their attention by writing something that THEY would cover, in their style.

It sounds simple, but if you’re unemployed, down in the dumps and firing off job applications from behind your laptop like rounds from a sweaty, juddering machine gun, you often lean towards a formulaic approach. I know what it’s like during those caffeine-fueled  job application sessions – you send a slightly altered CV and cover letter to each employer, hoping it will somehow get you noticed.

Perhaps it will, but if you showcase your resourcefulness and your ability to think out of the box in your application, you’re far more likely to be that candidate from a hundred faceless applicants who they remember and think “Yeah, they’ll do” or, more hopefully, “Wow, they are f***ing amazing, how can they not work for us already?”

We’ve all heard examples of weird and wonderful people doing wacky things to get noticed by employers. Billboard man, for example, or the guy who bought a Google ad to get hired by Google, or even the creator of this interactive CV. And then there’s the man who made a resume look like a search page to get a web development job.

Why not be one of those people, who hooks a potential employer with an incisive display of creativity? Journalists are meant to be creative by their nature. So why do you think you’re going to entice your future bosses with a systematic, rigid cover letter and CV? Be decisive, do something edgy and different.

Pitch a story and an imaginative way of treating it, hire a billboard, do something crazy! The employer wants somebody who is fully qualified and ticks all the boxes – but they also want someone who, from day one, can make their audience excited about their product.

Have you ever done something crazy to get an employer’s attention? And has it worked? Get in touch with us on Twitter @Journograds, or post a comment below!

Journalism CV Tips From A BBC Reporter

John Fernandez 2

BBC Guernsey journalist John Fernandez

Drawing on his own experiences, journalism graduate and BBC broadcaster John Fernandez offers his top five dos and dont’s of CV writing….

Most of us exit our secondary school, sixth form or college with a CV that resembles the template shown to us by our careers adviser.

We knock the bugger together, slap on some garish WordArt (that’s still a thing right?), hand it in before the deadline and manage to escape without some kind of detention or fail mark.

We think to ourselves, “it’s yonks before I’m actually going to have to show this to a real employer” – followed by the more hopeful “and when I do they’re going to be ever so impressed by the fact that I got my 25m swimming badge in year four.”

Then when we see our first dream job, we fire off those CVs with all the hope in the world. And we end up getting nowhere. Why? Because pawing through pages of irrelevant information is not something that recruiting managers have time for.

Stand out

It may be a clichéd comment, but the following stands true: the person looking through applications will give your CV nought but a cursory glance (perhaps while they scoff down a pasty, or trawl through their countless e-mails). That is why it is so important that you are able to STAND OUT from the crowd in around 30 seconds.

A sure fire way of not doing this is by sending the same CV with which you’ve already irritated twenty other companies, crammed full of buzzwords and phrases like ‘superb time management skills’, ‘astute interpersonal communication abilities’ (right, so you can talk) and ‘team player’ (so you play nice with others, have a gold star).

Avoid formulaic phrases and instead show employers examples of how you have been this ‘team player’ that you claim to be. If you’ve told the employer you are a creative mind, bursting with ideas, then show some creativity in how you pitch yourself to them.

Tailor it

Crucially you must fit your CV to the job. If you’re applying to a position as an editorial assistant at a football magazine, it is unlikely that your one month stint at HMV as a seasonal temp is going to do anything to help your cause.

By including that detail you use up valuable space and, more importantly, eat into that 30 seconds in which you have to make an impact.

Ensure everything is relevant – so if you do need to include things like temp jobs then make sure you relate them to the role that you are applying to. Tell them how your experience at HMV, when you were alphabetising thousands of DVDs, increased your attention to detail.

Creativity

Perhaps most important when applying to journalism roles is the ability to demonstrate a bit of artistic licence and flair.

Don’t be afraid to push the boat out. Surprise the poor person sitting in his or her office as they rifle through twenty CVs a minute, dashing hopes and dreams with every crumple and toss in to the waste paper bin.

We have all heard those stories of somebody who has been a bit avant-garde or a bit edgy and landed that dream job – the man who wore a sandwich board to advertise himself to potential employers, the person who attached a tea bag to their CV with their demo tape and told the HR Manager to enjoy a cuppa while they listened, another who wrote a song about why they should be employed, recorded it then sent it in.

It worked out for most of them and they were just pushing the boat out and being a bit creative. As a journalist, that can often be your raison d’être!

Make the employer think, this person gets what we are about, they understand the company, they’d obviously be an asset and they’re already bringing new ideas to the table.

Oh, and do it all on a sheet of A4. No pressure…

Top five journalism CV don’ts (in my experience)

  1. Include your date of birth – you’re almost inviting discrimination. Equal opportunities or not.
  2. List your education from pre-school. I’m sure tiddly-tots day care was great, but now you’re 21 (and nobody gives a s#*t).
  3. Use any more than two typefaces. Emboldening, italicising and mixing it all up just look a mess.
  4. Lie. You WILL get found out.
  5. Go over two sides of A4 – ideally shorten it to one.

Top five journalism CV dos (in my experience)

  1. Make your CV a PDF. It’ll get rid of any of those horrible green wiggly, fragment missing lines and make your document look far tidier.
  2. Include two references, who you know will be available and are likely to sing your praises (FOR GOD’S SAKE, DON’T PUT YOUR DAD).
  3. BE CREATIVE.
  4. Get editors, tutors careers advisors who you TRUST and who know the industry to look over it. Then take their advice on board – it’s easy nodding along, it’s another thing making changes that matter.
  5. Check, check and check again!

Do you agree with John’s tips? Post a comment below if you have opinions to share! Follow us on Twitter @Journograds and ‘like’ us on Facebook to stay up to date with job postings and reminders of application closing dates

The Art Of Applying For Journalism Jobs

John Fernandez Prepares For Interview

Persistence paying off: John Fernandez now works for the BBC

Award winning journo grad John Fernandez interned at various companies before securing a staff role the BBC. He explains how the more jobs you apply for, the stronger your application becomes…  

When you’re trawling through the blogosphere, twitter-sphere or any other sphere, for advice on how to make the leap from interning lackey (working for diddly-squat) to staffer, the constant advice is to get as much work experience as you can possibly fit in to your jam-packed schedule of tea, toast and Jeremy Kyle (I draw from my own experience).

Applying for jobs and work experience is an acquired skill. It’s not something that you just run at atop your noble steed with a full suit of armour, lance in hand and shield held high.

The head first charge or the carpet bombing approach to applications will all but ensure a firm but polite, “sorry you’re not what we’re looking for at this time”, or the more damning, “you lack the experience for this position” or even a “LEAVE US ALONE” if you’re one of those persistent types.

Instead, look at the process of applying for jobs as a talent that you can hone, fine tune and at which you can, in time, become an expert in. Remember that job applications are delicate creatures that you have to nurture, develop and tend to on an ongoing basis.

A scattergun approach of sending of a bazillion nonsensical and un-targeted e-mails to a bunch of employees who you a) ‘really admire’ or b) ‘have been reading since you were a wee nipper’, is a sure-fire way of getting your application shredded, binned, or perhaps even communally laughed at by a company’s more malevolent HR department.

Rejection should be accepted as your starting point within an industry that has few absolute truths or objective measures; in fact, rejection is almost as inevitable as death and taxes.

In my case, rejection found me a lot – but then again I was practicing the aforementioned carpet bombing approach.

You are inevitably going to apply for the jobs of your dreams, for which you are far too junior – but don’t let those aspirations of grandeur be shot down by rejection e-mails from faceless HR executives.

In its place, see it as a learning curve as to how to carve a better statement of intent onto a covering letter or CV so that when you come back to the aforementioned company (of your dreams) in a few years with lots more experience, they can witness your transformation from terrified work experience applicant to fearsome hyper-journo (with lasers).

So essentially, if you are faced with a tirade of rejection, fear not! It is from these rebuttals that you can sculpt and whittle away the perfect CV and covering letter for the job which hands you your big break in this industry.

From each rejection, read over your covering letter and CV and see where tweaks can be made. After those tweaks have been made, send it to a trusted mentor.

You can show it to a tutor, for example, or an ex-employer who you hold in high regard. Alternatively you can let your fastidiously accurate mate give it a once-over or, if you’re lucky enough, a friend in HR. If all else fails, you can try my personal favourite: your dad

Take on board the criticisms they make as they will be honest in their appraisal, more critical in their assessment and more liberal in their censorship than you will be.

Remember: in your mind you are, of course, the perfect candidate for the job – if you weren’t why would you be applying for it? But by asking your trusted confidante to step in to the shoes of the employer you will quickly develop an understanding of the reader’s perspective of your skill-set, along with your strengths and development needs.

It may be difficult to take on reams of red pen corrections, but in the end, a meticulous approach to accuracy will see the end result come good.

So what advice can you take from this? In short:

  • Don’t limit your ambition, apply for anything and everything
  • Take time in constructing your CV and covering letter to ensure that you are addressing the needs of the specific job
  • Avoid using generic documents, every application should be assessed on its own merits
  • Learn from your mentor’s feedback
  • By doing all this you’ll end up creating a more succinct and attractive portrayal of your professional persona.

What do you think about John’s suggestions? Do you have any tips of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments section below or get in touch over Twitter, @JournoGrads

The ‘Deep Breath’ Approach To Placements

John Fernandez

Not for the faint-hearted – John Fernandez covers the Guernsey Boxing Day swim for the BBC

Award winning student journo John Fernandez has interned at the likes of the BBC, Kerrang! and Zoo magazine. What are his top tips for standing out?

When you’re on work experience, it’s likely that one question will pass through your mind: “Do I be the busy-body who wants to be everyone’s best mate, or the understated quiet one who badgers along with their tasks dependably?”

So, on your first day, it’s likely that you will try tackling things in one of the following two ways:

Either you charge straight in asking every member of the team you work with whether you can help, or, instead, you sit nervously waiting for your supervisor to give you a task which you take on with every semblance of diligence and finish at the end of the day.

If you are the former, you end up with too much to do, so you may rush your tasks and your work looks a bit slap-dash. If you are the latter, you might not leave any lasting impressions.

Instead, my advice is that you take the deep breath approach. Sit down, take in your surroundings, gather yourself enough tasks to keep you busy at least for the morning and then go about them ensuring that they are done with the utmost accuracy.

Don’t be afraid to marvel them with the mundane as well – show that you can be a dependable photocopier, a hero of the hot beverage and a trailblazing transcriber.

It’s not necessary to try and be everyone in the office’s best mate but keep a watchful eye out and if somebody says something you have an interest in (for blokes football is always a winner) then chip in.

As mentioned, don’t get engrossed in conversation, but let people know you are there and you’re not just another Joe Average.

Another important thing to do is foster relationships. During the work experience, ensure you keep up appearances and are personable enough to keep contact after the placement ends.

Then when you leave if nothing has been said about following the placement up, e-mail someone at the company you got on with and let them know you’re willing to come back and work for free some more.

It shows an eagerness to chip in, a willingness to sacrifice your own time and a real interest in the organisation.

And who knows, if they like you again… well, the sky’s the limit.

Do you agree with John’s advice? Or do you have some tips of your own? Feel free to post your comments below, or tweet us @Journograds

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