The Times – Graduate Trainees, Picture Desk

Location: London

Closing date: September 28th

We are looking for two graduates to join The Times as trainee picture researchers. (more…)


Archant – Trainee Journalists (Stevenage)

Location: Stevenage

Closing date: September 26th

Archant’s Comet series serving Stevenage and North Herts is a great place to start your career.


10 Journalism Job Interview Questions

Emma Ann job seeker

There’s more to interviews than looking the part (Pic: Emma Ann)

By Catherine Hancock (@catherineha1991)

In April I had my first journalism interview and since then, I’ve had two more.

Interviews are a learning curve, and no two are the same. The more you go to and (hopefully that wont’ be too many), the more familiar you’ll become with the process.

Out of the three interviews I have been in, similar questions kept cropping up – so I’ve put together a list of things you may be asked and what you should expect:

1) A test

News Quiz

Never be surprised if they throw a news test your way

Oh yes, always be prepared for a test – even if you are not pre-warned about one.

The test could be on anything – whether it’s writing up a story from a press release, or a quiz to see how much you know about the local area and current affairs.

From my experiences I have only had one test and that was in my last interview.

It was a timed ten minute quiz, with questions including: “What is the population of Worksop?”, “Who is the governor of the Bank of England?” and “Who is the editor of the Daily Mail?”

As with the nature of journalism: expect the unexpected!

Questions You Might Be Asked:

2) Tell us about yourself

Catherine baby for blog post

Just how far back should you go?

It’s that old question which everyone is unsure about how to answer!

Don’t give a step-by-step documentation of your birth up until now, or that time you tried to strip naked on the beach (Yep, the above picture is me).

Instead, think about any key moments in your life that will impress and are relevant to the job.

For example – talk about university, work placements and throw in a few things you like doing in your spare time and any clubs you are part of.

Personality plays a big part in getting that job and the interviewers will want to know if you will fit into their team.

3) What do you think of our website/ newspaper, what do you think we could do better?

catherine hancock blog homepage

Room for improvement?

Now, this isn’t the time to slate all the things you dislike about the company’s publications.

It will offend your potential employers and won’t make you look very good.

This is a chance for the interviewers to get an outsider’s view of their work and to see if you are capable of coming up with ideas which will improve the company as a whole.

Start off with positive aspects of their website/ newspaper, then move onto things they could improve on.

For example, you could word it like this: “You have great video content on your website, I think having more of this would drive people to the site.”

4) Tell us about a time when you have found your own story

Catherine Hancock newspaper

Get out there and find some stories

If you go to an interview for a trainee reporter role and haven’t found your own story before, then there is something wrong!

Being able to find your own stories is a key quality of a journalist, so make sure you have at least one example to show to the interviewers.

It doesn’t have to be anything groundbreaking, but a it should be a story that shows you can do the following: spot a story idea, have the confidence to pitch the idea to a newspaper, know who to talk to for quotes, are able to write the story without help and can take a picture.

All of this shows initiative and that you already have the basic skills of a reporter.

5) Scenario: What would you do if someone called the newsroom and said there was an explosion in a nearby town?

Talid Khatib explosion

Be prepared to think on your feet (Pic: Talid Khatib)

This question comes up time and time again in some form, so be prepared for it.

It shows the interviewers you are a modern day thinking journalist. So for example, if this is an interview with a newspaper, in this digital age the first thing you would do is get something up on the website.

Explain how you would get something up and published like: “It has been reported there has been an explosion in an industrial building in Chilwell, more to follow.”

Inform your editor and get someone to check social media for pictures and eyewitness accounts, which you’ll use for quotes for an updated version of the story.

Call the emergency services so they can officially confirm what has happened. What ever you do, keep updating the website with more information.

6) Who would be your key contacts in the area?


Contacts are an essential tool for journalists

I sometimes find this question a bit difficult because I think it wouldn’t be as simple as people in the police force, hospital staff or local councillors.

Think about others who could give a tip off for a story – for example key people in the area such as teachers, shop owners or other key members of the community.

Tell the interviewers how you would get to know people in the community so you’d be the first one they’d contact if a news story broke out.

It’s usually the people you least expect who give you a diamond of a story.

7) How would you cope with door knocking?

door knock

So-called ‘death knocks’: Never a pleasant experience

Door knocks or ‘death knocks’ aren’t a myth and unfortunately these things happen more often than you may think. In case you don’t know, death knocks are when a reporter goes to the house of someone who has recently been bereaved to interview them.

I once heard a horror story of a journalist who went on her first death knock and someone opened the door, greeting her by chucking a bucket of water over her head.

Horrific huh?!

In my last interview I got asked how I would cope with door knocking and even though they sound like horrible things to do, you have to approach the situation with sensitivity but in a firm manner.

You have to respect the families wishes if they tell you to go away. Leave your number with the family, sometimes they will call you. Refer to the PCC code and talk about the ethics of journalism.

8) How do you feel about working weekends and some evenings?

Catherine Hancock

Work weekends? Moi?

If you are going into journalism for a 9-5 job, then you are daft.

Every newsroom is different, but at some point you will have to work weekends and some evenings, because most news isn’t planned.

Say you are flexible and more than happy to swap sunbathing in the garden at short notice to go and cover an exciting story.

Nod along.

Give examples of when you have done this in the past at university in work, and you will be well away.

9) How much do you use social media, which sites do you use the most?

social resume

Don’t underestimate the power of social media

A wise editor once told me that they wouldn’t even consider someone for an interview if they didn’t have a Twitter account.

That may seem harsh, but in reality social media is such an important way of sourcing news stories. By not having a Facebook or Twitter account, you are automatically at a distinct disadvantage.

Mention how much you use social media, how you use it, and how you would use it to find a story.

Make sure you know how many Twitter followers you have! This was a question I got asked in an interview and luckily I knew the exact number.

Talk about your blog if you have one and tell them what type of people you follow or pages you like.

Also talk about the negatives of finding stories by using social media, for example making sure information is legit and how to trawl through all the spam!

10) Give us an example of when you have worked as part of a team to get something done

Catherine Hanckock team

Teamwork - a vital attribute in most working environments

In my last two interviews I never spoke about my experiences of working a part-time job at Costa Coffee, because I didn’t think they were relevant.

In my last interview, however, I was encouraged to talk about it and it enabled me to find the perfect example of working as a team whilst under a lot of pressure.

If you have an example of working as part of a team in a newsroom then use it, but if you don’t, think about the time when you ran the student newspaper or when you were at work and had to make 10,000 lattes in a day, whilst showing the new person what to do and talking to the customers at the same time.

Just because the answer isn’t journalism based doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant to the job.

Have you recently had a job interview for a journalism role? What questions were you asked? Share your experiences on Twitter @JournoGrads or on Facebook

ITV Scheme: From Trainee To Journalist

ITV trainee 1

ITV Tyne Tees journalist Katie Oakes films musician Example backstage at a gig in Newcastle

Katie Oakes describes how earning a place on the ITV news trainee scheme helped her launch a career in journalism…

Looking around the Tyne Tees newsroom as I write this, I can see five former trainees (including myself) working as production journalists, reporters, correspondents or news editors.

I may be slightly biased, but the ITV traineeship is one of the best ways of getting into TV journalism – and staying here.

When I applied for the scheme, I was working for a weekly newspaper on Merseyside, and had no broadcast experience at all.

I’d never been in a broadcast newsroom and, although it was always something I’d considered, I had been focused on print. However, I knew I wanted to be a journalist in whatever form I could, so I took all the opportunities that came along.

The ITV assessment day is, as you would imagine, nerve-wracking and challenging. But remember, if you get to that stage, you’re in the top 30 out of about 800 applicants – so go in with a bit of confidence!

The best advice I got was to be myself from the outset. You’re there for a full day so by the end of it, they will have worked out what you’re like anyway!

Essentially they’re looking for someone who’s passionate about news, has good news judgement, and who also has an opinion about the stories of the day. You also need to communicate well and have a few story ideas up your sleeve.

Oh – and if they point a camera at you, smile. I can guarantee the picture will come back to haunt you!

During the scheme, I spent a few months based at Granada in Manchester, learning how to produce bulletins and edit, before moving to Tyne Tees in Gateshead, where the focus turned towards reporting. That involved training courses in editing, writing, producing, reporting and self-shooting at almost every ITV newsroom in the country.

We also had placements at Westminster, ITN and a week at Daybreak, experiencing what it was like to work every shift over a 24-hour period. Exhausting.

A highlight from ITN was definitely Alastair Stewart introducing a package I had done for ITV London on the lunchtime news – I never thought that would happen within ten months of joining ITV!

But that’s one of the best things about the scheme – the speed that you pick up new skills and the responsibility you’re allowed to take on from an early stage.

It’s as fast-paced as it sounds, and there’s an awful lot to learn – especially if you’re starting from scratch.

But the huge advantage is learning from some of the best journalists in the country. And you’re never in a training centre, but in the middle of busy, working newsrooms.

You’ll build up contacts across the country, so there’s always someone to ask if you get stuck, and from what I’ve found, people are more than happy to help.

At the end of the traineeship, I applied for, and got, a production journalist job at Tyne Tees, based in Gateshead.

I now produce the bulletins across the day and weekends for both Tyne Tees and Border, as well as running the website.

I also report on a regular basis, both on stories I have brought in myself, and on-the-day news.

The traineeship prepares you really well not only for the job you’ll hopefully get when you finish the scheme, but also the job you hope to do in the future, whether that’s reporting, news editing or producing the programme.

Katie Oakes is an ITV news journalist based at ITV Tyne Tees. You can follow her on Twitter, @katieoakes

NCTJ Diplomas: A Trainee’s Survival Guide

Steph Niciu

Trainee journalist Steph Niciu

Trainee journalist Steph Niciu describes life on an NCTJ course and shares some of her tips for success…

The NCTJ Diploma is exactly what it says on the tin.  Eighteen weeks of media law, public affairs, news writing, sub-editing and enough shorthand to make your brain (and hand) hurt!

I’m seven weeks into my course at The City of Liverpool College. And what a seven weeks it has been. From the off, we’ve been learning what would usually be taught in a one year MA at an incredible speed.

After just three days we knew about defamation, had started our shorthand theory and were clued up about the intricacies of local council structure.

This is serious. It’s like a full time job.  Heck, we aren’t even students any more. Throw that out of the window. We are journalists.

So how do you survive a course like this? From personal experience, I think you need to be aware of the following:

1) You are a journalist 24 hours a day, seven days a week: 

Just because you finish your course at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean that news stops too. You need to be on the pulse all of the time: read newspapers, absorb online news and watch TV bulletins.

If you are on placement and are covering a patch (for example, I’m currently the Bootle Community Reporter for the Liverpool Echo) go out and familiarise yourself with the area at the first possible chance.

You always need to be on the lookout for potential news stories that could feature in your portfolio. Make use of social media at all times. And what about weekends? It shouldn’t make a difference – if there’s a story, go and cover it!

 2) Time management and organisation:

To ensure that you keep up with the demands of your course, try and stay up to date so you are not left overwhelmed. This means studying after you come home and on your days off.

You might not always have the motivation (‘The Great British Bake Off’, anyone?) but splitting the work into manageable chunks will help you a great deal.

It’s easy to get stressed on a course like this, so take steps to make it better for yourself.

 3) If in doubt, ask for help:

If you are struggling with any aspect of your course, speak to your tutor. After all, they are there to make sure you succeed. For example, if you are unsure about story ideas, ask them for advice.

As I have a physical disability, I’ve used my tutors to talk about issues I’ve been having with shorthand and my placement, which has been both encouraging and helpful.

Using the expertise around you will ultimately make you feel more confident and assured about yourself as a journalist. So, never be afraid to ask!

All in all, enjoy it! Remember to take advantage of the opportunities that the course will give you, good luck and have fun.

Are you currently on an NCTJ-accredited course, or have you recently completed one? How would you describe your experiences? Post your comments below or tweet us @JournoGrads. You can follow Steph on Twitter @StephNiciu

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