Help! I’m Sending in an Application For a Job in Journalism!

The typewriter

I posted the job openings for on last week, and since then, the apps have been rolling into my inbox. Some are exceptionally good. A few have been exceptionally bad.

Many have left no impression on me whatsoever.

That shouldn’t happen. I’m seeing apps from talented people who just failed to catch my eye. Remember, Future Job Applicants of Tomorrow: The app is your opportunity to sell me on you and your skills. If it’s not eye catching, I’m not hiring.

Some of you guys really need help. So here’s some unsolicited advice for job seekers — specifically, college students and recent grads applying for a reporting job.

There are five questions I’m thinking about when I open your job application email. They are (in this very order):

1. What happens when I Google your name? You should know the answer to this already. I’m hoping to see a portfolio site, some work you’ve done for a news outlet, and maybe a social media profile or three. I will not look past the first page of Google results.

2. Do you have a website? If you’re selling yourself as a modern reporter, you must have an online portfolio. It does not have to be terribly fancy. It can be a blog on WordPress or Tumblr or — and I have seen more than one of these this week — Blogspot. It can be an or a page. It must have your contact information, a brief bio, and a list of links to your recent work. It must have been updated in the previous three months.

3. Do you have a LinkedIn page? I want to see where you’ve worked, and I want to see that you’ve actually connected with co-workers. I want to see that it’s been updated in the previous three months.

4. Can you prove any other forms of digital literacy? I want to see that you have an account on any of the following sites: Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, Quora. Just having a single account on any of these sites proves that you actually use the Internet, which is good. (One job applicant this week offered to snail mail me a resume and clips. Another sent me a resume in a file format that I’d never seen before. These are equally bad things.) I want to see that you use the Internet.

5. How organized is your resume? Your email to me? This is important. I want to see that you know how to correctly format an email. When you send me a link, I want to know that you know how to use anchor text. I want to see that you can write succinctly, that you can spell my name correctly, and that you use paragraphs when writing. I need to see that you have an understanding of how words, pictures and links should be laid out visually.

If you can do those things — pass a basic Google test, maintain a website, keep a LinkedIn page, prove digital literacy, and keep your email/resume organized — then the chances of me following up for an interview are infinitely higher. I am likely to pass on you — even if you’re an award-winning reporter who does rocket science in your spare time — if you cannot answer these questions.

Because here is the simple truth: If you fail the five questions above, what you’re really telling me is that you don’t know how to do work on the Internet. And this job I’m hiring for — and pretty much any job in journalism today — is Internet-first.

Before you click “send” on that application to me, go through those five questions. If you can’t answer one, then you better get moving on the answer.

I’m going to close the application process for these jobs in two weeks. Get going, guys. Wow me with your apps.