Get paid to write: how to interview at a newspaper
Whether you’re interviewing for an internship or a full-time job, here are a few tips to ensure you’ll end up living your dream of being paid to write:
- Interview with the right person. If you want an internship, ask who makes the decision and try to talk with that person. An interview with almost the right person is almost good.
- Try to extend your interview visit and meet more people by scheduling it near one of the daily news meetings that all newspapers have. Ask if you can sit in on that meeting.
- Intern candidates usually congregate in much larger pools than job candidates. A large newspaper may get as many as six hundred applications for internships but only a couple dozen for a job. The intern pool is often broad, with applications from across the country and around the world. If the newspaper is interested in a distant candidate, it may ask for a telephone interview. You can certainly offer to do a phone interview with a distant paper.
What to keep in mind for a phone interview
If you get a surprise call from an editor who wants to interview you right now, graciously ask to set up a time—soon. Editors requesting phone interviews are probably at the finalist stage and itching to make offers, so don’t put them off for more than a day. For the interview, have a copy of your résumé, printouts of relevant Web pages from the newspaper’s site (that day’s top stories, the staff list, a company history), the correct pronunciation of the editor’s name written on a piece of paper, and a few good questions. As odd as it might seem, dress professionally for the interview. That will help you interview more professionally.
Without body language or facial expressions to read the editor’s mood or to communicate your own, place more emphasis in communicating with words: “Did I answer your question?” “Would you like an example of that?” “Let me make sure I understand the question …” “That’s a good question.” “This is an exciting opportunity. I really hope this works out.”
And landing the interview in the first place? How do I do that?
One of the most efficient tools recruiters use to meet a lot of talent in a little time is the job fair. Colleges organize them, some journalism associations have them at their conventions and individual newspapers or press associations organize them. A job fair works like this: The organizers invite a bunch of recruiters and candidates to meet on the same day. This saves students the trouble of putting on the dog week after week, it gets all the students in one place for recruiters and it often attracts ancillary events such as training sessions or résumé-critique stations.
The rest of the newsroom:
This advice comes directly from my book Breaking In. It contains everything I know about landing and acing your journalism internship. I’ve been a journalist for a long time, and spent nearly 20 years recruiting and editing at the Detroit Free Press. For more tips and strategies for landing journalism internships and jobs, check out these resources: