How to get a job: 8 tips

Deadlines for summer internships are coming up soon. Many of them lead to
real jobs. Here are eight tips on how to stand out from the competition.

When you go in for an interview, be loose

Look, a little nervousness is expected in an interview — really, it’s okay. Just because you weren’t slick in your interview doesn’t mean the person on the other side of the table can’t see past that. Roger Gillespie is in charge of recruitment at The Toronto Star and he’s seen plenty of candidates who gave great interviews but turned out to be terrible employees. Be engaging, be loose and be friendly. Have a conversation. Don’t get too caught up in your personal brand — be sincere and you’ll have a better chance at getting the job.

Do your homework and make lots of cold calls
If you’re smart, Gillespie says, call the person who’s in charge of hiring. Ask for ten minutes of their time. It shows tenacity — the stuff journalists are made of. And when you make the call, make sure you know what you’re talking about. Gillespie put it this way: you want a job in journalism, but you come in not knowing anything about the company or the person you’re talking to? Remember, different outlets look for different qualities in their hires. The Toronto Star wants a (slightly) different candidate than The Globe and Mail.

You need a blog
Gillespie says when he’s looking to hire an intern, he scopes out their blog. He says it’s OK to be a little off the wall; it’s your blog, isn’t it? Don’t think you need to write about Parliament to get noticed. Your blog is your chance to write solely on the topics that interest you. As long as your blog is updated regularly, has intelligent subject matter and shows off your reporting skills, you’re good.

Can you chase an ambulance? Write poetry?
Range, range, range: your clippings have to show range. It’s not about how many clippings you hand in — three or four well-chosen pieces will do. Hence the subhead: to stand out, show that you can write about a variety of topics with style and confidence.

Be a reporter for
If you live in Ontario, this is an ingenious way to get experience and clippings and — drum roll, please — paid! Wilf Dinnick, the site’s founding editor, quoted $200 per story and he doesn’t expect reporters to put in more than a day’s work. Dinnick says some stories that have been broken on OpenFile have been used in The Toronto Star and The Canadian Press. When you apply for a reporter position, include clippings, but, “Fancy CVs and portfolios stuffed with clippings do not necessarily a valued OpenFile contributor make.” Sweet.

Be ready to pitch three good story ideas every day
Be ready to do this if you’re thinking about going for the summer internship at The Canadian Press,
says Greg Bonnell, CP’s Ontario news editor. Employers want to see that
you are thinking about the news. There are tons of great stories that
aren’t getting written because journalists just don’t have the time.
Newsrooms are busy places. Bonell says he doesn’t expect interns to
pitch massive ideas — just three good bite-sized ones. If The Canadian Press
does hire you, you’ll find out pretty quickly that no one’s going to
feed you story ideas. Show that you’re ready to be put to work.

How hard is your hustle?
Personal branding will get you noticed. Being a good writer helps, too. But can you find an interesting story? Do you know where to look for sources? Are you resourceful or do you quit when the going gets tough?

Bonnell told a story of an intern last summer who asked to go on lunch. During a power outage. In the downtown core. Why he failed to see the story there we will never know. The moral is, if the power goes out, return to good ol’ shoe leather reporting. Focus on what you bring to the newsroom.

Get someone to write an awesome reference letter for you
Not a form letter. Something that sounds like a human being wrote it. Go to someone who knows you well and likes you. Don’t just ask them to write you a letter — tell them why their recommendation is valuable to you.