Advice on job applications

By Joanne Butcher, chief executive, NCTJ

Having spent last night shortlisting applicants for the NCTJ’s journalism internship, it’s evident that some students might improve their chances by taking more care with their applications.

So here are a few words of advice.

Follow the instructions carefully. Applicants were asked to write to the chief executive. All those on the shortlist wrote to me personally. I was amazed how many candidates wrote to the person who was administering applications.

Adapt your covering letter for the job. The best applicants did as they were asked and described why they wanted the job and what skills they could bring to the role. Those who just sent their standard covering letters and made no mention of the Journalism Diversity Fund didn’t impress me.

Make sure your copy is clean and write a great letter. Most employers want good English but if you really want to be a journalist it’s an absolute must. The well-written letters all came from those with A-C grades in their reporting exams.

Be honest about your exam results. Pretending you have 100wpm shorthand isn’t a good idea especially if you’re applying to the NCTJ for a job. If you don’t have the gold standard tell me the efforts you’re making to improve.

Demonstrate your enthusiasm and achievements. All those I’ve invited for interview managed to persuade me they really want the job and can do the job. Journalism is for those who are hard-working and committed.

Tell me about your journalism experience. Getting that first job is tough and it’s important to show you will hit the ground-running even as a trainee. I feel strongly that people shouldn’t do long periods of unpaid work but short placements are a must.

The NCTJ has published advice on CVs and covering letters to help students applying for journalism jobs available here.