The Dos and Don’ts of getting a job in television news

I spent 23 years as a broadcast journalist – half of that was spent as a hiring manager.

During that time, I saw a LOT of mistakes that rookies made when applying for their first job. That’s why I created this list to help you out if you’re trying to get that first (or next) job in a newsroom.

Do the research.

No matter which job you’re applying for, you should know the name of the news director, the correct spelling of their name, and whether that person is a man or a woman. (My best advice, call the newsroom after hours and ask for the news director’s voicemail. Not only will you find out if they’re a man or a woman, but you’ll learn the correct pronunciation of his/her name.)

Don’t address your cover letter “To Whom It May Concern.”

If it didn’t concern you enough to learn that person’s name, it may not concern them enough to look any further. Plus, don’t you think you should take five minutes to find out the name of the person you might be working for someday? Bonus: if you’re applying for a reporter position, you want to show that you can dig and find out information!

Do be realistic in your job search.

Everyone wants to get a job in a big market or a desirable city, but that’s next to impossible without a lot of experience. Do be open to a smaller market where you can get more “hands on” experience, and Do look at the track record of the company that owns the station. You want to make sure you have an opportunity to grow.

Do be clear

Tell the hiring manager/news director in the first line of the cover letter which job you’re applying for, and where you saw it advertised. You’d be surprised how many resumes I receive where I cannot tell which job they’re applying for.

Don’t call or email the news director to see if they received your materials.

If you want to know it was received – Do get a return receipt on your email or the resume packet you send through the mail. It’s a lot cheaper to get the return receipt from the post office, than to annoy a busy news director.

Do keep the cover letter short and sweet.

Get to the point by highlighting how your experience fits the job description (look for key words in the job posting and use those in your letter). 

Do tell the news director in the cover letter how you can enhance the team, especially highlighting any multi-media experience you have. This is incredibly critical these days.

Don’t say your internship makes you qualified to be a mainline anchor.

Do share your contact information

Make sure your name, current address, phone number and email address are at the top of your resume. (Tip: if your personal email address is Hot1@yahoo.com, get a professional email address for free through yahoo, hotmail or gmail!)

You Don’t need an “objective” at the top of your resume.

We already know what it is, to get a job. 

Do create a professional summary at the top of your resume.

It sums up your experience and showcases career “highlights”. Don’t do this if you’re coming right out of school, because you don’t have a lot of professional experience – yet!

Do start with your most current job.

Have bullet points for your daily duties. Don’t write an essay of your job description – news directors are busy and you need to get to the point. 

Do list your references

And make sure one of those references is from your current job or internship. If they’re only “personal” references, that is a red flag to a news director. Don’t say those references are “available upon request”; you want to make things as easy to find as possible for the news director. 

Do create a website

Showcase your resume, resume reel and contact information. There are plenty out there: Weebly, Vimeo, or even just upload your resume reel to YouTube. It’s a lot easier to email in your resume, cover letter, references and a digital link to your reel than send it through the mail. It gets there instantly, the news director can look at your stuff right away, and you save money on postage and DVD’s!

Don’t put a “gallery” on your website with modeling headshots.

That is irrelevant if you’re applying for a reporter/anchor position. Please don’t also send a headshot through the mail, or put your picture on the DVD!

Don’t put music under your resume reel – even at the beginning.

If you have to dress it up with music or flashy graphics that could be an indication that you don’t have the substance on your reel. Plus, it’s hard to hear what you’re saying when it’s covered with music.

Do showcase standups at the beginning of your reel that show what you can do.

Don’t start with on set “chit chat” or material that covers you up. We want to see what you look like, how you come across on air, and how you present the material. Do make sure your “look” is consistent throughout the reel. I once received a resume reel from a woman that had a different look in every take. It almost looked like different people spliced together.

Do make sure your voicemail is professional.

You don’t want a news director to call you for an interview and hear about your wild night the night before on your outgoing message. 

Do dress for success in the interview.

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Do leave the flashy jewelry at home.

Do be prepared to make your case

Why are you the best person for the job? Are you a team player and have a “can do” attitude for learning? Do be confident. Don’t be arrogant.

Do have questions prepared to ask the interviewer.

This should be done by looking at the station’s website, researching the area and the news director. What is his/her background? What do you want to learn in your next job?

Don’t ask the news director how much the job pays, and when you can have a day off.

You haven’t even been offered the job yet. (Hopefully you’ve done homework on salaries for this type of position in this sized market and you have an indication of how much it pays.)

Do try to spend time with people in the newsroom

Especially the movers and shakers. Ask them about their news philosophy, what the newsroom mission statement is, and how it all fits together.

Do tell the news director you want this job, and why.

Every time I have told a hiring manager I wanted the job, I got the job. 

Do say “Thank YOU”

Send a handwritten note to everyone who spent time with you during the interview to thank him or her for his or her time. Do reinforce you are interested in the job, and look forward to hearing from them. Don’t send it through email!

And the hardest Do of all:

Do be patient while you wait for news about the job. Remember, news directors have more than just hiring you on their plate; they have to run a newsroom every day!

Dawn Dugle is a former journalist who brought home 67 awards for storytelling, including an Edward R. Murrow award. She’s been nominated for an Emmy many times, but hasn’t won yet. Always a bridesmaid…