Your Job Application Shows Your Skills

Hang around a newsroom long enough and you'll hear an editor say to a reporter, "Don't tell me, show me."

That's the most effective way to make a point.

But some job candidates miss that.

One journalist who had a chance recently to help review material from job candidates was surprised by those who listed InDesign as a skill, yet produced their resumes in Word, which is essentially writing software. She asked, if you want your resume to look nice and you have the skills, why not do it in a design program?


If you've got it, flaunt it. Otherwise, employers might wonder how well you really know that program. The same is true of trying to get an online job with an on-paper application.

Your resume and cover letter are not just accounts of what you have done. They are also examples of how you do things.
This is why a typo in a cover letter -- digital or otherwise -- can be such a turnoff. The editor, seeing the mistake on what should have been a document written with care and editing, assumes that if there is a mistake there, they must happen all the time.

On the other hand, a well-written, perfectly executed cover letter has landed interviews for people who might have otherwise been eliminated on the basis of their experience.

Steve Buttry took some time out of his job last week as director of community engagement for TBD to post some advice about landing a job in digital journalism. It included some advice about work samples, too. (Yes, he's hiring.)
For one thing, digital newsrooms want to see digital applications. It shows them you can do what they need.

Buttry wrote, "If you're applying for a position with a digital organization, which has posted an e-mail address where you can apply, don't send a hard-copy resume. Nothing screams 'refuses to innovate' like using paper and the U.S. Postal Service. I'm amazed at how many hard-copy applications I received. While I didn't eliminate them automatically for that reason, I didn't end up hiring anyone who applied by hard copy."

It is disappointing -- but not surprising -- that people will claim digital skills they haven't really mastered. I have seen a lot of people exaggerate their skills -- claiming Spanish because they took it in school, for example -- so it is not surprising that some would list software skills that they have yet to master.

But if your application is living proof that you know your way around those skills, no questions asked.

Career questions? E-mail Joe for an answer.

Coming Tuesday: Your Twitter elevator speech.
  • Joe Grimm

    Joe Grimm is a visiting editor in residence at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. He runs the JobsPage Website.


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