13 tips on applying for journalism jobs from a fortysomething misanthrope

I’ve been doing a lot of recruiting for Trinity Mirror recently. Which means I’ve looked through literally hundreds of CVs and applications. So I have opinions. And I thought I’d pass a few tips on. Of course, I’m a misanthrope who has been in the industry for 15 years now, so YMMV…

CV filenames

On my laptop I have upwards of thirty files now all called CV.pdf or CV.docx. Give your CV a filename that says who you are. It makes it easy to find quickly, and also keeps reminding me of your name everytime I’m looking in my recruitment folders.

CV filenames with dates

It’s fine to call your file something like martin_belam_cv_2014.pdf. It isn’t fine to send me something that is called some_body_cv_2013.docx. That instantly tells me that:

  1. You don’t think you did anything interesting at work this year.
  2. You applied for this job without updating your CV to reflect the job description you are applying for.

Don’t randomly apply for everything advertised

I used to get this at the BBC many years ago, where people would apply for the most junior AND the most senior roles every time jobs were advertised. Maybe you don’t quite know where to pitch yourself in an organisation – but it surely can’t be simultaneously for roles paying circa £20k and roles paying circa £80k.

Don’t ask for a salary that is ridiculously too low

One of the questions in the Trinity Mirror application process is “required salary”. If you put £10k for a job working in London it makes me think you don’t understand money.

“Proficient in Microsoft Office”

This is not “an IT skill”. Being able to use office-suite applications is the reality of working in an office in the 21st century. Frankly, if you can’t type words into a computer, I don’t know why you are applying to be a journalist.

And what does “Proficient” in this context actually mean? That you can write macros? Or that you can change the colour of the borders on a table?

And nobody uses Microsoft Word to actually publish on the web. I’m much more impressed if you can illustrate you’ve used any kind of CMS.

…And talking of Microsoft Word…

Do not over-design your CV. You are never going to get hired on the basis of picking a funky font, but you are certainly going to put me off if you’ve gone for a garish set of colours.

Also, it is statistically unlikely that your CV will be read on exactly the same version of Windows/Microsoft Word you wrote it on. Cue loads of misplaced text, badly aligned images, and a general look of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ as I try to read your CV in Pages or Google Docs if you’ve spent ages “designing” it. I bet your revision timetables at exam time were cracking.


I literally could not care less if you “like to travel” or “go to the cinema regularly”. We all do.

You are not on Twitter

Or I have to Google you to find you on Twitter. Seriously, you want to be a journalist?

Show, don’t tell…

If you are applying for a job in web journalism, show me your web journalism. URLs. Links. Evidence that you have written for the web.

…but no stagnant links please

Don’t point me to your amazing blog about ‘Topic X’ if you haven’t updated it for seven months.

CVs that are too long

If you can’t convey it in two sides of A4, you are probably going into unnecessary detail about exactly what you did in different roles, or still listing information like the precise grades of your GCSEs or some volunteer work that you did 5 years ago that isn’t really relevant anymore.

Making no reference to why you are suitable to THIS job

If you aren’t including something about why you want to apply for THIS job right NOW then you are instantly putting yourself at a disadvantage to the people who are putting that in their applications.

Spelling errors

Instantly ensuring that due to Muphry’s law this post will contain one – please, please, please get someone else to read your CV for spelling and all that jazz. You are applying for a jrounalism* job.

What else puts you off recruiting people?

As I say, I’m a miserable old hack who has been in the business for years. Other opinions are available. Why not let me know in the comments what puts you off hiring people when your read their applications…

[*see what I did there?]