Tag Archives: job-hunting

Getting an interview: how to make an impression and bag that job

17 Oct

If you’re looking for guru-esque advice about how to pass an interview with flying colours, I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place.

The blog title is more of an aspiration, rather than a ten point how-to guide.

In fact being invited for interview is something of an achievement at the moment.  I’ve lost count of the number of applications that I’ve filled in.

And I’m not talking a copy and paste exercise from one application or CV to another. I mean full-on in-depth analysis of the organisation, its values and principles and how I’d hope to fit in.

Of course 99% of the time I’m unsuccessful, well I assume so as no-one bothers to reply, but on rare occasions I get a reply which says: “We would like to invite you to interview.” Exciting times indeed.

Now as I’m just another wannabe hack, you may assume that I’ve not been all that successful in the interviews I have had. This is partly true. However I do have a decent track record in some respects.

As part of my degree I had to organise a 12-month placement in Westminster. As I was interested in going down the media route I opted to apply for a placement at The House Magazine.  

It wasn’t a given that they would take me on, but I must have done something right during the course of the 30-minute interview as I was offered the placement there and then.

On the train back up to Hull I did what any self-respecting successful applicant would do, I toasted my success with a half a bottle of rosé that I had smuggled onboard from the King’s Cross branch of M&S.

Runaway success onboard the Hull-bound train

I passed an ‘interview’ for my waitressing job and I also passed the interview I had for a temporary admin role. Granted they weren’t the most difficult.

And let’s not forget the post-grad journalism course I’ve just completed – part of the application process was an interview, along with a written test. But let’s face it, it would be pretty dire to fail an interview for a course I was intending to pay for.

Since completing my NCTJ this year I’ve attended two interviews and failed to bag that elusive first media job.

The first interview involved a five-hour round trip travelling by trains and taxis. It wasn’t so much an interview, as half a day’s unpaid work.

I had to undertake a number of typical journalism tasks including re-writing news stories, editing copy, researching the latest updates from the emergency services and compiling lists of potential leads. After three-and-a-half hours of doing that I was then taken into a back room to be interviewed.

It was more of an informal chat than an interview, and after a cursory glance at my portfolio which he noted contained, “all the usual student crap” he asked me the grand total of three questions:

(1)   Why do you want the job? (Insert lengthy explanation with examples here)

(2)   How would you handle a death knock? (Same as above)

(3)   Are you willing to relocate? (Yes)

As we shook hands he promised to get in touch regardless of the outcome. To be fair he did, four weeks later. And he said no.

The second interview was a two-day affair which involved me working (for free naturally) on a Thursday and Friday.

I wrote, chased and filed copy, conducted interviews and organised the photo diary over the course of the two days, with the only interview aspect being a five-minute chat asking how I was getting on.

My portfolio of work wasn’t even mentioned. Again I was told I would be informed of the outcome by the following Monday.

I wasn’t. Instead I found out the following week that I hadn’t got the job by virtue of the fact that a mutual acquaintance had accepted the role two days earlier.

So what have I learnt from these experiences?

(1)   Most places don’t respond when they say they will.

(2)   My portfolio isn’t as important as I imagined it would be.

(3)   An interview is essentially a licence for an organisation to get a bit of free work out of as many applicants as possible.

(4)   A lot of it is down to who, not what, you know.

(5)   It will inevitably involve some chasing on my part to find out the outcome of the interview.

(6)   You need extremely tough skin to succeed in this industry.

 However the following is still important:

(1)   Dressing smartly

(2)   Believing in yourself

(3)   Taking a portfolio with you (just in case)

(4)   Researching the organisation

(5)   Knowing your own experiences, skills and how they meet the criteria.

(6)   Identifying your own weaknesses and how to improve.

I’ll bear all this in mind the next time I’m lucky enough to be invited to a job interview.

For now it’s tea, toast and yet another application form.

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Strictly catching up

9 Oct

One of the benefits of working a long Saturday shift is the promise of a self-indulgent Sunday catching-up with all the  TV programmes I’ve missed.

Having worked an 11-hour shift with no breaks – a new personal best (or worst) – I had missed out on a serious amount of guilty-pleasure television including Merlin, Strictly Come Dancing and The X Factor. Never mind food.

However it was all worth the effort as today, after a home-made Sunday roast (chicken and all the trimmings, if you’re curious) and an indulgent sticky toffee pudding for dessert, I plonked myself in front of the TV.

At the end of a five-hour marathon of TV viewing I felt numb with pixels. However my viewing highlight was Russell Grant’s performance on Strictly to Abba’s Dancing Queen. (If you haven’t seen it yet, please YouTube it, I guarantee it’ll make you smile.)

Feeling the groove: Russell Grant throwing some Strictly shapes

I beamed throughout his routine amid a flurry of frills, feather boas and sparkles. It proved to be the perfect antidote to a miserable few days job-hunting. Or scraping the barrel jobs-wise to be more precise.

This got me thinking, instead of moping around about the dire jobs market I need to diversify in my job-hunting quest. So, starting next week, I’m initiating Operation Different Ways To Get That Job. (It’s a working title.)

As well as chasing the slim-pickings that are out there I’m going to take a more pro-active approach to getting work. I have a few ideas up my sleeve, but I’m unsure whether I’m just experiencing post-X Factor/Strictly highs where it seems anything is possible.

At least my career lows are not being played out on national TV, unlike a certain Ms Currie. Again.

An Indian summer’s day in Oxford

28 Sep

When the opportunity of escaping the daily grind of applying for jobs I have no prospect of getting  came up, I jumped at the chance. I organised a blissful five-day mini-break daarn Saarf, booked my train tickets and packed enough clothing for about two weeks. Naturally.
After the weathermen on both the TV and the radio raved about unseasonably good weather I snorted into my cup of tea and decided to pack for typical British weather. Cue lots of cardigans, tights and a waterproof coat.
Well it turns out the bods at weather HQ actually got it right. Bugger.
So here I am in the insanely hot and sunny Oxford with a suitcase stuffed full of clothes and a limited choice of outfits. After much umming and aahing I decided on some chinos (nice), my trusty mannish brogues and a light shirt with a giant bow tie attached (you have to see it to appreciate it fully.)
So what am I doing in this neck of the woods? I’m here to see my very good friend Beth who will be starting a Masters here next week. We had a wonderful time exploring the quaint village of Iffley before heading into the fresher-filled city of Oxford.
Although Oxford looks wonderful on-screen (on Morse and Harry Potter to name just two) it has to be seen to be truly appreciated.
I went snap-happy at every beautiful building and architectural quirk I laid eyes on. Here’s just a taster…

Oxford life: impressive buildings and cycling

One thing these Oxfordians are keen on is cycling. They cycle everywhere and split neatly into three categories.

Smug cyclists: They can’t get enough of being king of the road, pavements, pathways, you name it, they think they own it. And they love aggressive bell-ringing.

Terrified cyclists: Pretty much what it says on the tin. They live in Oxford and the surrounding areas, think it’s a good idea to cycle everywhere but are terrified of ending up underneath the wheels of a bus or in the Thames.

Chilled cyclists: Have bike will travel. They fall neatly in between the above categories and take their cycling commute within their stride. And try not to mow people down.

Cycling capital of the country: bikes as far as the eye could see

When we’d finishing dodging smug cyclists and pounding the pavements of the city centre we took a look at the city’s botanical gardens, which although was past its best in terms of blooms (it is autumn after all) was a perfect place to enjoy the plants, trees and fountains it had to offer. After a quick scoot around the shops, footsore and weary, we headed home.
Even though the extensive walking took its toll on my poor feet, all-in-all it was a fabulous day.

Job-hunting? What job-hunting?!