How not to get a job in TV news

CC photo by Adele Prince on FlickrYou already know how hard it is to get a job in television news. The competition is fierce and job opportunities are hard to find. The latest RTDNA research on newsroom staffing recorded a dip in TV news employment, largely because nine stations got out of the news business in 2016. What’s a job hunter to do?

For starters, avoid the most common mistakes news directors see in job applications. These tips come from news directors in San Antonio, Texas, who shared their advice on what not to do at the Texas Association of Broadcasters’ Southwest Broadcast Newsroom Workshop.

  1. Don’t make the most of your internship. If no one remembers you, what was the point? “We’re the ones who are going to recommend you,” says Mandi Johnston Mendoza, assistant news director, at WOAI/KABB-TV. Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do. Ask questions, go out with reporters, and take advantage of the station’s resources. “You want to leave with a resume reel so you can show a news director, ‘Here’s what I can do.'”
  2. Don’t put references on your resume. “Upon request” is a no-no, says Bernice Kearney, news director at KSAT-TV in San Antonio. “Don’t make me work that hard,” she says. Kearney doesn’t want to see your GPA, although Mendoza does. But neither one cares to know about your work experience outside of TV or news. “Don’t tell me you worked at the GAP,” Mendoza says.
  3. Don’t start your resume reel with your best work. “You may only get 30 seconds,” says Jack Acosta, news director at KENS-TV in San Antonio. “Put the greatest thing you’ve ever done in the first 30.” Stand-ups at the top are a good idea for reporter candidates but don’t be too predictable. “It’s great you covered a flood,” says Kearney. “I do not need to see one more stand-up of someone in ankle deep water.”
  4. Get an agent. There’s no point in hiring an agent to find you a first job, news directors say. Mendoza says she’ll often get multiple resumes from one agent, pitching everyone that agent represents. “They’re throwing stuff against the wall,” she says, not representing your best interests. Acosta says hiring an agent may make sense later in your career, but he asks, “If you’re not confident representing yourself, why would I have confidence in you to represent [my station]?”
  5. Don’t review your social media presence. News directors will check you out on every platform available. “I will do everything in my power to find out everything I can about you,” Acosta says. Showing your personality is fine, says Kearney, but “spring break 2010 is not your best foot forward…I’m not a fun hater, but I want to make sure you’re not a knucklehead.”

If you get as far as an interview, prepare by watching the station’s newscasts. “Show us the respect of getting to know us or there’s no reason for us to welcome you into our newsroom,” Kearney says. Don’t show up in jeans and a T-shirt, no matter what job you’re applying for. And never complain about your current boss. “That’s a big red flag,” Acosta says.

Should you follow up after an interview? Absolutely. Send a quick email of thanks and “show that you were paying attention,” Kearney says. “Watch the newscast that night and talk about it or ask a question. Continue to be engaged in the product you want to be a part of.” And don’t panic if you don’t hear back right away. “The [hiring] process takes longer than you think,” says Mendoza.