Fridays: Career Insider

September 06, 2008

A Class Act to the End

Someone sent this to me anonymously.

"I am a newspaper editor/columnist with a large newspaper company. Recently, my college-age son completed an internship at a metro-sized newspaper.

"On his second-to-last day, his editor/supervisor in the features section was laid off after close to two decades with the company.

"The next day (my son's last day there) the person who was laid off called in, said he had planned to take him to lunch anyway and asked to meet him at a local diner. He treated my son to lunch, made sure he was OK finishing up his last story, gave him a pep talk, thanked him for all his work and said to keep in touch.

"All this from an editor who just lost his job. My son learned a lot this summer, but this example of a 'class act' was his greatest lesson.

"That's what's hardest about the current state of the news business. It's getting rid of such good people."

February 15, 2008

Jason and the Candy Hearts

We interviewed a young sportswriter, Jason La Confora, around Valentine's Day in 1997. How do I know it was Valentine's Day? Because there were a lot of these little candy Valentine's Day hearts with the wittyHearts sayings around the office.

I held a bowl out of them to Jason and he picked one. It said, “No way.” Not good when you’re on a job interview. So, I offered the bowl to the sports editor, Gene Myers. He picked one, and it said, “Why not?”

Later in the day, Gene offered Jason the job and he accepted. Jason covered the Red Wings for us for a couple years before moving to the New York Times and then the Washington Post.

February 08, 2008

Identity Crisis

A young reporter working for some weeklies in Florida said thather editor asked her to use more than on byline.


"It will make it look like we have a bigger staff."

Several years later, I heard about the same strategy being used at a publication in Asia.

When you think about it, it can be very helpful to the reporter who writes an occasional clinker and doesn't want to be credited with it.

February 01, 2008

By Any Other Name

One applicant’s resume included a “proposed pseudonym.”

January 25, 2008

Mother as Agent

I don't know why things like this keep happening to Steve Dorsey, our assistant managing editor for visuals.

And shame on you for thinking it's because he deals with a lot of artists.

So, he gets an application from a guy who is a technical illustrator, but who has been out of work for a while because of downsizing. Work like his rarely ever appears in a newspaper, yet that's where he has applied.

The application is on Steve's desk, and he is trying to think of a suitable reply.

The phone rings. Someone wants to inquire about the application. It is the job-seeker's mother.

"His mother," says Steve. "And you are calling because ...?"

"I am also his agent."

January 18, 2008

I'm Not Here for the Cars

The Detroit auto show is held about three block from the Detroit Free Press. One year, shortly before the auto show, I was on the phone with an editor in San Antonio. He said he was coming up for the show.

Mazda_concept Surprised, I said that I didn't know he covered business news. He told me he didn't. But, he did some recruiting. And with several thousand business reporters gathering in one place, he thought he should be there to recruit. Three blocks from my newsroom.

That made me an auto show regular.

During one of those shows, a keen investigative reporter asked our editor why "a high-ranking Free Press editor who has nothing to do with Business" was at the auto show and the social gathering afterward on a media pas.

"Oh," she said. "I assume you mean our recruiter. Aren't there thousands of reporters in town for this?"

Sometimes, the most obvious things aren't.

January 11, 2008

The Ugly Side of Town

We were interviewing a candidate who, for several reasons, rubbed me the wrong way. The editor who would have the biggest vote loved her, and I glumly knew she would likely get the offer.

On the second day of her interview, I took her for a drive. I chose my route carefully and it was not the one I usually took to show the city in its best light.

As expected, the editor confidently made the offer.

When she turned us down, almost everyone was baffled.

January 04, 2008

Working Too Hard

From an internship application's cover letter: "They instilled me with the traditional values of a hard work ethnic, believeing in yourself and never giving up."

And a good line from someone else's resume: "Fluent Spanish, conversational Russian, literate Hebrew, proficient in California penal code."

December 28, 2007

The Mail Must Go Through

As we were going through applications for summer, 2008, internships, a letter was returned to our newsroom.

It had been mailed by a previous recruiter on Nov. 9, 1987, to a student at Northwestern University. It said, in part, "I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to meet you in Chicago ... I hope you'll consider applying for an internship with us. ... Our deadline is Dec. 15, but I'd appreciate getting your material sooner."Mail

The envelope said, "not here." A yellow sticker in the lower righthand corner said:


The yellow sticker was dated Dec. 15, 2007, 20 years to the day after the application materials were to have arrived.

And the young man? Oh, he's fine. While the letter was sitting somewhere he went through the PEace Corps, earned a master's degree and now works in Wisconsin.

An Honest Resume

I received one this fall that said, "Limited proficiency with In Design, PhotoShop ..."

I guess so, as InDesign is one word. But at least they weren't stretching the truth.

Which Way Do I Go?

To help prepare people from the Free Press to help me recruit at the Unity 2004 convention, I did some advance scouting while on trips to Washington, D.C. I made photos of the convention center, major hotels, the neighborhood and nearby subway stops into a video show and gathered maps, menus and other information about the area.

As part of that, I stopped by the Chinatown subway stop to get maps of the system. I furtively grabbed fistfuls of the maps to and sneaked them out of the station. The maps are free, but they’re not meant to go out in bulk. Once I got safely away, I checked my loot. I had stolen maps printed in Chinese and Korean.

December 21, 2007

Island Girl

I met a reporter at the Newsday job fair who wanted to cover education. It’s likely she was a lifelong New Yorker. How do I know? I suggested the she try the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which was advertising for an education reporter.

Her response: “Cleveland … Is that on the island?”

December 14, 2007

The Blurbs Guy

It was a rare occasion when a group of recruiters, who generally don’t congregate or who remain guarded, were comparing notes on candidates. One had sent several of us a sheet of one-line testimonials, as you would see in a movie ad. It said things like, “excellent clips” and “A promising career.”

All the blurbs were attributed to people at prominent newspapers. We wondered how he had so many big-time boosters. When I got back to the Free Press, I pulled his file and looked up the sheet of blurbs. One, I noticed, was attributed to one of my predecessors in the job. That seemed odd. So, I pawed further through the file and found a letter from that editor. Mystery solved. The candidate had been pulling excerpts from rejections – in this case, a form letter.

December 07, 2007

Let's Get Help With the Spelling, Too

Pity the poor newspaper that advertised for copy editors who had good grammer skills.

November 30, 2007

Gas Pains

Mary Lou Brink, managing editor of the Ft. Wayne News-Sentne, tells this one.

A new intern arrived, read to wor. Just one thing.

She ask whether she could get ab advance on her paycheck. It seems she had planned just enough money to get to the job and none to spend until she got paid.

She had arrived with her car running on fumes and needd the advance to buy gasoline.

November 23, 2007

Smart AND Sexy

From a resume: Summa cum lade.

November 16, 2007

Grow Up, Mom!

San Jose Mercury News recruiter Melissa Jordan told how a student’s mother called to ask whether the paper had a job for her daughter.

Jordan called the student and told her she should do her own legwork. The reaction was something like “I can’t believe my mother did that!”

Apparently, the daughter told the mother, because the mother called Jordan again, this time to yell at her for being critical of the dauhter

November 09, 2007

By-the-Book Job Interview

An unqualified job-seeker was wearing out one of our editors, who had granted him an informational interview, even though he could see from the fellow’s work that he wasn’t qualified.  Finally, at the end of his patience, the editor said, “OK, one more question.”

The candidate then reached into his bag and opened a small paperback book about how to interview for a job.

November 02, 2007

That's Cold

It can be tough to recruit against Rob Hooker and Florida’s St. Petersburg Times. One year, they had the legend “You wouldn’t need this if you worked at the St. Petersburg Times” printed on windshield-ice scrapers.

October 26, 2007

Small World

It is a connected world.

At 1:30 p.m., one of our editors began an interview with a student at a state university.

At 2:30 p.m., an e-mail dropped into my e-mail account. It was from an editor and former colleague in another state, asking for a reference on someone who had applied for a job there. Because she goes to a state school, the editor thought our paths might have crossed.

Yup, the 1:30 interview. Instant reference -- but the line would be all but invisible to the student. You never know who knows whom.

October 19, 2007

Special Delivery

A Free Press editor was visiting his counterpart at the San Jose Mercury News when a package arrived -- from the Free Press. "This must be for you," said the host.

"No, I didn't send anything."

"It's to my attention, but it's from your paper. It must be for you. Open it."

Our editor opened it and found a letter and resume of one of his staffers was applying for a job at the Mercury News

October 12, 2007

Don't Talk about My Mama

The resume showed that the first initial “M,” but she went by her middle name.

“What does the M stand for?” I asked.

“Martha, but, God, I hate that name. It sounds so old! Oh! I bet that’s your mother’s name, isn’t it?”

Of course.

October 05, 2007

Journalism and Tae Kwon Do

I received an invitation this week from Mark Bergmooser, Monroe County (Mich.) Community College's "Assistant Professor of Speech, Journalism and Tae Kwon Do."

I e-mailed back that this must surely be a joke.

He replied, "No joke. Versatility is crucial at a community college."

The next time you feel like complaining that you have too many different things to do ...

September 28, 2007

Stick an Extra Stamp on it

Paul Jablow, who recruited for the Philadelphia Inquirer, told this one.

A two-year reporter who was every bit annoying as he was good was looking for a job and asked one of the staffers he had sometimes annoyed for a letter of recommendation.

“Sure, I’ll write you a letter.”

”How good will it be?”

”The farther the job, the better the letter.”

September 21, 2007

Moving Up

One of our reporters was in the elevator at the Chicago Tribune when, who should step into the elevator with her, but her publisher from back home in Detroit. They greeted each other curtly and rode in silence until she got off at another floor.

He never said anything about that. She wound up staying at the Free Press longer than he did.

September 14, 2007

An Outdated Resume Trips You Up

It never fails.

Soon after returning from a journalism convention, I dutifully wrote to the people I interviewed, using the mailing addresses on their resumes.

Three have now come back as undeliverable ...

Wasted effort on both ends.

The Pressure of Buyouts

A good writer, forced by buyouts in his newsroom to contemplate a career move, threw an e-mail out asking for help.

He was surprised to get a prompt reply.

So surprised, in fact, that he wrote this: "I can't tell you how much I appreciate you even responding. You've made a dark day a little more difficult."

No harm done.

September 07, 2007

Quirky Resume

Here's another great item from a resume that came my way this summer:

"Quirk XPress."

The most common resume error I see is with QuarkXPress (you can see why), but it's usually not wrong in this way.

The job candidate was a good sport about, we had a laugh and she has fixed it.

August 31, 2007

Grave Matters

Here's one of my favorite lines from this summer's harvest of resumes:

"Grave knowledge of mass media."

I do not like to see the words "grave" and "mass" in a sentence about the news media.

August 24, 2007

Watch Those E-Mail Addresses

You'd think people would know about this by now.

Certainly, the seniors should.

Yet someone is sending out e-mails in quest of a job with the handle HOTCHICK(name).

August 17, 2007

Surprise, You're Hired!

Often, we hear about people who thought they had a job, only to find out it did not pan out as they had thought it would.

Here's a twist:

A journalist hired at a newspaper as a one-year intern was stepping into a photo of the interns when he was told to step back.

The editors told him he had not been hired as an intern, but was a permanent hire. He said that was the irst he had heard of it. Far from being happy to have a permanent job, he began to have serious doubts about how well his paper was being run.

August 10, 2007

Contender for Shortest Job Interview

This is how one fresh graduate recounted her interview at a job fair:

She approached the recruiter and presented her resume.

The candidate then prepared to offer clips, but the recruiter held up a hand and said, “Wait. I don’t know if I even want your clips.”

The recruiter then studied the resume and said she did not want to see the clips.

The candidate asked the recruiter what she could get out of this interview, surely, one of the world’s fastest.

“If there’s any good news you can get out of this, it is that we could talk about internships – but, actually, we don’t have any internships, so I guess there isn’t any good news.”

August 03, 2007

Eny Job Will Do

One of the first encounters I had with being on the recruiting end of things was at The Oakland Press, a daily newspaper north of Detroit.

It seems that someone stopped by the lobby and filled out a job application, which someone sent up to the newsroom.

On the line where people are asked to say what positions they are interest in, the person had written, "Eny one."

We passed.