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4 notions we can learn from journalism for job interviews

An interview for a story is a power struggle. There are a lot of different techniques that journalists use to get a sound bite.

What about interviewing for a job? Are recruiters trying to “break” the interviewee in order to reveal their true intentions, genuine interests, and unveil any trumped-up accomplishments?

Perhaps. While the techniques are dissimilar, the end goal of finding the truth is the same. So here are 4 things we can all learn from journalist-come-marketer and expert in media relations, Vanessa Buendia:

1. The sound bite is what counts.

“The other 15, 30 or 60 minutes of a journalist’s time with an interviewee are irrelevant”, said Buendia. In a job interview, you also aren't looking to bombard the recruiter with stats and data about yourself. The recruiter has read your CV and checked out your online presence, just as a journalist researches a speaker. They are looking for red flags like reporters do, but also green flags that make you stand out. Get your soundbite in — one or two hard-hitting pieces of information — and allow the rest of the call to be simply learning about, charming, and connecting with another person or company.

A writer wearing a hijab records a voice note into her phone, with an open laptop on the table in front of her.

2. Framing changes everything.

Bring the story into your interviews. As Utopia Music’s Marketing Content Manager, Buendia was writing a press release about an acquisition: “You can start with 'so-and-so acquired this company'. But that’s boring. If you frame it as 'so-and-so jumps into this new industry trend via new acquisition in California…' It changes the whole story.” Buendia brought the reporter’s instinct to find the story — a hook or a lede — to her roles in marketing. In a job application, candidates should be marketing themselves using their hook too. Are you the person who built a department from scratch, or a website? Maybe you’re the hero who generated leads through a medium no-one else had dared try before. Your soundbite, e.g. my project increased leads by 27%, is recountable, and how you frame your accomplishment makes it memorable. For example: Nobody else dared try this time-consuming task, but I put the hours and patience into it because I knew it would work for this company. In 6 months, leads attributed to my projects were responsible for a 27% increase in the company’s lead generation.

3. Soft-skills are relevant to different roles.

The key is knowing how to position them to a recruiter. “Journalists are trained to have interviewing skills that can be cut-throat,” says Buendia. Today, she applies this skill in media training, preparing her colleagues for press conferences with reporters. “I can see the weaknesses of all my colleagues, and I know where good journalists would hit them.” What skills do you have in your current role that apply to the one you’re applying for? Make a list ahead of the interview and detect opportunities to drop your transferable skills into conversation.

A filmmaker with plaited hair records a meeting in a modern light office full ove rmarketing writers.

4. Everyone has their own motivation. “A reporter’s incentive is to be the headliner.” For the paper, it’s to sell more papers, according to Buendia. In the same way, recruiters are part of a larger machine with its own goals — including to hire the best people — recruiters have their own motivations — be the one to find the top talent. Anything you do that helps a recruiter position you as the best candidate, is not self-interested. You are helping them win too. Give them the tools to promote you, i.e. your successes, and make them look good for finding you by impressing every interviewer in the process.

How do you plan to apply these techniques when job hunting? We’d love to hear from you!

Thank you to Vanessa Buendia, former reporter for world renown trade magazines like Inframation, Infrastructure Journal, and Mergermarket, and currently Marketing Content Manager at Utopia Music for her time and insight, which heavily informed this article..



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