Quick tips to sharpen your journalism resume
It’s getting chilly and leaves are starting to change here in Seattle, and that means internship application season is already around the corner. The month of October is full of application deadlines for larger publications.
The Lead has written about cover letters and collected advice from internship hiring managers, but there’s another key part of any application: the resume.
How long should your resume be? How do you group things? Does it need a fancy design? These tips will help your resume stand out.
First, the basics. Here’s an easy way to break up sections:
Contact information: List your name, email, phone number, website and relevant social media. If you’re posting your resume on your portfolio website, consider making a separate version that doesn’t include your phone number. You probably don’t need an address and you definitely don’t need a headshot.
Journalism experience: Anything you’ve done that relates to the position you’re applying for. Student media experience, internships, freelance pieces, even marketing or communications writing are all fair game. Each listing should include your position, the organization, and the time period in which you held the position.
Other experience: Any part-time jobs that aren’t directly related to journalism, as well as volunteering. These descriptions don’t have to be long.
Education: List where you go to school, expected graduation date, what you’re studying, any minors, honors programs, certificates, etc.
Involvement: List student or professional organizations you’re involved in and any leadership roles you’ve held. You can also list conferences or workshops you’ve attended.
Skills: List languages and programs you’re proficient in, plus skills like breaking news reporting, copy editing or project management. Keep these concise and focus on what’s relevant to the specific position you’re applying for.
Keep it to one page. If you’re reading this newsletter, you’re probably a student or recent graduate. No matter how much internship or student media experience you have, you’re writing too much if your resume is more than one page. And no, that doesn’t mean you should use 8-point font to make everything fit.
Make it clean and easy to read, even if you’re not a designer. There’s no one-size-fits-all resume template, because it depends on what you’re applying for. If you’re a designer or illustrator, it makes sense to have a more creative resume that shows your skills. If you’re not applying for a visual position, it’s okay to keep it simple. Canva and even Google Docs have templates that look professional and are easy to customize.
Use bullet points in your sections. This helps with readability and forces you to write concisely. It’s much easier for hiring managers to skim a list of bullets than a big paragraph of text.
Use active verbs and be specific. Which sounds better: “Wrote about University of Arizona student government,” or “Developed sources as the University of Arizona student government beat writer, juggling breaking news with longer enterprise stories and publishing 1-2 stories per week”? And throw in specific details that you’re especially proud of. Did your story lead to change on campus, or was it the most-read story of the semester? Mention those things.
Be selective about what non-journalism information you include. Save the majority of your space for journalism experience that ties into what you’re applying for. If you have a part-time or full-time job, that’s worth listing (it shows you can balance your time outside of schoolwork), but a one- or two-line description should suffice. You probably don’t need your GPA, and if you’re midway through college, you don’t need to include your high school newspaper.
Be prepared to back everything up. Your skills should be the things you are comfortable using professionally, not every program you’ve touched for one week in a class. Anything you mention is fair game for an interviewer to ask about, so don’t embellish.
Proofread. Then proofread again. Check the tenses of every bullet point in your resume. If it’s a previous position, use past tense. If it’s a current position, use present tense. And have a trusted friend read it over, even when you think it’s perfect — they’ll almost certainly catch things you missed.