It's like getting ready for a blind date. Journalists searching for a newspaper job need to learn how to romance the recruiters. Who are they? What are they like? What do they want?
Journalists spend hours overanalyzing their e-mails and letters, phoning colleagues to discuss the recruiters' quirks and pet peeves, which often become journalism lore. Want a leg up? Here's a cheat sheet on four well-known newspaper recruiters.
(Full disclosure: I sent clips to Kathy Pellegrino in 1995 and had an interview with Glenn Proctor and the Star-Ledger editors in 2000.)
RECRUITER: Joe Grimm
NEWSPAPER: Detroit Free Press
WHO HE IS: Recruiting and development editor
HIS STYLE: Grimm is famous for writing thankyou notes to applicants almost as soon as the interview is over. He is personable and professional. Grimm tries to put journalists at ease during interviews. "I don't think a person does their best interviewing if they are scared," he says.
LIKES: Résumés and cover letters sent via snail mail and not in multiple attachments via e-mail.Wants to read six clips and a cover letter that shows some passion and curiosity. Looks for applicants who are inquisitive during their interviews. "I want somebody to ask good questions."
DOESN'T LIKE: Cover letters addressed "To Whom It May Concern."
PREFERS: E-mails from applicants rather than phone calls for general checking-in.
CONVERSATION STARTERS: His book on sailors and songs of the Great Lakes; his stint as Sister Conan the Grammarian.
SENSE OF HUMOR: Quirky. Grimm is known to offer interviewees a bingo card full of clichéd job interview questions and ask them to fill out the squares throughout the day.
DON'T FLAME HIM: Disgruntled job seekers who send nasty e-mails get that e-mail stapled directly to their files.
WEIRDEST GIMMICK SENT BY A JOB SEEKER: A T-shirt sent by an obituary writer applicant that said on the front, "Jones on obits.." and on the back, "..couldn't you just die?"
DID IT WORK? No
RECRUITER: Kathy Pellegrino
NEWSPAPER: South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale
WHO SHE IS: Recruitment editor and staff attorney
HER STYLE: Corporate, businesslike and straightforward. She is careful to not give applicants either false hope or unwarranted negativity.
LIKES: Applicants who know their strengths and which job would suit them.
DOESN'T LIKE: Cutesiness. Illegible clips. Résumés e-mailed with multiple attachments. Links to online articles.
PREFERS: Résumés and cover letters on plain old 81/2-by-11-inch paper.
CONVERSATION STARTERS: Tennis, the Florida Gators and her tray of bad-karma paperclips.
SENSE OF HUMOR: Dry
WEIRDEST GIMMICK SENT BY A JOB SEEKER: A brain made out of Silly Putty.
DID IT WORK? No
RECRUITER: George Rede
NEWSPAPER: Portland's Oregonian
WHO HE IS: Director of recruiting and training
HIS STYLE: Soft-spoken, organized, thorough, good listener. Calls himself a "talent scout" for the newspaper. Describes himself as "receptive" and "generally supportive."
LIKES: Journalists who specifically want to work at the Oregonian because of its reputation, not just because they need a job or want to live in Portland.
DOESN'T LIKE: Job-seekers who don't ask questions during the interview. Résumés longer than one page.
PREFERS: Packets that are "precise," i.e., a good cover letter, neat and legible clips. "A good cover letter gives me the reason to look at the résumé," he says.
CONVERSATION STARTERS: The Oregonian, why he wanted to work with its editor, Sandy Rowe, and if Mount St. Helens (only 60 miles away) is going to blow.
SENSE OF HUMOR: Quiet and quick-witted
WEIRDEST GIMMICK: Bright orange envelope. "It almost looked radioactive," he says.
DID IT WORK? No
RECRUITER: Glenn Proctor
NEWSPAPER: Newark's Star-Ledger
WHO HE IS: Associate editor
HIS STYLE: Edgy, intense and no-nonsense. Admits he is a "hard-ass." Likes that he is. "That's the image I want to project," Proctor says. Creator of "Proctor's Rules," a set of standards for job applicants to follow. They include: four references, 12 clips and a thorough knowledge of the Star-Ledger. and its editors.
LIKES: Applicants who come in for interviews prepared to discuss the Star-Ledger.
DOESN'T LIKE: Clips on 81/2-by-14-inch paper. MUST be on 81/2-by-11-inch paper (Proctor's Rules). Will not accept résumés or cover letters sent via e-mail attachments.
PREFERS: Job applicants who call him one week after the interview and about every three months after that.
CONVERSATION STARTERS: Prizes won by the Star-Ledger. His travels to journalism conferences around the country. The entire set of Proctor's Rules.
SENSE OF HUMOR: Deep down, he possesses a pretty good one. Likes to tease.
WEIRDEST GIMMICK: Are you kidding? Gimmicks are NOT in Proctor's Rules!