Applying for a journalism or communications position? (Don’t) do this.

Here at SPJ HQ, we have been sifting through scores of internship applications for our two summer positions and the yearlong communications internship.

Based on what we received, we compiled advice for job-seekers. Here are some application dos and don’ts, based on this year’s applicant pool. (Kudos to those of you whose materials included the dos.)

When applying for journalism or communications positions:

  • DO include a cover letter. DON’T misspell the name of the person you’re addressing. Also, DON’T mistype the name of the organization you want to work for.
  • DO read and follow all directions. DON’T forget to send all required materials.
  • DO include links to your website, relevant online profiles and anything that helps an employer learn more about you. DO include your twitter handle alongside your name, email address and phone number. In this industry, it’s just as relevant as the standard contact information.
  • DON’T mess up your own contact information.
  • DO carefully choose relevant writing samples. DON’T send a college term paper as a writing sample. If you don’t have clips, consider starting a blog about topics related to the position.
  • DON’T apply for a position that you are not interested in. DO clearly articulate your interest in the position by citing related experiences.
  • DO tailor your résumé and cover letter to the job you seek.
  • DO research your potential employer. DON’T repeatedly tweet at him or her.
  • DO find the “about” tab on the organization’s website.
  • DO whatever you must to send a legible application. You may look at your application and think, “That’s great penmanship!” but next to typed applications, it looks sloppy.
  • DO structure your letter like a letter. DON’T send a one-paragraph essay for the one-page essay portion of the application. DON’T send a three-page essay for the same requirement.
  • DO follow up. Once.

There is plenty of job-application and résumé advice out there, so take advantage of it. This is a small list of tips based on the more than 100 applications that have come across our desks so far.

Here’s a final thought for you from Tara Puckey, SPJ’s chapter coordinator who is also processing internship applications.

“This is a large stack. If you want me to notice you, you have to do something different.”

No matter what job you want, keep that advice in mind.


Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email,, or Twitter, @cdigang.


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