Practical thoughts on the process of having recently hired reporters

This year, I have hired three reporters and worked with a handful of freelancers.

Here are some things I’ve learned about the process:

  • Where I post job listings: on JournalismJobs.com, on the city’s craigslist, on social circles and, when appropriate, through email for personal recommendations.
  • We sought to offer detailed job descriptions, including specific salary ranges, so our applicants knew what they were getting into.
  • We got between 30 and 60 applicants for each gig. First we knocked off about a third by virtue of their emails sounding spammy, being incomplete or, honestly, just offputting. We did these quickly, so this is the first hurdle to make sure you don’t get quickly dumped.
  • On a somewhat closer look, we chose 10 or so to put into a spreadsheet, which detailed all the qualities we wanted in a candidate. We ranked everyone on a scale of 1-3. We took the top five or so, did phone calls and then did in-person chats with three or so. In two cases, we did follow up conversations before choosing a final candidate.
  • Personal recommendations carry incredible weight. Less qualified former interns of ours went much further than they would have otherwise because we knew them.
  • I don’t want to download attachments. I want clips, resumes, etc. online.
  • We knocked off candidates that didn’t have any web presence — social media, website, or other. Not only because we value reporters who bring audience, but because it shows a curiosity and a connectivity necessary for most roles.
  • The in-person interview is much more personality base than I ever realized being on the other side of the table. In our case, we only spoke to serious candidates and only interviewed those we were reasonably sure we could hire. So, from there, we wanted to mostly see if the hire was ‘our kind of person,’ if we got along and fit our style. Also, as noted below, we usually wanted to check out our biggest concern about each candidate, and usually there was at least one.
  • For each final interview, we picked out what had us most concerned about the candidate and asked that question as directly as possible. In at least one case, this made the final determination.