Avoid these cardinal sins in applying for public media jobs

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I’ve hired a lot of folks over the past 35 years in broadcasting, and thankfully most have been good hires, some excellent, and some even extraordinary. I count in that latter group Robert Krulwich, Robert Siegel, Noah Adams, Scott Simon, David Brancaccio, David Brown, and many others.

Russell

Russell

But I have also encountered job applicants who left me with a bad taste in my mouth — not because of who they were, but rather because of what they did during the application process. For the benefit of future applicants, I thought I’d detail some of what I consider the “cardinal sins” of applying for a job.

  1. The obvious time-wasters: those who haven’t read the detailed job description or lifted a finger to research the company or station doing the hiring. Those who know they don’t qualify. Those who know they don’t want to move to the station’s location and try to convince me to let them “telecommute” while doing a local reporting or producing job. Those whose salary needs greatly exceed the posted salary.
  2. The job-seekers with hidden liabilities: those who won’t pass a reference check. This applies especially to former bosses they don’t list as references—a sure sign that I need to call those bosses. Those who were fired for cause and think they can hide it. Those who lie about their experience and/or credentials. For example, everybody uses Facebook, but not all Facebook users are knowledgeable about how to exploit “social media.”
  3. The con men and women: These are the applicants who aren’t at all interested in your job but will take up your and your staff’s time solely to use your interest to get a raise or a job elsewhere! These folks are playing you off against their current or real prospective employer. Some are so bold about this that they’ll even come out and say it, with no feeling of shame or guilt: “I like your job, but if WXYZ offers me a job, I’ll take theirs.”

If you fall into any of these three categories, stop cold in your tracks.

Our industry is a small one, and word of your transgressions will get around. Even more to your discredit and reputational damage, though, is the lack of respect that playing such games reveals.

The folks in the trenches at public radio stations around the country work really hard and are chronically under-resourced. The time they give up to recruit, interview and vet applicants is precious. Their generosity with their time and the opportunities they offer need to be respected and appreciated.

Veteran producer Jim Russell is president of The Program Doctor, a production consulting company based in Chapel Hill, N.C.
  • Jim Lewis

    Jim, I was always amazed at the number of applicants for responsible positions who were unable to respond to a simple question: “What are some of your favorite programs on this station?”

  • Mike Perry

    Salaries are rarely listed in job descriptions I have seen–so candidates may apply not knowing what the range is. (If they were listed, I could make a decision about whether to apply and avoiding wasting the station’s time if isn’t right for me.) Also, I hope you will consider writing about the cardinal sins of search committees–like not calling candidates back after an interview (I would rather hear no than not hearing); asking candidates to travel at their own expense and/or at the last minute; asking candidates to pitch stories or shows and then using them on the air with acknowledgement. All have happened to me. Like many candidates, I have gone to great lengths to research and listen to the station and prepare pitches, taken time off of my current job and traveled long distances only to hear nothing. At any stage of the process this is lousy, but at this stage is unconscionable. So, anyway, thanks for reading and I hope you will consider a column about the recruiters’ cardinal sins.

  • Mike Perry

    Salaries are rarely listed in job descriptions I have seen–so
    candidates may apply not knowing what the range is. (If they were listed, I
    could make a decision about whether to apply and avoiding wasting the station’s
    time if isn’t right for me.) Also, I hope you will consider writing about the
    cardinal sins of search committees–like not calling candidates back after an
    interview (I would rather hear no than not hearing); asking candidates to
    travel at their own expense and/or at the last minute; asking candidates to
    pitch stories or shows and then using them on the air without acknowledgement. All
    have happened to me–with the not calling back/closing the loop being incredibly common (as well as incredibly cruel and thoughtless.) How about writing about that?

  • Jim Russell

    I agree with you,Mike, that not informing a candidate about the outcome of a search he/she participated in — is just plain rude and thoughtless behavior that I would never excuse. As for salary ranges, most job ads don’t have a salary range but it is easily obtained by calling/emailing the HR Department. As for making job applicants pay their own travel, to me that shows the hiring entity isn’t serious about you. And, companies that steal pitches and use them — are crooks. Bottom line: I know that applying for a job is often not a happy or professional experience, but when these things happen — consider yourself lucky enough to have found out it isn’t a company you want to work for — before you started a job there.