Shelley Alexander offers her advice to jobseekers
Shelley Alexander is the Editorial Lead for Women’s Sport at the BBC. She also sits on the board of Women in Football, and is the Chair of Kick It Out’s Mentoring Development Group. Here, she shares five tips that can make the difference between success and failure when you apply for a job.
READ THE ADVERT CAREFULLY
When you see a job you want to apply for, treat it like an exam paper, and make sure your skills are well-fitted. That doesn’t mean you have to meet every criteria in the description, but make sure you have a good number – you have to be realistic. Then ask yourself truthfully does the job enthuse me? You have to have that to get you through the whole process. Finding a job can be soul-destroying so you need that enthusiasm to keep you focused.
FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS
One of the biggest mistakes is that applicants don’t answer the questions properly. When we (The BBC) look for new staff we often put supplementary questions on the application form. That’s because we get inundated by CVs that often tell similar stories so those supplementary questions are often key to the candidate making an impression. Look at these questions carefully, have another look and then go back to it a few hours later when you’ve gone for a run; watched something inspiring or had a shower – anything to get your creativity flowing.
STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD
It’s not always possible, but try to talk to the person who is looking to recruit to understand more about the role. Be beware only make that initial contact if you have a legitimate query – asking a banal question might leave the recruiter cold and they’ll remember your name come the application process. Indeed, the worst thing you could do is to ask something that is already on the form, so use your opportunity wisely.
BUILD UP YOUR CONTACTS, BUT BE CAREFUL
There can be a very fine line between getting advice from and annoying a contact. You have to guard against being too persistent – and to bear in mind that contacts won’t usually be able to guarantee you something immediately, but they will remember you. So for example I was desperate recently for a producer for our women’s football coverage and then I remembered someone who had told me they were looking for work six months previously. So always leave a good impression.
THE BEST ADVICE I EVER RECEIVED
I tried four times to get into the BBC, so I would say self-belief and perseverance but also the humility to learn when you get knocked back. Sometimes it can be difficult to get feedback from an application, but if you feel you’ve moved a little further forward, it can be really positive. Volunteering can also be a powerful tool, as it allows you to see how an organisation works. It helps when you go for a job and it doesn’t have to be a huge amount of volunteering either. One of our young BBC Sport producers originally volunteered with me a few years ago on a two week project with the National Football Museum and he was so impressive I was pleased to give him continuing guidance with his career. So good luck to you all too.