How to get to the top of the redtop pile

Newspapers are dying, they say. Young people don't read newspapers any more – they get all they want from the internet, celebrity glossies and lads' mags.

Who wants Your Life when there's YouTube? Why read when you can listen to a podcast?

Even the World Forum of Editors, polled recently, believe that print will be the main source of news for only 35 per cent of their readers by 2017.

None of that seems to deter would-be reporters from wanting to make a start in journalism by dipping their fingers in ink.

More than a thousand hopefuls contact the Daily Mirror each year wanting to join our graduate training scheme. No more than four of them will be successful.

So who do we look for? What makes a candidate stand out from the crowd, and how can applicants improve their chances of selection?

As it is a graduate training scheme, the first prerequisite is a degree, and with a reasonable pass mark.

Some of our trainees have Masters degrees in journalism or another subject; several have obtained a post-grad diploma from City

University or similar; others have paid their own way through a pre-entry NCTJ course.

But the one thing which will push their application to the top of the 'possibles'pile is a hefty collection of cuttings gained through work experience, whether on a national title, a magazine or their local freesheet.

Some applications find their way to the reject pile automatically – those addressed to 'Dear Sir or Madam'via the HR department, for example. If you think you're good enough to work for the Mirror, then at least take the trouble to do a little research and find out the name of the editor or the name of the person handling graduate recruitment.

And on the subject of thinking for yourself, it's all very well to get MSWord to design your CV, but please don't get it to write the damn thing as well.

Like Alan Sugar, we have a bullshit detector which doesn't take kindly to rubbish such as '... this has allowed me to probe conceptually when writing articles, giving an added depth of analysis which I believe differentiates my writing critique...'I didn't make that quote up, it's genuine.

The covering letter should concisely set out why the applicant deserves to be considered for a job with the Mirror Group. Which means demonstrating a passion for journalism, not a fluffy desire to 'be a writer".

Reporting is about getting facts – very often facts that other people want to keep hidden. It's about knowing which facts are vital and which can be ignored. It's about putting those facts together in a manner which will engage the reader. It's about precise, short, catchy intros. It's not about woolly waffle and airy-fairy creative writing.

Together with Ric Papineau, who along with people such as Alastair Campbell and David Montgomery, was a product of a previous version of the Mirror training scheme, I sift through the applications each six months to select a long list of applicants.

Don't ask me exactly what we're looking for though, because what sets the best apart from the rest is often an indefinable spark which is impossible to quantify.

John Honeywell is editorial manager of the Mirror Group

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