Learn how to structure and write a winning journalist CV

Getting started on writing a journalism CV

You might be a well-seasoned war correspondent or a newbie striking out for the first time into the world of journalism. Whatever stage you're at in your career, communication is key for all journalists, and writing, using a high command of the English language, is second nature. But there is a very different technique required when it comes to writing a journalism CV. Follow the tips and tricks below, as well as the example journalism CV, on how to write a journalist CV to nab that next exciting role. Who knows where it will take you!

How to structure a journalism CV

You have anywhere between six and 10 seconds to make a good first impression on whoever is reading your journalism CV, so the structure and look of the document is vitally important.

As for length, one or two pages is ideal – one page if you are early on in your career; two pages for more experienced journalists. Stick to an easy-to-read font, at either 10 or 11 point, in black. And don't go overboard with colour. It's not necessary. You're aiming for a clean document that displays your skills and you certainly don't want them hidden behind fancy fonts, logos and colourful tables that detract from the main event.

Basic sections that you must include on a CV for journalism are:

  • Name and contact details at the top of the CV - but not in a header

  • Personal profile - normally about six lines long or between 80 and 100 words

  • Key skills - one or two words each and easy for the reader to immediately see where you excel

  • Employment history - with bulleted key achievements 

  • Education and qualifications - including the year you achieved the qualification

If you're at the beginning of your journalism career, you can showcase your enthusiasm for the profession by adding in any work experience you may have done. Any published blogs or other original writing, such as in university newspapers, can also be included.

Nowadays, there is no need to put 'references on request' at the end of a journalism CV, or any CV for that matter. It takes up valuable space and it is assumed that this process will happen at the interview stage. 

What are the skills of a journalist?

First and foremost, journalists need to be able to communicate concisely while building a rapport with people from all sorts of different backgrounds. Present this skill in the personal profile of your CV.

Interview technique is key - asking the right questions and often getting the answers you want! The ability to spot a story that will sell and crafting a news story that will resonate with readers, while writing in a pithy style, is paramount to your success. Both of these qualities are ideal to place in the Skills section (see the sample CV below). 

And learning shorthand. Yes, it might seem a bit outdated, now that you can easily record on your phone, but there are some places where you can't take a phone and the trusty notebook and pen is all you have. Getting up to a speed of about 100wpm is fundamental and once you have that certificate, add it into the Professional Development section.

How to write a personal profile for a journalism CV

Now that you've pinpointed the skills required, it's time to move on to the profile. This section of a journalism CV is likely to be the first section a reader will look at, so it needs to be impactful and comprehensive, yet succinct. You're a wordsmith. so use that to your advantage to create three or four sentences that sum you up as a professional journalist while incorporating your unique skills and USP.

Think of it like pitching an idea for a story to your editor, but instead of verbally, you're doing it on paper. At work, you strive to get across your enthusiasm for your idea in capsule form. The personal profile is the same, but it's all about you.

Steer away from using 'I' and write in the third person but without pronouns. For example, “Flexible and adaptable, builds effective working relations with colleagues and editors alike.”' It can feel strange to begin with but TopCV's profile tips can help even further.

How to write a career summary for a CV for journalism

This section is normally the longest part of the CV and can take you onto the second page if you have a lot of experience to impart. Concentrate on the last 10 years of your working life and write in reverse chronological order with your job title, name of the publication you worked for and the dates.

Underneath is where you can expand on your role and write in more detail on your responsibilities and achievements. Were you instrumental in readership of the publication increasing, due to your in-depth and well-researched stories? Did you guide and support younger journalists?

If you've done a lot of freelancing, which is very normal practice for journalists, then all of the titles you've worked for should be included, the same as staff roles.

The main aim is to detail continued work, without any gaps, that shows progression.

How to write education and qualifications for a journalism CV

Education and qualifications should also be listed in reverse chronological order like the career summary. This is because you want your most recent qualifications to be viewed first. List the name of the educational establishment, the year the qualification was awarded, and the name and level of the qualification, if applicable. For more advice, read Education on your CV.

As a journalist, you might have exclusives or certain awards that you want to highlight, so remember to include them as they can truly demonstrate your abilities and make you stand out from the rest. You may even add a separate section for these!

Gaining the right qualifications from the outset can make a huge difference to how someone views your CV and job potential. If you have qualifications from the NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists), the media industry's professional body which offers an array of industry-standard courses, diplomas and certificates, then you are well on your way to achieving that next role.

Overview of a journalism CV

Finally, check and double check grammar and spelling. That is vital for any CV but even more so for roles that rely on language and communication as much as journalism does. Have a look at the sample of a journalism CV below, which showcases experience, skills and qualifications. This demonstrates how to structure the CV to greatest effect so it is clear and informative while remaining succinct and easy-to-read. And then go for it!

Example of a journalist CV

TopCV Example Journalist CV Preview

Writing a CV for a journalism position is simple once you have an understanding of the structure and how to format it. However, if you are still unsure that you've highlighted your skills in the best way possible, a free CV review could help you to land your next journalism role.

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