Sign Off: Job Applicants vs. Fifth Graders

Jan 20, 2010  •  Post A Comment

By Tom Petner

I need to take a Manhattan lunch and pitch meeting with Mark Burnett. He’s the British producer and TV guru who introduced the competition-based reality programming genre to the U.S.

So here’s my reality show idea for Burnett: a spinoff of his “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” program.

I’d call it “Are You Smarter Than a Broadcast News Applicant?”

Here’s what I can deliver:

• A television anchor who submitted a resume tape – supposedly bulk erased – showing the candidate having sex with someone at the end of the tape.

• The “produced” resume tape of a candidate drinking beer, cussing and smoking between takes.

• A job applicant who made the news director wait until he finished a workout.

• A candidate who set his after-dinner brandy on fire with a cigarette lighter.

• A “news job” applicant who listed, under “awards and achievements,” a link to bikini.com – where she was featured as girl-of-the-month.

Cool, huh? What do you think of my show idea so far?

These may sound phony, but they’re not. These are sadly some of the true – and truly bizarre – experiences Sandra Connell, president of Dallas-based Talent Dynamics, has had with broadcast news job applicants over the years.

Connell is one of three top television news recruiters who passed along their advice, “best of” stories and view of today’s crop of broadcast news candidates. The others are Barbara Frye, VP of talent placement services at Frank Magid Associates; and Tom Dolan, president of Dolan Media Management.

This trio has collectively been in the game for decades and has seen thousands of resumes, tapes and, in the process, placed hundreds of job candidates in newsrooms throughout the country.

So if you’re ready to tell your boss to “shove it” and move to that next big newsroom job, you first should consider some of these stories.

All three recruiters say that something as simple as spelling can kill your new job deal. One of Connell’s all-time favorites: The job candidate listed a reference on a resume as a “Pullet Surprise Nominee.”

Then there are the “wrong names, spelling mistakes, wrong titles for news directors or the name for a competing news director on the letter,” she said.

“You might ask Barbara Frye how many cover letters she gets addressed to me. We get them for her,” Connell added.

Yep, says Frye. “I’m always just flabbergasted when it happens. I automatically wonder if they can’t get the place or name right, how can they possibly be a good reporter?”

One of the more bizarre things Frye sees several times a year: People who take a job, and either change their minds or simply never show up.

“It tends to happen more with big jobs involving a lot of money and a lot of recruitment time,” she said. Case in point: One candidate interviewed for an EP news job, accepted it, but never reported for work. A concerned news director called the guy’s wife, who didn’t know where he was. Police in California and other Western states searched for the man, but never found him. He finally called in and said he wasn’t going to take the job after all. No kidding!

Adding insult to recruitment injury, the person called Frye the same day and asked, “Can you help me find a job?”

Frye said technology has changed the search process, and news directors have switched to asking for DVDs instead of VHS tapes. “But I’m always surprised at how many people send us blank DVDs,” Frye said. “It’s clear that they didn’t bother to quality check. We get five or six DVDs a week that are blank, broken or unwatchable.”

More people, especially younger people, won’t even bother putting together a DVD, instead referring news directors and recruiters to their Web sites or videos posted on “YouTube.” Frye says a link-only approach to a resume reel is wrong. “News directors still want a DVD. They don’t want a bunch of emails with links.”

What’s Frye’s advice to applicants? “Check, double-check and triple-check everything,” she said.
Tom Dolan, who prequalifies job candidates for his clients, echoed Connell’s and Frye’s focus on sweating the details in a job search. “I’ve definitely seen bad misspellings kill someone’s chances at a job,” he said. Dolan’s advice on cover letters: “Always have someone proofread it. And overloading your resume with personal references, sending cameo videos and leaving off a reference from someone you reported to is a flag and dead giveaway.”

OK, Mark Burnett, where do I sign? This is definitely the stuff of reality TV.


  1. Technology is getting more amazing as time passes. I cant wait to see whats being created 10 years down the road. Electronics have been devolping at such a rapid rate. Noone can expect whats coming next.how to patent something Thank you

  2. Excellent job.

  3. I smoked for most of my life. I understand it hurts my overall health therefore I must give up smoking and yet it is literally impossible. None of the stopping aids worked for me. Then I found the electronic cigarettes. It’s literally changed my life. No longer breathing in toxic substances feels wonderful!

  4. I smoked cigarettes for several years and kicking the habit ended up being very hard. I tested all of the quitting hints but absolutely nothing helped. Then I found the electric cigarette. The e cig uses a nicotine substance that contains just nicotine. Virtually no smelly smoke whatsoever. They have already honestly improved my life.

  5. Between me and my husband we’ve owned more MP3 players over the years than I can count, including Sansas, iRivers,

  6. iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few years I’ve settled down to one line of players. Why? Because I was happy to discover how well-designed and fun to use the underappreciated (and widely mocked) Zunes are.

  7. What kind of matter really, thank you for sharing, we have a common interest.

  8. Hello, i I stumbled upon your website on google and read pretty much all your other posts. I just added you to my RSS feeder. Keep up the fantastic work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future. You know, I have to tell you, I really enjoy this site and the insight from everyone who participates. I find it to be refreshing and very informative. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyway, I felt it was about time I posted, I?ve spent most of my time here just lurking and reading, but today for some reason I just felt compelled to say this.

  9. Between me and my husband we’ve owned more MP3 players over the years than I can count, including Sansas, iRivers,

  10. Amazing freakin blog here. I almost cried while reading it!

  11. I would like to start my own blog one day. This was a really nice blog that you made here. Keep up the success 😛

  12. Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy.

  13. Nice blog here! Also your website loads up fast! What host are you using? I wish my website loaded up as fast as yours lol

  14. I wanted to thank you for this interesting I definitely loved every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked your site to look at the latest stuff you post.

  15. You make blogging look like a walk in the park! I’ve been trying to blog daily but I just cant find writing material.. you’re an inspiration to me and i’m sure many others!

  16. Thanks for your insight for the great posting. I am glad I have taken the time to see this.

  17. High quality info here! Keep up the great work. I love the feelings being expressed.

  18. This is the best blog I’ve ever seen in my life! I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to share your this with everyone.

  19. I really like the colors here on your blog. did you design this yourself or did you outsource it to a professional?

  20. I just book marked your blog on Digg and StumbleUpon.I enjoy reading your commentaries.

  21. This is great news! Looking forward to see more.

  22. I like your blog.

  23. Dreamin. I love blogging. You all express your feelings the right way, because they are your feeling, focus on your blog it is great.

  24. This is the best blog I’ve ever seen in my life! I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy day to share your this with everyone.

  25. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you create this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply back as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to know wheere u got this from. thanks

  26. Appreciation for the great blog post. I am glad I have taken the time to learn this.

  27. Apreciate the info, many thanks!

  28. Love the blog here. Nice colors. I am definitely staying tuned to this one. Hope to see more.

  29. I really like the colors here on your blog. did you design this yourself or did you outsource it to a professional?

  30. I am also a webmaster. I do think we should help each other. What is your opinion about exchanging links?

  31. Wonderful story:D I am going to take a decent amount of time to examine your story.

  32. I agree with your thoughts here and I really love your blog! I’ve bookmarked it so that I can come back & read more in the future.

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)