The core of a journalist‘s role is to write and edit news articles that are engaging and relevant to the audience they are writing for.
Today‘s digital world sees journalists cover stories across digital media and the more traditional print or broadcast channels of radio and TV journalism. They either work on a freelance basis, pitching their ideas to news editors, or as part of a news or broadcasting agency where they can specialize in sector-specific news and trends.
In addition to writing and reporting on stories, their work also covers interviewing sources and investigating stories to uncover further detail that can be used in their articles. Good journalists draw on several skills and abilities, enabling them to produce a finished piece that uses well-crafted words and is relevant and engaging for the audience and its intended purpose.
In this article, we explore the skills and abilities required to be a successful journalist. We also look at the best ways you can test for these essential aptitudes and skills when recruiting journalist roles.
What should a journalist be able to do?
Journalists write articles and news stories to capture people‘s attention and engage them. Their work covers writing and investigative work, researching the background of stories, and interviewing sources or individuals directly involved in the story.
A good journalist will ensure they have considered all of the facts of a story, gathering information and relevant perspectives from credible sources through their research and observations.
They need to select the appropriate information to write their news piece, reviewing the most pertinent facts and formatting this in a way that is relevant to the publication method, audience, and purpose of the story.
Editing articles also forms a large part of a journalist‘s work; keeping in contact with their sources and building working relationships means that any changes or updates to their source information are reflected in their finished article.
Depending on the role, journalists may need to broadcast their stories on TV or radio in addition to compiling written copy or broadcasting breaking news.
Skills to look for in a journalist
A competent journalist needs a wide range of skills and knowledge. These skills cover both their investigative tasks and the more administrative aspects of their role.
Persuasion: as a journalist, you need to be able to persuade others around to your way of thinking. This could be sources who are reluctant to be interviewed or, using persuasive and clear language to influence their reader‘s or viewers‘ opinions based on the news article they have written.
Decision making: deciding what material to reference, which sources are credible, and what language to use when writing or sharing their piece requires journalists to draw on all of the skills that go into decision making.
Active listening: good journalists listen and focus on what others are saying, paying attention to their words and asking follow-up questions that elicit further information. The stories they write should be based on factual information.
Time management: the work of a journalist is deadline-driven. They need to be adept at managing their own time and the time of others involved in the story they are writing. Failure to meet a deadline can lead to a breaking news story being shared by a rival broadcaster or if freelance, their services are not being re-commissioned.
Microsoft Office: Microsoft Office suite is one of the most commonly used software tools across all media creation; having a working knowledge of these applications is a distinct advantage for all journalists.
Useful abilities for a journalist
The abilities shared by successful journalists are those that enable them to seek out news stories, persist until they have gained the full facts, and engagingly share their articles.
Written comprehension: the ability to share ideas and information in written format, using words appropriate to the intended audience, means that as a journalist, the piece that you write captures people‘s attention and influences their views.
Oral expression: communicating with others is crucial for being a journalist. They need to have clear and meaningful conversations with others to gain the information they need, using persuasive and compelling language when doing so.
Originality: the ability to develop a news story and portray this from a different angle to capture people‘s attention is the backbone of a journalist‘s work. Journalists need the creativity to describe the story yet get across the key messages to connect with their audience.
Inductive and deductive reasoning: collating different source information to find a link or pattern – and applying a pattern or link to additional information – means that journalists can make decisions and inferences from various sources of information.
Attention to detail: having a selective focus and paying attention to the point of conversations or source material makes for an article based on fact. Journalists also need to have strong attention to detail when writing their pieces, ensuring that the finished article is accurate.
Which soft skills tests could I use to hire a journalist?
Soft skills are generally one of the most challenging skills to assess from a CV or interview alone. Thankfully, there is a range of pre-employment tests that you can use to evaluate candidates on these crucial skills.
Interpersonal skills: a test that assesses candidates on their communication skills, how well they can communicate with others, and their social skills. This test uses scenario-based questions that also give an insight into an individual‘s emotional awareness.
Time management: a crucial test to include in the recruitment process for all journalists; this assessment gives you an insight into whether individuals can juggle multiple tasks, prioritize these tasks, and manage their time to meet deadlines.
Decision-making skills: in this assessment, individuals are evaluated on their ability to make decisions using their critical thinking and analytical skills and based only on the information given. This test also assesses their problem solving, time management, and skill in working in a pressurized situation.
Which technical or aptitude tests could I use to hire a journalist?
The technical skills and aptitudes needed to be a successful journalist are inherent to individuals. To ensure any potential hires demonstrate these abilities, there are several assessments you can use.
Logical reasoning:a test that looks at an individual‘s ability to solve problems logically. This test requires candidates to make sense of information, identify trends or patterns in data, then use this to solve the problems that follow.
Situational judgment: a scenario-based test using situations individuals can encounter when working on the job. This test gives a greater insight into a candidate‘s workplace behaviors, time management, teamwork, and working style.
Verbal reasoning: a test designed to evaluate individuals‘ ability to understand words and expressions when presented in written format. The test requires candidates to read passages of information and then take what they have learned and use this to solve problems.
Error checking: journalists deal with lots of source information when constructing their stories. Having the ability to spot errors or discrepancies in this information means that the pieces they write are based on facts and reliable data.
Microsoft Word:va commonly used application for any journalist, this test evaluates individuals‘ proficiency in using Microsoft Word and its functions such as editing as relevant to the role.
Our recommended test battery for a journalist
When recruiting journalists, we recommend using the following test battery:
Interpersonal skills: assessing candidates on their emotional awareness when communicating with others and their skill in having productive conversations.
Verbal reasoning: a test ensuring those you recruit can evaluate and understand written material, making the correct inferences from what they have read.
Time management: a crucial skill for all journalists; this test assesses candidates‘ ability to manage their time, juggle multiple tasks and prioritize effectively to meet deadlines.
Decision-making skills: evaluating an individual‘s analytical and critical thinking skills when making decisions appropriate to the information given.
Microsoft Word: a practical assessment of the candidate‘s understanding and working knowledge of Microsoft word and its functionality as relevant to the work of a journalist.
For more information on hiring a journalist, check out Picked's page on journalist tests.