My experience and tips to get on to the MailOnline Trainee Scheme:
The MailOnline Trainee Scheme is one of the most prestigious graduate schemes out there, and is known to have trained some of the industry’s finest journalists. Dubbed a “finishing school” by The Guardian, the scheme is a one-year programme, where you work at a regional for 2 months and a news agency for 2 months before returning back to the Derry Street offices. The application process is very competitive and only a select few get picked to go through to the final round.
It was a lengthy and challenging process but I am pleased to say that I have been offered a place on the MailOnline trainee scheme starting in September 2015. I will be reporting in Birmingham for the Birmingham Mail before returning back to Kensington in February 2016.
Here is some advice that I have if you’re considering applying to the MailOnline trainee scheme 2016.
You are required to send a CV, a cover letter and your 6 best writing samples to Sue Ryan, usually by the end of January. The process from Application to Offer takes just under three months so be prepared to take on the challenge.
- Check your spelling & grammar
- I cannot stress enough how important spelling and grammar is in your application. In fact, it’s so important, Sue Ryan said she wouldn’t even consider an application with a typo or spelling error in it. So check your CV, re-check it and get others to check it too. They get over 900 applications for only 7 or so places, so they’re looking to cut down as much as possible. You don’t want spelling to be the reason why your application gets overlooked.
- Sell yourself but avoid clichés
- This is an obvious but crucial point. They want to see you put your best foot forward but without the cliché, “I’ve wanted to be a journalist all my life”. In your cover letter, start by explaining why you want to work for MailOnline, and why it appeals to you. Avoid focusing on what the Mail can do you for you; show that you’re keen and committed to working for them and what you, as an individual, can bring to the table.
- Know the Mail inside out
- Know MailOnline, know the readership and know the style. It helps if you keep an eye on stats as well (these can be found on the last tab of the MailOnline website) so that you can drop those in your cover letter. If a particular article has caught your eye, mention that and it also helps to mention a favourite reporter, if you have one. There’s also no harm in putting in some fun anecdotes but save some of your best stories for the interview!
The First Stage
If your application is one of the ones that have managed to impress them, you will be invited to a first-round interview with Sue Ryan. For City students, Sue came to us to carry out the interviews, (probably because of the sheer number of us) but it would typically take place at the Derry Street office. Mike Watson and Peter Sands from Press Association were also present for the interview. This is more of an interview to get to know you at this stage.
- Look presentable and smart
- Though my interview felt like more of a chat and they were really friendly, it was still an interview. It’s important to dress smart so you give off the right impression. You might feel like you look over dressed but it’s better to be over dressed than under dressed.
- Know your CV inside out and more
- They asked me everything from why I wanted to be a journalist to the violin and Indian classical dance (my hobbies) as well as asking me what I would say if another tabloid offered me a job. So make sure you are prepared for some unexpected questions.
- Take your portfolio
- Bring your portfolio with you and use it to show and backup every point you make. Also, make sure it’s nicely presented in either a leather or black portfolio folder, preferably with clippings stuck to the pages.
- Be personable
- I didn’t sleep the night before my interview because I was so nervous! But it turned out being myself, being bubbly and confident and genuinely showing them my passion for journalism and for the Daily Mail worked.
- Ensure you greet each interviewer with a firm handshake when you enter the room. Don’t be nervous because they’ll be assessing you from the moment you enter and are looking for confident individuals.
- Be personable but not cocky, be bubbly but not overpowering, be chatty but listen as well and finally demonstrate why they should give you the job and not the 900 others.
The Second Stage
The second round is a lot more daunting but if you stay calm and prepare, you’ll be in a better position than the rest. I was invited to an assessment day at the office where I had an interview with a panel of four that included Sue Ryan and a senior MailOnline reporter, some news exercises, a subbing test and a debating session.
- Know the news
- Either during your first or second stage interview, you’ll be given a news quiz so make sure you read the paper every day up until your interview. Also, absorb a variety of news because anything can come up. It helps to listen to the Today programme every morning as well.
- Be prepared for the unexpected
- The interviewers will be looking for confident candidates who are not afraid to speak up and have an opinion on the news. Be prepared for the unexpected in the interview. I had stats prepared and a list of things I wanted to say but I didn’t get asked any of that.
- My advice would be to prepare as much as you feel is necessary but don’t stress if you can’t cover everything. Sometimes going with the flow works in your favour.
The Third Stage
Congratulations! If you’ve got through to this stage, the hard part is over. I was invited for an interview with the Managing Editor of MailOnline. This was more of a quick chat about the role, how they operate and a chance for you to ask any questions. As always, be professional, ask the right questions and show them your enthusiasm.