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How to get a trainee job at… the Daily Mail: Ask for help, be cheerful and read papers every day

By William Turvill

The Daily Mail takes on around 20 trainees a year – six reporters and six sub-editors in September, and eight online journalists in February.

Here, the paper’s media consultant Sue Ryan gives the inside track on the application process and shares her tips for success.

What does the Mail look for in trainee recruits?

We are looking for candidates who have a good personality, have a natural curiosity, are robust enough to deal with knock-backs and sensitive enough to get the best out of the people they are talking to.

They need to show that they are passionate about journalism and have a good general knowledge of current affairs.

We test them on everything from showbiz stories to politics, sport and the media as soon as they arrive in the building so we quickly get a sense of whether they actually read newspapers, both print and online, before the interview begins.

Those with some sort of journalism training have an advantage because they have covered the basics, including shorthand, and have generally done more work experience, so there is more for us to evaluate.

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Working in the Mail you need to be able to communicate with all walks of life and look comfortable.

I started my career in national newspaper as a reporter on the Daily Mail and then as an executive on the Mail on Sunday and I truly believe there is no better learning ground.

What is the best route into the Mail?

A good degree followed by a journalism course, whether it’s a post-grad or a fast-track, plus a lot of work experience, is the easiest route in.

Start off with some local paper work and then go for the nationals and arrive each day with three or four ideas to pitch to the news editor or feature editor.

City does so well as, being in London, their students get lots of relevant work experience.

The teaching at Cardiff and Sheffield is good, but it’s harder to get national paper experience.

The Press Association course is great for teaching practical skills.

What tips would you give to aspiring journalists?

Be cheerful – most journalists enjoy their job and want to be surrounded by people who are also having fun.

Ask for help – students are not expected to know how to do the job and we have all been there before.

Senior journalists can be terrifically encouraging as long as the interns are not arrogant – don’t interrupt them when they are on deadline and learn quickly.

Be keen – arrive early and when given a really boring vox-pop, act as though it’s the best story in the world. Be prepared to put the rest of your life on hold.

Read papers – every day. Only go into journalism if you are passionate about it.

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