Up until a few short years ago, when recruiters with Al Jazeera attended American journalism job fairs, hardly anyone seemed to want to talk with them. They often sat at tables alone, watching people walk by to pitch their resumes elsewhere. American journalists wouldn’t give Al Jazeera, based in Doha, a first or second look, let alone apply for a job there.
Times have changed. Since Al Jazeera’s front-burner coverage of the Arab Spring in 2010, and its recent purchase of Current TV, more than 18,000 candidates have applied for an initial 170 job openings at Al Jazeera America, said Ehab Alshihabi, executive director of international operations. (The company is currently on the hunt for a New York City space to house these new hires before its July launch, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.)
CJR asked Alshihabi, who works stateside, about how US journalists — now clamoring to work for Al Jazeera — can make their applications stand out in such a crowded field and when hiring will begin. Here’s what he said:
What is your timeline to begin hiring, finish hiring?
Our hiring process began immediately after the sale of Current TV on January 2, when we placed recruitment ads in a broad cross-section of domestic and internal industry trade publications and websites. To date, we have received over 18,000 resumes for an initial 170 open positions, and we are currently reviewing those resumes and vetting candidates that best fit those roles. We expect to have the bureau talent and production teams in place by May 1 to be ready for launch, but there is no end date for the process as we will continue to add personnel as Al Jazeera America grows and expands over time.
What do your ideal candidates look like (younger, more experienced, journalism grads, PhDs)?
Our hiring criteria is less driven by age, ethnicity, or journalism credentials than it is by experience, enthusiasm, and passion for the kind of quality journalism that Al Jazeera represents. They can come from any medium, so we are looking at candidates currently working in radio, print, and online as well as television.
How can candidates make their resumes stand out among the thousands you have already received/will receive?
The best advice we can give is for qualified candidates to carefully read our ads and know the positions they are applying for and whether their qualifications fit that particular role. We want people who have watched our content and are familiar with the product, the company, and the Al Jazeera brand of journalism.
In years past, Al Jazeera had a difficult time filling vacancies due to preconceived perceptions. When did that start changing?
Al Jazeera never had a problem recruiting international journalists, but there was some initial resistance from American journalists. That started to change about three years ago when people began to discover the quality and depth of our content online. Things really took off with our award-winning coverage of the Arab Spring.
More and more people are watching us and recognizing that we are putting people first — their lives and stories are at the heart of what we do. We are a voice for the voiceless, promoting the basic human right of the freedom of expression for people everywhere.