Applications are now open for The Telegraph’s 2024 Editorial Graduate Programme. Applications close on December 10.
But hold up — if you’re thinking about applying, this guide should be your first stop. To give you the best shot, we’ve spoken to the people who have applied, interviewed, and gotten the gig at the end of it. We’re not just looking at the application process, but also what life’s really like at the job, so you can understand how it might work for you.
If you’re on the scheme yourself, we’d love to hear from you to add to this guide — we’re always looking to update, improve, and help encourage more applications.
There is just one journalism scheme at The Telegraph and it lasts for two years. You’ll be given training across the whole spectrum of a national newsroom, from news and features to business and sport. This includes formal training and plenty of on-the-job experience, both at The Telegraph and at partner local and regional newsrooms across the country.
Typically, after the initial training you’ll spend three months at a regional newspaper and three months at PA media, before returning to The Telegraph to work across a variety of different desks. For Poppie Platt, who joined the scheme in 2021, this was her favourite part of the job. “Even though you don’t apply to work on one desk or one area, you get to move around every few months and they’re really game for you to try new things.”
Io Dodds, former trainee and US tech reporter, particularly praises the training on the scheme: “I learnt a lot, and gained a lot of invaluable experience. The PA training course was magnificent, it taught me a lot of skills that I still remember and use, and forms the basis of a lot of my work today.”
As well as formal learning, you’ll get the chance to get stuck in from day one, getting out and about to cover stories, as well as getting to grips with news editing and digital skills. Jamie Johnson, a US correspondent who joined on the graduate scheme, tells us he’d already reported from 13 different countries by the time he took up his current role in 2021. So, yes, this really is a job filled with opportunity.
Day-to-day though, you’ll be based at The Telegraph’s main offices in Victoria, London. As with most graduate schemes, they fit the academic year. Applications open in January, close within the first quarter, and interviews will be conducted in April. Successful candidates will start in September.
It’s a standard contract with the newspaper, so you’ll be generally working eight-hour days, but as with any journalism job you’ll need to be flexible when news happens. The Telegraph doesn’t usually disclose salaries on job adverts, but the 2022 scheme is listed above London Living Wage, as you’d expect.
It’s also worth noting that while this is a two-year training scheme, the newsroom does hope that if it’s a good fit you’ll be able to find a role with them afterwards. Previous Telegraph staffers who first joined the team as graduates include US correspondent Josie Ensor, who also previously spent time in Beirut; Tom Ough, who now looks after long reads and colour pieces; and foreign editor Jessica Winch.
The Application Process
As far as application processes go, the first stage here is pretty standard. As well as providing your details, you’ll need to submit a CV and cover letter, which should include links to three pieces of your previous work.
According to Johnson, the key is to make sure you show the breadth of your work. “Don’t necessarily just put in three pieces about one topic,” he tells Journo Resources. “Try and show a bit of variation on different types of writing,” For example, your three pieces might span an interview, a news piece, and a feature.
Johnson also urges you not to worry about where your pieces have been published. “If you’ve got anything in a newspaper, that’s quite good. If it’s a student newspaper that’s fine as well. I think the point is that you’re not the finished product and you shouldn’t be.”
Cameron Henderson, who is currently on the Telegraph scheme and on placement with SWNS news agency, recommends being purposeful when selecting your submission portfolio. Instead of just choosing your personal favourites, try to demonstrate how your work is relevant. “Link back to what it was about that story in particular, how it fits into your interests, the interests of Telegraph readers, and why it makes you a good candidate,” he advises.
You’ll also need to confirm that you meet the eligibility criteria: that you’ve got a degree or postgraduate qualification, that you have some experience in student, local, or other news organisations, and that you’re not an established professional journalist.
Need a bit of inspiration for your CV and cover letter? We got someone who’s hired in national newsrooms before to tell us everything he’s looking out for on your CV and cover letter. You can also watch our free workshop on nailing job applications here.
After the initial application, applicants will be invited to do a written test and a pre-recorded video interview. The tasks will likely change slightly with each intake, but for Henderson’s cohort the written assessment consisted of two timed tasks. The first was piecing a story together from details that were deliberately muddled up.
Henderson explains: “They just wanted to see that you know how a news story works, how it should look like, have you got an eye for a story, can you identify the most eye-catching, pertinent pieces of information and put them at the top so the reader sees them first.”
The second part of the written task was taking an item from the day’s news agenda and coming up with ideas for spin-off features. As for the video interview, applicants would film themselves answering a set of provided questions. According to Henderson, this was the most challenging part of the application process because he found it awkward having to speak into a light at the top of his laptop — but if you have dabbled with TikTok at all, this shouldn’t be too problematic. Relax knowing that you can film multiple takes on your own time!
From there, shortlisted candidates will be invited to an assessment centre where they will take part in group activities and interviews. The aim here is not just to test what you know, but how you collaborate and listen to others.
Matilda Head, who was part of the 2022 cohort, remembers exercises including “re-writing some copy, and working on prioritising news stories, and how you could follow them up with features”. Other activitties at t the assessment centre included tasks based on the day’s news, as well as an interview with two editors from The Telegraph.
“There were lots of stages,” recalls Izzy Lyons, who joined the scheme after completing an NCTJ at News Associates. “I think I had three rounds, maybe four… and I think that’s probably a testament to how good the grad scheme is, [and] that from the very outset, very senior members of staff are involved in hiring the grads. They really do want the best talent.”
Typically, as well as standard interviews, the process involves a spelling and grammar test and group sessions, where you’ll discuss how to tackle a specific problem as a group.
At all stages though, you’ll be informed of what’s coming next in plenty of time to prepare. Head adds: “The assessment centre required the most preparation in terms of making sure I was on top of the news that week.”
Henderson also echoed this sentiment, strongly advising that applicants keep up-to-date by reading The Telegraph in the weeks leading up to and during the application stages. “Skimming is fine, but you want to try and develop a sense of what the Telegraph reader is… because you are writing to that readership,” he says. Keeping a target in mind will help programme applicants in completing their tasks.
What Are They Looking For?
According to Cristina Criddle, a former grad who has since gone onto work on both the BBC Today Programme and the Financial Times, originality is a key component. She tells Journo Resources that you shouldn’t just say what you think the team wants to hear. “Don’t be grey and boring,” instead showcase your ideas, experience, and personality.
It’s also a tactic echoed by Platt, who adds: “[Don’t] be afraid to bring a bit of personality into the application and cover letter. Don’t just make it the same one you’d use to apply for any other job.” As well as “going in on experience” that you’ve gained from work experience, freelancing, or student media, she also suggests thinking about “[Telegraph] pieces you’ve read, things that you’ve enjoyed, or things that you think they could have done better.”
Understanding the publication, its goals, and its audience is also crucial for Johnson, who says it’s vital to do your homework on “the brand, the sort of paper, and the product itself, the website and all the rest of it”. Knowing what stories have made the paper and what columnists are writing — and thinking about why they’ve been commissioned — is vital homework.
“It probably sounds a little bit obvious,” says Lyons, “but you need to be able to show [that you understand] what issues matter to us. You have to know what our readers are interested in and what they believe on certain issues, and how the paper is laid out.” Platt recalls reading the paper “every day for two weeks” in the run up to applying. “I always read it online, but never used to buy the print version — but I definitely [recommend] reading the print paper because most of the stuff in it isn’t online.”
Cristina Criddle says “ultimately this [scheme] helped me to decide the direction of my career”. Speaking to JR, she continues: “The experience and training was amazing, they invest a lot of time in you and you get the opportunity to work across the paper, meet (and learn from) all of the talented journalists and editors, as well as the experience of working on different sections.”
Johnson also recommends taking things one step further, and really trying to understand the strategy and forward planning of an outlet, something he says is good advice for all schemes. For example, he mentions the outlet’s 10-1-23 digital strategy and focus on subscribers. “You can find that on the internet, that study’s out there, it’s not come from any internal memos”.
More generally, the team is looking for people with a love of writing who want to uncover original stories from a wide range of people. This year’s job description also has a new focus on digital, so they’ll want to see that you consume a wide range of media and understand what format works best for a story.
Head adds: “The Telegraph has a great range of platforms for its journalism — don’t just think about print, but the website, the app, social media, video, audio, etc. So, if you can show skills at adapting to different audiences, that may help. For example, I had been running a news TikTok channel for a year or so before I applied. I drew on that in my interview to show how I was comfortable with experimenting with new formats. Show that you’re willing to get stuck in.”
It’s also important to demonstrate that you are a team player, as teamwork is essential to the operation of a newsroom. Henderson says of being at the assessment centre: “In that sort of environment with a lot of ambitious, young journalists who are desperate to get recognised in a very small period of time, obviously the pressure’s on. But don’t speak over people, basically. It’s that balance between trying to be a team player but also showing yourself in the best light.”
Lastly, being a self-starter who’s not afraid to give things a go will also score you points. Johnson recalls that is how he got his first foreign reporting trip from the Calais migrant camp. Lyons agrees: “When you’re a trainee, the piece of advice I was given — and I would echo it — is to say yes to pretty much everything. Give everything a stab. And, at the end of the day, they expect you to struggle slightly, you’re a trainee, but I think doing that in your first few years of journalism, it’s definitely got me quite far.”
If you’re somehow still on the fence about the scheme, take it from our interviewees. When asked to describe the scheme in three words, the words “engaging”, “fun”, and “eclectic” all came up.
“A lot of trust is put in grads, which is mostly cool,” says Tom Ough who was able to cover events like Wimbledon and the Euros early on in his scheme. Similarly, Johnson recalls interviewing Marcus Rashford and going to Harry and Meghan’s wedding. “It opened up my eyes to a whole world of opportunity and made me really excited for what stories I’d be able to cover in the future.”
Lyons concludes: “There’s a great camaraderie in the newsroom. Your colleagues are fantastic and will take you under their wing, and that’s definitely one thing that I think is an asset of The Telegraph.”
Last updated February 2023.