I get this question a whole lot and I’m usually hesitant to answer it (1) because I have absolutely no idea what the fuck I’m talking about most of the time, (2) because I barely understand why they gave me a job here to begin with, and (3) because the real, dirty, honest-to-god truth is that there is no secret Krabby Patty formula for scoring a job at BuzzFeed. The reality is, the hiring process has a lot to do with both timing and luck — like any job, at any company — and both of those things just so happened to work in my favor when I applied to BuzzFeed over two years ago.
But, I can tell you a bit about what I did when I applied, and offer some advice that could be a teensy bit helpful if you’re desperate enough to listen to me. Just know that I have absolutely no hiring authority (or any authority) at BuzzFeed (they keep me in a closet in the back). These are my personal thoughts, so take them for what they’re worth (three gently worn socks, sold at street value, not a penny more).
About two and a half years ago, I was living in Chicago and interning for another company when I first applied to BuzzFeed. I’d just graduated from Northwestern with a journalism degree (poli-sci double major, in case I wanted to fall back on becoming president, which is still a possibility tbh), and I shot off applications anywhere I could. (At one point, I convinced myself that my life’s passion was to write about architecture and interior design. But Architectural Digest never emailed me back, so fuck that.)
I applied to a whole buncha places, including BuzzFeed, and sent a billion emails to any address I could find. (I sent an email directly to Ben Smith, the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed, and managed to write five full paragraphs without a single mention of Beyoncé, and despite this feat, he STILL didn’t reply. I hold a grudge to this day and refer to him exclusively as Sasha Fierce behind his back.)
After a few months of stagnant floundering and a failed attempt to sell my dead skin flakes on the street, I researched BuzzFeed further and found that I could sign up to be a Community member and start writing posts that would actually publish directly to the site.
(Anybody can write and publish BuzzFeed posts as a Community member if you sign up for an account, and your posts will appear on the site under your name with a little disclaimer that says you’re a Community Member or a Community User. There’s a team of people here that rake through all those posts, edit the ones that need a little help, and promote the posts they think are really great.)
My first Community post was an homage to Matthew Mitcham, the hot, gay Australian diver who sang Beyoncé and strung the ukelele and made me feel things in my adult parts (my heart). The post got promoted by the Community team and performed pretty well on the site, so I made another — probably my greatest masterpiece — called “Olympic Booty Appreciation,” my personal salute to the fine cakes of the summer olympics (featuring my one true love Tom Daley and his award-winning beef slabs). That also got promoted and performed super well.
The next day, I got an email from BuzzFeed asking if I was available for an interview for the BuzzFeed Fellowship, a new entry-level program for people like me who kinda understood the Internet but didn’t have a lot of experience making stuff for it. (The Fellowship is basically an editor-in-training crash course in how to make stuff that people want to share on the Internet.) I interviewed over the phone, made a few more test posts for Community, and got offered a spot in the first class of BuzzFeed Fellows shortly after that.
The rest of my time at BuzzFeed has been a slow descent into madness, but that’s another story. For now, that’s the story of how I got here and managed to stay.
A few things, though, to sum it all up:
1. It’s not easy. I got hired back when the BuzzFeed Community was a lot smaller. Today, there’s a huge pool of people that are making great stuff every single day, and an even greater pool of people who are submitting applications to every kind of BuzzFeed job there is. When I first started, there were maybe 130 people at BuzzFeed. Today, there’s around 800. It’s a lot more competitive, so you gotta stand out.
2. Write a lot, make a lot of cool stuff, and don’t be afraid to fail. Before I applied to BuzzFeed, I was active on both Twitter and Tumblr. I didn’t have much of a following on either, but I used both to have fun, to write stuff that I thought was funny, and to learn about what other people thought was good and shareable. I like both Twitter and Tumblr (and the BuzzFeed Community), because they let you fire off a bunch of stuff and learn quickly what resonates with people and what doesn’t. Some stuff you write might totally bomb, and that’s OK. As long as you learn from it, and write something better next time around.
3. Write about what you love. The stuff that gets shared most on BuzzFeed is written by people who are really into what they’re doing. I can’t sell an article about Tom Daley’s beautiful cakes if I don’t personally believe in the beauty they offer the world. It’s hard to fake that kind of passion. It’s also easy to figure out when someone’s faking it. So write about stuff you wanna write about, stuff that makes you happy and excited. If it’s something you yourself would want to read, other people will want to read it too.
4. Be original. As much as I love it when people ask for jobs at BuzzFeed because they, like me, can write endlessly about Beyoncé and Harry Styles, we have those topics well covered (and I will physically fight you for them if I find you in my presence). Write about stuff that BuzzFeed isn’t writing about, stuff that’s unique to you, but still exciting to a lot of people. That’s how you’ll get noticed.
5. Finally, don’t give up. Just because someone doesn’t reply to your perfectly professional message pronouncing your love of BuzzFeed without mentioning Beyoncé doesn’t mean you’ll never work here or that you’ll never find a job anywhere or that you’ll die childless and alone in a Brooklyn apartment surrounded by squirrels you’ve started to refer to as your co-workers.
Well, it might. I don’t know. My words mean nothing.