I need help. I don’t know when it first dawned on me, but I do know that at 4:45 in the morning the other day, standing in line at the Wawa store on University Place with my first 24-ounce cup of coffee in hand, the notion was firmly in my mind. That admission of needing help, a notion hard to handle for many of us self-starting small business owners, made me look twice at the stack of pamphlets sitting on the counter, next to the very tempting Wawa soft pretzels.

“Application for employment,” the pamphlet boldly proclaimed. No, I wasn’t ready to turn in my editor and publisher’s position for a job keeping those coffee carafes filled in the wee hours of the morning (though sometimes I am tempted). But I am in need of help, and I figured it couldn’t hurt to examine the Wawa approach to the hiring process.

First off Wawa identifies six core values that “drive our business decisions and effectively differentiate the Wawa brand.” The core values, as stated on the front page of the four-page employment application:

• Value people

• Delight customers

• Embrace change

• Do the right thing

• Do things right

• Passion for winning

Inside the Wawa application solicited all the usual information one would include on any resume, along with some additional detail: Do you have the legal right to work in the U.S.? Have you ever been discharged from any position? Have you ever been convicted of any crime? (A yes answer to either of the last two questions would not automatically disqualify an applicant, the small print explains.)

The application asks how far the applicant lives from the work location, and whether or not the applicant has reliable transportation to and from work? And the front page of the application includes a sober statement: “To ensure the safety of our associates and customers, Wawa Inc. conducts criminal background checks on all applicants.”

Wow. The Wawa approach to hiring was impressive, but — given that I had just posted a help wanted listing on the Internet — a little too late for me. Compared to the Wawa application, my Internet help wanted posting was a laid back invitation to a Sunday afternoon cocktail party:

“U.S. 1 Publishing Company seeks a versatile journalist who can write, report, and handle desktop publishing duties to contribute to a biweekly community newspaper. The ideal candidate will be energetic, enthusiastic, and eager to gain the experience necessary to eventually run the entire editorial operation on his or her own.

“Full-time job, based in Princeton, New Jersey. Paid vacation, benefits, profit sharing. Some flexibility in scheduling required to cover occasional night meetings and events and to meet deadlines.”

Here at U.S. 1, Ezra Fischer, our producton manager — who works on both our weekly U.S. 1 newspaper and the biweekly West Windsor-Plainsboro News — is leaving us in June to pursue his dream of being a “new media” consultant (he’s young enough to afford such dreams and smart enough to be able to figure out the new media). We are replacing him with Bill Sanservino, the senior editor of the West Windsor-Plainsboro News.

That leaves us looking for someone to take over the top job at the West Windsor-Plainsboro News, an almost six-year-old publication that we refer to as U.S. 1’s “little sister” but which in fact is growing into a nice young lady. The job will involve reporting and writing municipal and school stories (often including at least one night meeting in each two-week cycle), assigning and editing freelance assignments, and desktop publishing (writing captions, pull quotes, and copy fitting) at least one section of the paper as the biweekly deadline approaches. And because several of us at U.S. 1 are well into our 50s (and at least one of us is tired of standing in line at 4:45 a.m. at the Wawa), we are also looking for long-term potential, as well as meeting the immediate need.

No, it is not the New York Times and the opening is not for the White House correspondent. But we have been heartened by the response to date. Despite the fact that daily newspapers seem to be out of favor in the eyes of the investment community, careers in journalism are still attracting the interest of some of our best and brightest young people.

And we are also surprised by the number and quality of applicants who have toiled in other, often more lucrative, fields, but who are now interested in journalism.

So now I have one stack of resumes that are interesting but not quite right for our job. And I have another, smaller stack of resumes that need further exploration and discussion (but probably not any criminal background checks). It’s another item on the to-do list: Responding to the resumes. I need help. I wonder how Wawa deals with the flood of applicants.

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