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Editorial Interview Tips

by Ellie Williams, studioD

When interviewing for an editorial position such as a writer, editor or reporter, you can’t rely on your resume to speak for you. Employers need candidates with excellent written and verbal communication skills, curiosity and creativity. These are traits you must demonstrate during your face-to-face meeting. Impress the interviewer with your writing and editing chops and show him what you’ll bring to the position if hired.

Bring Your Portfolio

With editorial jobs, work samples often have more influence in the hiring decision than your previous job titles or places of employment. A strong portfolio can even compensate for minimal experience, especially if you select pieces relevant to the type of position you’re applying for. If you’re applying for a position as a general assignment reporter for a newspaper, include several samples from different types of stories to showcase your versatility. If you’re interviewing for a copy editor position, bring "before" and "after" samples of work you have edited to illustrate your editing and proofreading skills.

Suggest Ideas

Editors want not only writing and editing skills, but also creativity and a knack for developing ideas for stories and other editorial projects. Prepare two to three ideas tailored to the publication’s subject matter, style and audience. If you’re interviewing for a position at a national news magazine, for example, pitch several ideas pertaining to topics of national or international significance. Discuss who you would interview, what angle you would pursue and how you would research and fact-check the story.

Prepare for Tests

Employers often want to evaluate how well applicants perform in the sometimes high-pressure environment common in publishing. They also want to assess the quality of your raw work, before it’s polished by an editor. Your interviewer might ask you to take an editing or proofreading test or submit a sample article based on a few tidbits of information. These tests are often timed, offering employers a glimpse of how you’ll respond to a deadline-driven environment. Prior to the interview, brush up on grammar, spelling and other basics, and review proofreading and editing marks. Practice by taking several timed tests on your own.

Ask Questions

Curiosity is crucial in an editorial environment. Employers want to see that you know what questions to ask and how to ask them, and that you’re willing to keep digging until you uncover the information you need. Demonstrate these skills by asking targeted and thoughtful questions of your interviewer. For example, ask what a typical day in the newsroom is like, or have the interviewer describe some of the biggest challenges the organization faces. Inquire about the interviewer’s long-term vision for the publication and how the job you’re applying for contributes to this goal.

About the Author

Ellie Williams has been a journalist since 2001. Her work has been recognized by her state's press association and by her local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Williams graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications and humanities, with minors in French and theater.

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