If you're a writer or editor looking for work, you already know you can write well, but you may feel nervous about an interview. The key to acing it is to prep beforehand, reviewing some common job interview questions for writers and editors.
Practice is important when preparing for a job interview. Taking the initiative before an interview will likely make you appear cool, calm, and collected when you face your potential new employer.
Your composure and knowledge alike can give you an edge over the competition.
Questions About Personal Preferences
To better understand you and your relationship to the written word, your interviewer will likely ask you about your personal interests and preferences. Here are a few areas where you can expect inquiries:
- Pleasure reading: Expect to be asked what books, magazines, or newspapers you enjoy reading. You’ll need to do more than just rattle off a list of reading material. Be prepared to state why these items are on your reading list as well.
- Skill-building and informational reading: The interviewer may also ask if you read any blogs on writing and editing. Be prepared to share specifics on which ones you like, since it's not uncommon to be asked what you like about those particular blogs and websites.
- Style guide know-how and preferences: Your prospective employer may also ask you if you have a favorite style guide and why you prefer one over the other, or how much experience you have with a specific style. Keep in mind, however, that many publications have a designated style guide that’s similar to, but not the same as, one of the common styles. Newspapers commonly choose the Associated Press Stylebook, so your preference isn't likely to sway your employer to choose an altogether different guide. On the other hand, some news organizations use a style guide as a base and tweak the recommendations to meet their needs.
Questions About Interpersonal Skills and Conflict
Conflict is part of any job, so expect your interviewer to ask you how you handle tension and stressful situations. Here are some specific types of questions that might come up:
- How would you handle sensitive writers who question every edit you make?
- How would you deal with a freelance writer who regularly hands in subpar work?
- How do you feel about deadlines? Give an example of a time when you had to edit or write a piece under a strict deadline.
- How do you prioritize assignments?
- Imagine you have two projects with the same deadline. One client is easygoing while the other constantly calls to ask when it will be done. Which project do you make your top priority and why?
In your responses, be honest but don't disqualify yourself. Now's not the time to share that you procrastinate until the morning of an assignment's due date. Keep in mind that deadlines are essential, so be prepared to share specifics about how you ensure you meet them and give details on your organizational skills.
When possible, share examples of times you've encountered stressful situations or dealt with conflict in the past.
Questions About Your Writing and Editing Style
When you are applying for a job as a writer or editor, it's very common to be given an editing test. This allows interviewers and hiring managers to get a first-hand look at your abilities. You can also expect some questions about how you work, and your editing and writing philosophy and style, such as:
- How do you approach writing an article? Tell me about your writing process.
- Let's say you were asked to write about [topic ABC]. How would you begin your research?
- What's your editing style?
- How do you judge a piece of writing?
- How do you respond when you receive negative feedback on an early draft?
- Tell me about a time you had a story that went through multiple rounds of edits.
- What's your favorite story you've ever written?
Computer Software Programs and Content Management Systems
Nowadays, working as a writer or editor isn't just about putting words on a piece of paper. Employers want to know your experience with computer software programs and content management systems as well.
Here are some of the more technical questions you may face:
- How well do you know InDesign [or Quark]?
- Tell me about your technical skills and which programs you routinely use.
- What page layout software are you familiar with?
- Have you worked with any web publishing software?
More Job Interview Questions
In addition to job-specific interview questions for writing and editing, you will also be asked more general questions about your employment history and education as well as your strengths, weaknesses, achievements, goals, and plans. Consult a list of the most common interview questions and examples of answers to prep for these sorts of questions.
The best way to prepare for an interview is to answer the potential questions out loud or have a friend or colleague read the questions to you so you can practice in front of a live person.
More Interview Preparedness Tips
You want to make a great first impression at your interview, so be sure to choose an outfit that’s befitting of the job and company you hope to work for. Business formal may be the most appropriate or perhaps business casual will do. If you’re not sure how to dress, it’s probably better to dress up rather than dress down.
- PREPARE BEFOREHAND: Practice your responses to common interview questions for writers and editors, so you feel confident the day of your interview.
- NAMECHECK TECHNICAL PROGRAMS: Be ready to talk about which technical programs you have used.
- SHARE YOUR PREFERENCES: Interviewers will be looking for a sense of your taste, so be prepared to share what you like to read.