Learn How to Prep for a Media Interview

Get Tips On Mistakes to Avoid and Questions to Expect

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It can be tough to prepare for a job interview in any field. It can often feel as though there’s no sure-fire way to prepare since you never fully know what you’ll be asked. But there are certain questions you can expect to be asked in a media interview. Get information here about what you can do to prepare for media interviews.

Once You've Landed That Interview

Great! So you have an interview at the media company where you've been dreaming of working. One of the most important things people forget to do (in the excitement of setting up an interview date) is to ask questions.

Make sure you ask your interviewer what you should prepare for before the appointment. If it's for a media job, there's a good chance you may have to take a writing test. Remember, there's nothing wrong with asking questions — and it certainly doesn't hurt to be prepared before you step in to meet the interviewer. It shows great initiative, especially for a media job.

Prepare ahead of time. Try to do a mock interview with a friend or family member. Review all of your background — both academic and professional. It sounds strange, but some people forget things they've done in the heat of the moment.

It also helps to prepare a list of key points you may want to bring up in your answers. After all, you are selling yourself, so you should know those before you head in to the interview room. This could be awards you've won or stories you've written — but make sure they are relevant to the interview and showcase all that you are.

Be Conscious of Social Media

Nowadays, a lot of interviewers will be scouring social media profiles of potential applicants and interviewees. While there's nothing wrong with showing personality on your Twitter or Facebook profiles, you'll want to make sure you have a clean platform.

By the same token, media companies will want to know that you're active on social media. It's another way to market the company (through its employees), but also because you may be able to do research for stories or marketing through a different channel. If you don't have very many followers or just aren't that active on social media, be prepared to answer why.

Interview Mistakes to Avoid

Aside from making sure you look professional and you are on time — two things you must do — you want to make sure you’ve studied the right topics to ensure the interviewer doesn’t stump you on any questions. Although you shouldn’t think of an interview as an antagonistic situation — most interviewers aren’t trying to test you or catch you off-guard — you don’t want to draw a blank when you’re asked a question. That's why you should study up on a few things, and come up with answers to potential questions, before the big day.

And don't forget the importance of eye contact. You want to show that you're a confident, strong candidate who can get the job done. Nothing demonstrates how invested you are than by maintaining eye contact with your interviewer.

These rules — especially about your appearance — also apply if you're doing a remote FaceTime or Skype interview. Just because you aren't sitting face-to-face with your interviewer doesn't mean you can interview in your pajamas. Make sure you look presentable — after all, you do have to put your best foot forward. As for phone interviews, keep your voice professional and calm, and imagine that you're sitting in an office at the company.

Questions You Can Expect

One of the biggest pet peeves you will hear editors and hiring managers complain about when it comes to interviewing, is talking to candidates who don’t know their company or their publication. This doesn’t mean if you’re interviewing at an imprint of Random House you need to know the history of the publisher. However, if you’re interviewing at, say, Knopf (a literary imprint at Random House), you should know some background on the division. What kinds of books does Knopf publish? Who are its authors?

What are your favorite books that Knopf has published?

The theme of knowing where you’re interviewing carries over to various facets of media. When I was interviewing for jobs out of college — mostly editorial assistant positions at magazines — I knew about those magazines. I had a working knowledge of the general topics they covered —and I studied them.

So when I was asked questions like "What’s your favorite section of the magazine?" I had an answer ready. Other questions that might have stumped me, had I not prepared, were "What’s one thing you would change about the magazine if you have the opportunity?" and "If you were going to write a story for us tomorrow, what would it be about?"

To answer any of these questions about a publication, you need to know it inside and out. It won’t do to simply know Sports Illustrated covers sports or Entertainment Weekly covers entertainment. You need to know specific stories the magazine published recently and the recurring sections of the magazine. For example, The New Yorker devotes its front-of-the-book to shorter pieces about a wide array of topics. This section is famous and is called “Talk of the Town.” Now if you strolled into an interview at The New Yorker and didn’t know what “Talk of the Town” was, you’d probably blow your chance of getting the job.

Have the Right Answers

The best way to prepare for a media interview is, as I said above, to study your potential employer. If you’re interviewing for an editorial spot at a magazine, grab a bunch of back issues and go over them, or go online and scour through some of the older issues and stories. Decide what you might change if you had the chance. Figure out the sections you like and decide why you like them. Find stories you like and take note of them. You don’t need to remember exact titles, but it will be a plus if you can.

Another thing to be aware of, especially when you’re going on a lot of interviews, is to avoid mixing up competitors. When you’re interviewing a lot, you often have less time to prepare for things. And, moreover, the places you’re interviewing may occasionally start to blend together. Try to separate.

You don’t want to make the mistake of saying you liked a story that SI did when it was really a story that appeared in ESPN The Magazine. Therefore, before the interview, pay particular attention to getting things like this straight in your head. One thing that notoriously drives editors and others in the field crazy is mistaking them for their competition.

One thing to note: if you don't have the right answer or just don't understand the question, don't try to talk yourself in a circle. That will only make you look bad. If you need to, ask the interviewer to rephrase the question. It may just point your mind in the right direction.

Keeping Your Cool

One thing I always struggled with during interviews was my nerves. There’s no question that interviewing is stressful, especially when you have the pressure of needing a job weighing down on you. That said, you need to try and keep your nerves at bay.

The more nervous you are, the more likely you are to misspeak or get generally sidetracked. So, know what your nervous ticks are before the interview so you can keep them in check. One of my nervous ticks is talking too much, so I was always aware of this when I went into an interview. I had to pay special attention to make sure I didn't talk too much.

The other thing to remember is, in the end, it’s just an interview. If you can try to keep things in perspective and not put too much pressure on yourself, it’s often easier to stay calm. Go in confident and calm. If you believe in yourself and speak with confidence, employers will pick up on it.