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Journalist Interview

30 Questions and Answers by Rachelle Enns
Published January 27th, 2019 | Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.
Job Interviews     Careers     Communications    

Question 1 of 30

Which famous writer are you inspired by or appreciate the most?

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Which famous writer are you inspired by or appreciate the most?

The writer who inspires you the most is also likely to influence your writing style. Although there is no right or wrong response to this question, be sure to give an answer that is well thought out. You don't want to choose a writer just because you think they are funny, for instance. Choose someone who has shaped you or your career and talk about how their writing has impacted you.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I find the work of Virginia Woolf very inspiring. I first encountered her work in University, reading her well-known essay, 'A Room of One's Own' where she was inspiring a lot of new feminist thoughts in people. Her work has done a lot to encourage other female writers which I appreciate."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"My favorite author of all time is James Joyce. His work is so influential that there are pubs named after him. Who wouldn't want that! Being of Irish descent myself, I love to read his work and see where his Irish heritage influenced his work the most. My favorite piece by James Joyce is 'Ulysses,' first published in its entirety in 1922. There were many offensive thoughts and ideas in the novel, which is why only partial publications were allowed before that time. I appreciate authors of old who pushed the envelope because it gave hope to the rest of writers and journalists who had controversial or unpopular ideas to share."


Have you ever worked in a cross-functional environment?

Journalists work on teams of people with a multitude of specialties and responsibilities. For that reason, your ability to work with cross-functional teams will be a significant asset. If you work for a larger media company, you may have been asked to work on a project with employees from another department. Maybe you headed a project which required you to collaborate with the members of the social media team. Share any challenges that came up and what you learned from the experience.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"Exposure to cross-functional teamwork in my current position is widespread. I believe that when expectations are communicated clearly from the beginning, a cross-functional team project can be very successful. I go into collaborative projects with an understanding that everyone has their strengths and limitations based on their expertise and job function."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"When I worked for a larger media agency, we collaborated across departments all the time. We had the C-suite of Marketing and Operations, then the Content and Communications department, and Research. We would meet on a weekly basis to discuss larger projects and then collaborate through the week as needed. It was a great set-up and ensured smooth progress at all project stages."


How would you make our blog more compelling, increase readership and boost social shares?

The interviewer is checking to see if you have checked out their blog, or even their social presence, to know the tone and approach they are taking. When asked to give feedback in an interview, its best to show your expertise but keep your opinions lighter to avoid offending anyone, or trying to reinvent the wheel. Discuss what you would do to increase readership and boost social shares. Now is the time to show off your social media skills and knowledge!

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I had a long look at your blog and love that you cover a range of topics. One suggestion that I would make is to tag your blog posts and organize them so that it's easier for your readers to find articles on topics in which they are most interested. I think this would make their experience more enjoyable, making them more willing to share what they find."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"There is a lot of amazing content on your website, and my biggest suggestion would be to add a more obvious social sharing button. It took me a minute to find it when I wanted to share one of your articles. To make the content more compelling, I would suggest the use of more gifs, videos, and interactive graphics."


Name 3 qualities you include in every story you write.

The interviewer would like to see that you understand what makes a great story, or article. Most writers agree that some of the essential components of a well-written piece include a firm story structure, compelling characters, and consistent style or tone. Be prepared to discuss what you believe every great story should contain.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I think that every story should contain characters that people can relate to, a storyline that is easy to follow and well planned, as well as a clear setting that can be imagined by the reader. When I write a story or an article, it's important that the reader can place themselves smack dab into the middle of the story."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"Consistency in tone is crucial. No matter the piece that I am writing, the reader must feel that there is a consistent message. Compelling characters or at least a setting that the reader can relate to is also essential. Third, I always ensure that there is a plot where we see a struggle, and then the overcoming of that conflict or challenge."


What negative things have you heard about our publication?

This question is a tricky one because you do not want to foster an air of negativity during the interview. If you have heard negative things about the employer, you likely do not yet have the rapport to bring it up let alone help them make a move towards change. Keep your answer light and comfortable for the interviewer to address. The key here is to complete your response on a positive note.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I read on Glassdoor that growth within your organization can be slow. Could you comment on that for me? I am interested in joining a publication where growth opportunities are present as I prove myself to be a valuable team member. With that said, I have heard many more amazing things about your company, as opposed to negative."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"Negative does not always mean it's true - this is one lesson that I have learned after years of being a journalist. I have heard primarily great things about your publication. Anything negative that I have heard, such as turnover or slow growth, are complaints that nearly all media organizations receive."


Would you rather write a story that laid down the facts, or one that entertained an audience?

The interviewer is looking for a better idea on the type of writing, research, and journalism work you like to do. Perhaps you want to write factual, unbiased pieces related to current events. Or, maybe you prefer to write about the entertainment industry, pop culture, or other lighthearted pieces where you can better incorporate your personality.

Whichever style of writing you prefer, be sure to show the interviewer that you have enthusiasm for your work. Avoid pigeonholing yourself into just one type of writing by mentioning that your writing style is flexible and diverse.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I love a good investigative story that lays out facts, timeline, and stirs up a bit of mystery. With that said, I do love to entertain and am skilled when it comes to writing interest pieces based on the entertainment industry. My writing style is diverse, and my interests include a broad range of topics."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I love entertainment writing, and will always lean towards stories that incorporate humor and personality. People most often remember a story that makes them laugh, and these pieces are more likely to be shared on social media. With that said, I will readily write unbiased and factual stories related to the news, politics, the environment, and social issues."


Walk me through your education.

Most employers who are looking for a journalist will require a Bachelor's degree in journalism, communication, English, or a related field. Although your education is on your resume, the interviewer is asking you to expand on your post-secondary education experience. A few highlights you can focus on are some of the relevant topics you learned about while attending your journalism courses. Discuss how your post-secondary education will help you in this new role.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I am a big believer in post-secondary education. It adds a lot of value to those newer to the workplace. My post-secondary education was in Communication with a minor in Political Journalism. The courses in this program helped me to develop stronger industry relationships through professional correspondence. I also learned persuasive writing skills which have proven to be incredibly helpful when writing pieces on the hottest topics of today."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I recently completed my Bachelor's Degree in English, thinking that I wanted to be a content writer for online publications, and social media content. I ended up changing my path slightly, into sports journalism. The courses that I excelled in included Advanced Interviewing Techniques as well as Broadcast for on-air performance, and field producing."


Are you comfortable interviewing people? Tell me about your exposure to one-on-one interviews.

As a journalist, you will write stories and articles where interviewing a subject matter expert, an influencer, or even a witness, is a requirement. The interviewer would like to know that you can conduct interviews without feeling shy or incapable.

If you have experience conducting one-on-one interviews, you can discuss that experience by talking about the most challenging conversation you have ever undertaken.

If you do not have experience with one-on-one interviews, discuss any training you have received or mention how capable you feel doing interviews.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I have interviewed hundreds of people in my journalism career; whether on the phone, in person, or through video calling. I am comfortable making cold calls to book interviews, and I am more than capable of asking the tough questions. Some of the most memorable interviews I have done include a one-on-one meeting with our local police chief, the mayor, and a couple of Olympic hopefuls from our city."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"Although I am newer to my role as a journalist, and have not yet taken on any significant interviews, I do have experience reaching out to potential people for an interview, and cold calling to find strong sources. I hope to gain much more experience with conducting one-on-one interviews in this position with your publication."


Rate for me your knowledge of social media. In which platforms are you the strongest?

Social media, online publications, blogging, and more! As a journalist, you will be expected to understand how all platforms work together to make up journalism as we know it today. Discuss your knowledge of social media, rating your expertise from 1-10 or from beginner to expert. Then, talk about the ways that you work with social media platforms in your current role, and how your abilities on these platforms can help your potential new employer.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I consider myself an advanced user on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I post to these platforms on a daily basis, and know how to plan content that works well together, how to create graphics for more exciting posts and the best types of call to actions that encourage sharing and commenting."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I recently took an online course on Twitter, bringing me to an intermediate level of knowledge with that platform. Facebook I know best, and my Instagram game is strong as well. In today's digital age, I believe it's critical for any journalist to know how to navigate all social platforms."


In a world filled with fake news, how do you ensure the legitimacy of your sources?

Ensuring that your sources are legitimate is a massive part of your success and reputation as a journalist. There are so many accounts of lousy reporting, fake news, and illegitimate sources these days, so you must share with the interviewer what you do to avoid this embarrassing mistake from happening to you.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"One of my fast and firm rules is that I never allow for the use of anonymous sources. This rule has saved me from many embarrassing instances where I could have irresponsibly reported fake news. If I have to grant anonymity to a source, there is a lot of due diligence that must occur first."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I always as myself if a source is credible and knowledgable before I lean on them for anything. Also, I make sure that my editors are on board and fully satisfied that my source is reliable. This decision isn't a one-person decision most of the time. Everything from a source is pre-verified before any publication or broadcast."


If you could write about anything, which topic would you choose and why?

The interviewer would like to know if the topics that interest you the most are a match with the pieces they will ask you to write. Be sure to respond in a way that compliments the hiring company's area of focus. For instance, if they are a sports publication, you would want to refrain from saying that you only like writing on topics related to politics. Be truthful and also tie your answer in with the work that you will be doing in this position.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I was thrilled to see your job posting for a sports writer because I live and breathe sports. I have played many sports competitively and write a sports blog in my spare time. If I could write about anything, I would choose to focus on stories of athletes who have overcome incredible obstacles, to reach their goals."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I like to write pieces related to history, government, and our country's political past. These topics resonate with the majority of people, including your readership, which I understand to be professionals, aged 38+. It's important to me that my pieces educate and teach while helping people to understand the social and economic issues that are most pressing today."


In what type of situations is it better to stretch the truth to sell a story?

Journalism, the news, the media - everyone stands accused of sensationalizing details to gain traction on a story. The interviewer would like to know if you would stretch the truth to sell a story or to have it go viral. Of course, you already know that it is not okay to lie in an article or publication. Talk to the interviewer about your ability to sell stories without stretching the truth.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I feel that if you need to stretch the truth to sell a story, you probably aren't a natural writer or journalist. If you know what you're doing and understand your audience, there should be no need to stretch the truth. Honesty is always the best policy."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I am not in the habit of stretching the truth. I believe that fact-based journalism is the best route. I would not want to make an important decision with any information loosely based on fact, so I would not do the same to my readership."


Do you feel that you are currently paid what you are worth?

Median pay can be difficult to gauge in journalism roles so the interviewer may have some questions regarding your earnings and salary expectations. The interviewer would also like to know if you feel undervalued in your current position. Many employees will look for new work if they think that they are underpaid and underappreciated. Of course, this potential new employer wants to ensure that they will make you a competitive offer that will entice you to join their organization, and stay there.

Talk to the interviewer about your current compensation and whether or not you feel it is fair. Be sure to have researched your answer to back you up, versus throwing out a random number and hoping it will stick.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I know that I am underpaid compared to my industry colleagues. My company is small, and they do what they can, but this is part of why I am seeking a new position. I would like to see an increase in pay, by about 15%, plus an increase in responsibilities and growth opportunities."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I am currently with a start-up agency, so I am certain that I am not paid my worth in base salary, but I do receive a great number of perks including free lunches, a couple of trips per year, an option to work from home, and a health spending account. The perks are great, but I do know that someone with my skill set is worth more, speaking solely in base pay."


How did you prepare for this interview?

Preparation, organization, and research are critical activities of a successful journalist. If you show up to your interview flustered and unprepared, the interviewer knows that this is how you will handle your projects. They want to hear the steps that you took to prepare for your interview today. The wrong answer is that you are winging it!

Even if you did not have a lot of time to prep for the meeting, or it was a last-minute booking, chances are you still took the time to search the company online or read through the job description. You can be brief and quickly touch on the ways that you prepared for the meeting.

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I have brought a fresh and updated portfolio of my work for you today. Also, I reviewed the job description in full, and I have a couple of questions prepared, which I would like to discuss at the end of our meeting if time allows."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"Your publication is one that I have had my eye on for some time now. I am well aware of your company history and took some time this week to get to know the tone of your work a bit better. I feel well prepared for our meeting today."


Tell me something about yourself that I wouldn't know from reading your resume.

As a journalist, you likely have a creative edge to you, and the interviewer wants to see some of that uniqueness shine. You are indeed not obligated to discuss personal matters such as your kids, or relationship status, for instance. Stick with a couple of fun facts to show the interviewer that you are a real person, too. Your answer should be unique so that you are a memorable candidate!

Focus on unique non-work related skills or hobbies, but ones that you can draw a line back to when it comes to transferrable skills. For instance, you might share that you take boxing lessons during the week and that this opened the doors for you to interview Laila Ali once!

Rachelle's Answer #1

"I moved here from Ukraine when I was 8, speaking only Russian, and learned English from my Palestinian neighbor who spoke zero Russian. How? I'm still not sure, but we were pals and hung out daily and somehow figured out how to communicate! This experience taught me a lot about the importance of eliminating pre-conceived notions of others based on their background. I also learned how to communicate with people different than myself. This experience has helped me in my writing as well, and in being able to reach a broad range of audiences."

Rachelle's Answer #2

"I am a certified yoga instructor, and I spent three months after college traveling and doing yoga. I spent six weeks in Asia and another six weeks in Latin America, and it was a fantastic experience that helped me to grow as both a yogi and a journalist."

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Interview Questions

  1. Which famous writer are you inspired by or appreciate the most?
  2. Have you ever worked in a cross-functional environment?
  3. How would you make our blog more compelling, increase readership and boost social shares?
  4. Name 3 qualities you include in every story you write.
  5. What negative things have you heard about our publication?
  6. Would you rather write a story that laid down the facts, or one that entertained an audience?
  7. Walk me through your education.
  8. Are you comfortable interviewing people? Tell me about your exposure to one-on-one interviews.
  9. Rate for me your knowledge of social media. In which platforms are you the strongest?
  10. In a world filled with fake news, how do you ensure the legitimacy of your sources?
  11. If you could write about anything, which topic would you choose and why?
  12. In what type of situations is it better to stretch the truth to sell a story?
  13. Do you feel that you are currently paid what you are worth?
  14. How did you prepare for this interview?
  15. Tell me something about yourself that I wouldn't know from reading your resume.
  16. When a significant problem arises, what is your first reaction?
  17. Do you consider yourself a persuasive person? How important is the power of persuasion, in journalism?
  18. How do you determine priorities when you have multiple deadlines approaching?
  19. If you could improve your writing style in any way, what area would you focus on?
  20. Being a journalist is a 24/7 job. Are you prepared to always be on, and available?
  21. What was the worst performing story you have ever written? What did you learn from the experience?
  22. Do you prefer AP Style or Chicago Style writing? Which writing style guide do you best follow?
  23. Do you have aspirations to work for one of the 'Big 4' networks?
  24. How do you feel about recent steps towards the regulation of social media?
  25. Would you take on a story that could tarnish the reputation of another?
  26. Would you be hesitant to ask potentially uncomfortable questions?
  27. How important is it to exercise impartial narrative in your writing?
  28. Which topics interest you the most, when it comes to reading, writing, and research?
  29. Tell me about the last book you read and what your biggest takeaway was from the experience.
  30. What issue, currently on the political agenda, interests you the most right now?
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