27 Questions and Answers Written by Christina Erne
Updated on August 23rd, 2018
Question 1 of 27
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
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The candidate should discuss where they plan to be in their career after doing the job for a few years. A hiring manager is looking for someone who plans on sticking around for a while and growing with the company, and the candidate should discuss where they see their career going in a few short years. Oftentimes columnists stay in the same job for many years to gain viewership and publicity.
"In five years from now, I see myself being a front page columnist in the Sunday Times. I believe by then I can be someone the whole public will know well and trust for information on the local community."
Newspapers use pagination to correctly format their piece to fit within the confines of a newspaper structure. The candidate should describe their knowledge of pagination and how to format their writing. This greatly benefits their chances of getting hired because pagination is a great skill that cuts down on the amount of work the newspaper editors will have to do in the long run.
"I used pagination all throughout college for our school newspapers. I have much experience with it and I think this will help save others from having to do my work."
If you could start your career over, what would you do and why?
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The candidate should talk about other careers that interest them. This gives the hiring manager insight into other skills they have, which may be beneficial to the job. The candidate should ultimately talk about why they chose the specific career of columnist, but should mention other paths they considered because of their skills.
"If I did not choose to be a columnist, I would have been a lawyer. I love to argue my case and find ways to outsmart the other side of the argument. While this is not the path I chose, I feel I am a stronger columnist because of my abilities to make my points of view clear and influence others to believe so as well."
A column has a specific time slot or edition they write for, whether it is daily or weekly. The candidate should talk about what kind of column they hope to write as it fits in the job description, and should talk about whether their column fits best as a weekly one or a daily one. Typically those that make being a columnist their primary career and income will work daily full time, while those who are using it as a side job or a job for later in life may work part time.
"I am looking for this job to be a full time one. I am just in the height of my career and I have many people interested in what I have to say. Viewers are the ones who have encouraged me to become a columnist. Now I want to pursue my writing on these topics on a daily basis."
While any job is subject to stress, being a columnist can be extra tricky because newspapers must be printed at certain times each day and week. A columnist must be assured they can meet the deadline of submitting their work, or their column will not get into the newspaper. The candidate should talk about their ability to get work done, even under time constraints and stress, so they never miss a deadline.
"I feel I do some of my best work under tight deadlines and stress. I am motivated to get it done and put all of my ideas down without filtering them or worrying about what people may think of me. I feel this makes me a better writer."
6. What do you believe is your role in the community as a columnist? Columnists often discuss issues that the community faces, and tackles these issues to help everyone. The candidate should discuss what kind of role they plan to play in the community, whether it is strictly informative, thought-provoking, or controversial, and how they plan on following up this role and staying relevant. Here is an answer example: "I believe my role in the community is to get people talking about changing ways of our society. Without these discussions, we are bound to go down a road we cannot recover from, and should have the discussions on ethics now. I plan to be the driving force of discussion that will lead to change."7. Do you prefer working in an office or at home? Writing for columns does not require much communication with a newsroom. They have the same slot to fill with their column each week, and are expected to send in their final product to editors a few days prior before it gets published. The candidate should discuss if they prefer working in the newsroom or on their own at home. People who do other freelance writing jobs or are nearing retirement may prefer to work at home, while more bustling workers who may help out with other writing in the office may prefer to come in each day. Here is an answer example: "I prefer working at home. I have two children at home and I feel more comfortable getting the work done there. I am a great communicator and will always be available by phone. If you prefer me to work in the office, I would need some expense money for children's daycare programs."8. What is your experience with social media? Although a columnist's work appears on a publication in a newspaper, they may also later share their thoughts on it or the entire piece online for others to leave their comments. This way, they can see how the public is reacting to them and see what other topics they hope to see addressed in the column. Social media is a great new tool to reach a wider audience of people who may not live where the newspaper is produced, but still are interested in reading the column and reacting. Here is an answer example: "I have been working with social media professionally for years and have already developed quite the following. I find that people like to respond to my columns online and that gives me a sense of what topics I should write more about."9. How do you work with an editing team? Although a columnist has free control over their work, they ultimately have to have their piece undergo editing by those at the newspaper. This is to check for large mistakes or typos that will reflect badly on the publication. The editors also may offer advice on writing techniques or flow of the piece. The candidate should talk about experience having others help with the writing and how this may affect their work. Here is an answer example: "I love working with an editing team because they often catch mistakes of mine that I have looked over. They are a strong asset to have because they will keep the integrity of the piece while also helping me fine tune it. I love compromise."10. How do you combat negative feedback from viewers? People in the public eye, even those behind a computer screen or a newspaper, are vulnerable to people not liking their opinion or style. The candidate should discuss their experience with people not liking their column, and either rolling with the punches, or improving it when the criticism is valid. This means the candidate should have a good grasp on where they have room to improve, and where they should hold firm on their beliefs and write what they think is right. The candidate should express their views to the hiring manager and talk about how they deal with readers when they give negative feedback. Here is an answer example: "This would not be the first time I have received criticism in the public eye. I used to be a reporter, and people would comment negatively on everything from my writing style to my outfit. I have learned to sort out what is worth responding to and what is just people wanting to complain about something."11. How do you stay up to date with the latest world news? A good columnist is up to date with everything going on in the world, and not just pertaining to their specific column. This way, they can tie in local events, or national news, to their pieces and show how their column has a greater importance. The candidate should discuss the sources they get news from and how they stay up to date throughout the week to have a deep understanding of what is going on day by day. Here is an answer example: "I stay up to date using Twitter by following accredited sources and reading the newspaper. I like to read newspapers because they are very in depth and I can help my readers connect to what they read in the newspaper earlier in the week through my column."12. What will your work add to our publication? The candidate has the opportunity to talk about ways they hope to improve the quality and viewership of the publication. They may talk about previous work in adding viewers to a newspaper, or the ways they publicize their works so more people will tune in or read. They should discuss the ways they uniquely are able to make the publication grow and develop and how that will make the entire company stronger over time. Here is an answer example: "I believe my upbeat attitude and interesting writing style and topics will draw in many people. I also think the way I encourage discussion online of my columns are a big hit."13. What do you hope to gain in this job? Any good candidate is looking for a job that will ultimately make them better at what they do over time. The candidate should talk about how they plan to improve their skills over time and how this will make them a better worker in the future. They also may talk about their ability to take criticism to improve what they do. Here is an answer example: "I hope that over the course of doing the job, I will learn to be a more concise writer. I believe people will take me more seriously when I write shorter pieces with more packed information in it."14. What is your ultimate career goal? Whether their ultimate career goal may be far off or just around the corner, the candidate should talk about how the future goals will influence their work flow throughout the job and what kinds of skills they hope to develop over the course of the job. Here is an answer example: "My ultimate career goal is to have an opinion segment on a national news network. I believe I can develop my ability to express my opinion without offending people and being someone that people want to listen to over the course of being a columnist here."15. Why do you want to become a columnist? The candidate should discuss why they want to be a columnist and why they have come to this career due to past experiences. A columnist is known for their strong opinions, so a hiring manager is looking for someone to be passionate about talking about their opinions, especially about getting the job. They should discuss what unique topics they are considered an expert in and why they would be taken seriously when talking about it. Here is an answer example: "I want to be a columnist because I want to make my transition out of the health care industry and I want to educate others on what we do and various topics that can be confusing to the general public."16. Why is this job right for you at this time? The candidate should talk about why this job is a good fit for them based on their previous experience, and why they are choosing to take this route in their career at this time. They may talk about looking for a job closer to home, a job with less stress than reporting, or a job that allows them to have and outlet for their emotions and knowledge. They should discuss why this is the perfect time to begin a column. Here is an answer example: "I believe this columnist job is perfect for me at this stage of my life because I am no longer able to be a doctor because of the long hours I had to work along with having a family. Being a columnist for a health newspaper allows me to give my expert advice and opinions while spending more time with family."17. What are your benefits expectations? Columnists often get benefits other than salary for doing the job, such as a computer to do their work on, a car or gas stipend for driving, and parking. The candidate should talk to the interviewer about benefits they hope to receive based on the job they will be doing. Here is an answer example: "Since I have to commute into the city each day for work, I would like to have my parking paid for, since this is too much money to spend on parking each day."18. What are your salary expectations? A columnist makes a wide variety of salaries based on previous experience, the newspaper they are writing for, and their credentials. It is also dependent on how many times a week they write for the publication. Oftentimes, columnists have other freelance writing jobs, and only write a column once a week. The candidate should discuss what they hope to make as a salary given how much they will be working. Here is an answer example: "For my weekly column, I hope to be paid $1,000 per column with a $250 raise each year following my success. I feel this is reasonable given my credentials in the field of journalism over the past 20 years."19. What credentials do you have to make people trust you? The candidate should discuss why they feel their opinion in a column is warranted and what credentials they have to make people trust them. Whether they have formal education in a topic, have past professional experience, or just have proved their knowledge in a subject over time, they should have a good explanation of their experience in a given subject and why people will take them seriously. Here is an answer example: "I got my doctorate in medicine years ago, and that is why I feel I am a good person to write a column on new and emerging medicines and medical technologies."20. What do you consider your specialty topic to write about? Each columnist has a unique topic they write about that they consider themselves experts in. The candidate should discuss their topic of choice and why people listen to them. Here is an answer example: "I am a political columnist because in my previous career I was a political analyst. I add interesting information about politics, from stories from my political career, to lessons we learn from certain events in history, even to analyzing current political figures."21. How do you plan on getting readers to read your column each week? The candidate should talk about how they will draw in readers, from marketing, to talking about their upcoming column on social media, to keeping their writing interesting and consistent. The hiring manager wants to pick someone who the public will be interested in following, and the candidate should have some ideas of how they plan on interesting the local audience. Here is an answer example: "I love using social media to market my columns. I interact with readers online with live videos to see what they are excited about reading this week and I keep readers interested for the next column by this kind of advertising."22. Why do you want to live in this city/state/community? The candidate should discuss what is drawing his or her into working in that specific location. Perhaps they have knowledge of the people and topics that matter most in that area and feel they have something to add. They should discuss their familiarity with the area and how they would be a good fit. Here is an answer example: "I want to live and be a columnist in Boston because I went to college there and feel that I really understand the people. I feel that I can add so much to the quality of life in Boston by talking about environmental issues and raising awareness."23. Why do you want to write for this newspaper? The candidate should discuss their particular interests, writing style, and topics they like to write about and how they work well with the newspaper they want to write for. They should show that their skills and writing topics work well with the kinds of stories and columns the newspaper has, and should show a knowledge of the kinds of people who read the newspaper in that area. Here is an answer example: "I want to write for this newspaper because I grew up in this city and I learned so much from the columnists here when I was a child. Now I want to inspire others."24. How do you describe your writing style? The candidate should discuss what kind of writing style they use to write their columns. Perhaps they talk in the first or third person, or perhaps they use more modern terms in their columns. They should mention why they take this writing approach and how they believe it will be successful at this newspaper. Here is an answer example: "My writing style is very modern to appeal to younger viewers since your newspaper is for a young demographic city with many colleges. I want to encourage college age students to read newspapers and I believe my opinion columns will intrigue them and get them started in reading newspapers."25. Why do you believe you are a good fit for the job? A columnist is a unique kind of writer who is valued for their writing style, voice, and topics. The candidate should discuss why they should be a columnist instead of a general writer and what unique qualities they bring to the newspaper that makes them fit in well. Here is an answer example: "I believe I fit well in this publication because it has many conservative viewers, and I was a political analyst for Fox News previously, so I have experience writing for conservative publications. I believe I can capture audiences of any political affiliation."26. What makes your writing unique? A columnist is in a unique position that allows them to write in their own voice, largely unrestricted by the publication. Hiring managers are looking for someone who is unique in their writing and ideas and will draw people in to read the newspaper. The candidate should discuss their writing style and what makes it more special than any other candidates. Here is an answer example: "My writing is unique because I speak frankly to viewers without offending anyone. I write just like how I speak, and readers enjoy the ease at which they can read my pieces without thinking too hard, yet the takeaway messages will keep them thinking for the rest of the day."27. What do you like to write about? The columnist should have an area of expertise they like to write about that defines their column. Perhaps they have professional experience in medicine, sports, politics, etc. that make them a credible source to discuss happenings. Other columnists may like to talk about home care, technology, or advice for mothers, that require less professional experience. The candidate should talk about why they like to write about this topic and why people will value their opinions. Here is an answer example: "I like to write about the newest technologies out on the market changing our world. I used to build robots and I know what new technologies will flop and which will change our world."
Author of Newspaper Columnist Answers and Questions
Christina Erne is a meteorologist and a journalist at News 10 ABC in Albany, NY. Beginning her career as a reporter, she worked her way up the ranks of local television, learning the ins and outs of all possible jobs in the field, from technical support, to weather staff.
First written on: 05/22/2017 Last modified on: 08/23/2018
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