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Newspaper Editor Interview
Questions

31 Questions and Answers by Ryan Brown

Updated June 4th, 2019
Job Interviews     Careers     Communications    
Question 1 of 31
Would you consider yourself to be more analytical or creative by nature?
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How to Answer
We all have an analytical side and a creative side to some degree. Identify which trait is more valuable in this particular role. If you're expecting your primary responsibility to be revising a writer's work, then show your analytical side. If, on the other hand, you'll be expected to take the newspaper in new directions and to increase readership, creativity may be more important.

Either way, lead with the more important trait and explain why. Then show how the other trait supplements the first.
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1.
Would you consider yourself to be more analytical or creative by nature?
We all have an analytical side and a creative side to some degree. Identify which trait is more valuable in this particular role. If you're expecting your primary responsibility to be revising a writer's work, then show your analytical side. If, on the other hand, you'll be expected to take the newspaper in new directions and to increase readership, creativity may be more important.

Either way, lead with the more important trait and explain why. Then show how the other trait supplements the first.

Ryan's Answer
"I'm more creative by nature. I tend to think outside the box and I never simply accept the status quo. If the objective is to get better, then I'm not the kind of person who gets stuck with doing things the way they're being done right now. I focus on what will be, not what was. And while creativity comes naturally to me, in my career I've had to learn how to be analytical. As an editor, I've had to learn how to break a piece of writing down and rework the mechanics on a paragraph-by-paragraph level down to the sentence and word level. That analytical side of me is what helps give structure to the creative side of me."
2.
When have you had to be extra thorough in completing tasks?
Some tasks will require a keener eye and additional diligence. Discuss a time when you were extra thorough during a work-related task.
Ryan's Answer
"I have to be extra thorough from time to time when I have clients that are especially detail oriented. Often this will mean spending additional time on calls with them to highlight project changes. I am absolutely okay with being extra thorough when needed."
3.
Name one thing that you feel you can do better than other Editors you have worked with previously.
Each person has unique competitive advantages. One editor might be extremely fast at editing for grammar and punctuation, another editor might be very good at research, and yet another might be great at restructuring a piece.

Read 2-3 articles published in this publication/department and look for ways that you can improve both of them. It's best to look for a common theme. For instance, the ending paragraph may be lacking in drama and impact.

In your response, speak on how you'd improve the articles as it relates to a benefit that's important to the publication. For instance, reader engagement is a common concern for publications. In which case, you might talk about how to end an article in such a way that increases reader engagement.

Follow through with an example of how you've done that before and wrap everything up with a summary sentence that brings attention back to the benefit.

Ryan's Answer
"Would you say that reader engagement is an important concern for you? [Get confirmation that it is.] I've read several articles in this section and I found several ways to improve reader engagement. For example, when I was at The Madison Post, I told the writers to end the articles with a question instead of a statement. I think that, compared to other editors, I'm very good at getting people to talk and engage with the paper, which does wonders for advertising."
4.
Tell me about your post-secondary education. What was your favorite course? Which was your most challenging?
The duties of a newspaper editor require strong attention to detail in the way that language is used. To choose your favorite course, think about a class where you enjoyed paying attention to the use of language. To choose your most challenging course, think about a class in which you made a big leap forward in your education as it relates to planning, revising, or reviewing written content.

Choose courses where you're able to demonstrate growth in areas that are important to the publication and department you're applying for. For instance, some newspapers may focus on politics while others may focus on local news, or you may be applying to edit for the food section or the human interest section. When possible, bring examples to life by relating them to benefits to the newspaper or department.

Ryan's Answer
"I really enjoyed my creative nonfiction course because it taught me many different ways to convey a single truth, which I think is going to be a great asset in the human interest pieces. And the most challenging course was poetry. In that class, I learned how to do close readings and how to give effective constructive criticism, which definitely will help the writers turn in their work faster."
5.
What do you know about our company?
Do your research and find out basic information such as when the company was founded and by who, as well as their mission and values. This indicates to the interviewer that you are serious about working specifically for this company. Candidates who show that they are proactive demonstrate strong motivation.

Tell the interviewer what you know. Try to talk about information that is of specific interest to you, rather than dry facts.

Ryan's Answer
"I know that Oakhurst Times was founded in 1836 and that it has a long history of writing about the lives of the residents of Oakhurst. This is one of the most exciting things about the paper that motivated me to apply."
6.
How do you handle stressful situations?
Every job has stressful situations. Deadlines are a common stress for newspaper editors. Another example might be dealing with a writer who is stubborn and not very open to change.

Talk about an example in which you were able to keep calm and identify an issue clearly despite highly emotional nature of the situation. Be detailed about the indicators that you can detect in yourself and others. Show how you were able to defuse the situation and end your response with a positive outcome.

Ryan's Answer
"Whenever I feel stressed out, I tell myself to slow down and breathe. If I feel myself getting tense, or my heart starts racing, I know immediately that I'm stressed and I discreetly pinch myself in the leg to remind myself that I'm in control.

There was this one time that a writer was getting very short with me about the edits that I suggested. I could tell from the beginning because he was frowning and staring at the page, I noticed that's what he does when he's stressed out. He started yelling at me, but I didn't yell back. Instead I showed him compassion. In the end, we worked things out much faster that way, and we were able to meet the deadline."
7.
What are your 3 greatest strengths as an editor?
This question is concerned with your performance in the job. All publications must deal with the pressure of deadlines while producing content of a certain quality.

Choose a skill that relates to quality assurance. Then choose a second skill that enables you to meet deadlines. Finally, choose a third skill that focuses on your ability to manage people.

Start your response with the overall result that you're capable of producing. Support that answer by listing three of your strongest skills, following each skill with a brief explanation.

Ryan's Answer
"I'm great at making sure that we produce quality content on time. First of all, I have a good eye for quality. Second of all, I'm a great project manager: I have good time management skills. Last but not least, I'm very good at making sure people meet their deadlines: I know exactly how much pressure I need to give to each individual writer and when to let up."
8.
Why did you choose to apply with our company?
Do your research and find out basic information such as when the company was founded and by who, as well as their mission and values. By finding out their values, you can align yourself with them and show the interviewer that you are compatible with their mission.

Use key facts about the company to talk about what interests you. If possible, show the interviewer how working at this specific company fits into your long-term career goals.

Ryan's Answer
"I know that Oakhurst Times was founded in 1836 and that it has a long history of writing about the lives of the residents of Oakhurst. This is one of the most exciting things about the paper that motivated me to apply. I'm very interested in continuing that tradition because I think that it's something that makes this paper unique. It's also a great opportunity for my career because I'd like to some day edit biographies."
9.
What is your greatest weakness as an editor? What are you doing to improve it?
Choose a weakness that is related to a skill and not a character trait. Character traits are difficult to change—for instance, you may naturally be inclined to keep to yourself (e.g. introverted). Skills, on the other hand, are learned behaviors. Think about a skill that you can learn more about and ask yourself if it's a critical error that would cause a lot of trouble. If it is, skip it and move on to a less critical skill.

Talk about how you're improving or intend to improve that skill. If possible, show that you're internalizing this improvement so that it becomes a permanent change.

Ryan's Answer
"To be honest, I'm not very good at editing punctuation. I tend to focus on the content, the structure and flow of the narrative. So I'm actually working on my attention to detail for punctuation. Even in my spare time, whenever I read anything, I have the Style Manual in front of me and I look at whether it conforms. If it doesn't, I look up how it ought to look."
10.
What would your previous supervisor say about your time management skills?
Many people may reflexively respond that they're excellent at something when they're asked what they themselves think of an ability of theirs. The interviewer is trying to get a better gauge of your time management skill by framing the question from an external perspective. It has the added benefit of assessing your integrity and your relationship with your superiors.

Be honest in your response. If your supervisor would say that you're good at time management, give a brief explanation of your methodology. If your supervisor wouldn't say that you're good at time management, say that your supervisor would say that you could use improvement, not that you're bad. Quickly move on to methods that you have learned and applied. Show that it's the things that you're bad at that you become the most consciously proficient at. End your response assuring the interviewer of your time management skill by saying that these methods are what enable you to meet your deadlines.

Ryan's Answer
"My supervisor would tell all of the editors and writers that they need to improve their time management skills. I took that to heart and I read a lot about time management systems and methods. One method that's helped me improve by leaps and bounds is the Pomodoro method. I use a timer that ticks to remind me to stay on task, and I have built-in breaks to keep my mind fresh and efficient. That's one of the ways that I manage to meet all my deadlines."
11.
Tell me about your leadership style.
Leadership is about the way that you relate to people in order to direct their work. Research the company on social media to see what their work culture is like and develop a response that's aligned with that kind of culture. For example, one publication may favor a hectic and high-pressure environment with a lot of team interaction, whereas another might have a more relaxed environment that gives writers leeway to work remotely and independently.

To develop your response, think about how you motivate others and how you communicate. Think about things that you proactively do to effectively manage your team's work to stay on deadlines.

Start your response with 2-3 character traits and connect these traits with the impact it has on your direct reports. Where possible, follow up with specific techniques that you use. Sum up with how your style results in a benefit to the company, such as ensuring that writers meet their deadlines while maintaining standards of quality.

Ryan's Answer
"I'm a very positive and energetic leader. I'm very hands-on and approachable: I make sure that my team knows that no question is a stupid one and that I'm always there for them. I make sure that my team has the energy they need to do their work efficiently and on time."
12.
Considering your background is in a different industry than ours, how do you think you'll fit into the job?
It's important to understand that a profession can span different industries. For instance, in the legal profession, one can work in corporate, financial, or criminal law. The same goes for the profession of the editor. The framework of editing can be applied to many topics and industries.

First, fall back on the fundamental aspects of editing itself: demonstrate your expertise and mastery of the fundamentals by explaining techniques, methods, and frameworks that you've learned in your education or on the job. If possible, end by relating it to some common ground that you have found between your past work and the publication you're applying to.

In your response, make sure you address the main concern directly and inspire confidence by conveying that you have a strong understanding of the publication's content.

Ryan's Answer
"You're right that I've mostly edited fiction before. At the end of the day, editing boils down to two components. First is to make sure that the piece is free from technical errors, like grammar and punctuation. That's common whether I'm editing a piece about the financial crisis or a human interest piece. Second of all, the act of editing involves understanding the mechanics of the piece, and making sure that the reader has a good understanding of [...]. So, for example, I know that the tech section of your newspaper has lots of tips and tricks for your readers. I'd ensure that the writer stays on point by [...]."
13.
Do you prefer working with print, or online publications?
Use your best judgment: the most effective answer will depend on the needs of the organization and the position you're applying to. Considering that you're applying to be a newspaper editor, it's most likely that you should answer that you prefer print publications. However, do your research first and don't make that assumption. It may be possible that the publication is looking to move online, or that your position will be have an online component.

A response that demonstrates your flexibility and adaptability will speak to your understanding of both mediums.

Ryan's Answer
"I'm equally comfortable with both. In my experience, online publication typically lends itself to shorter pieces that prompt the reader to engage with the content. It's easier because a reader can just log in on Facebook and comment and share the article immediately. Print publication is a little different because [...]. So at the end of the day, I'm happy editing both print and online."
14.
Do you have a mentor in the editing industry, or any particular writer or publication that you admire?
If possible, find out who you'll be reporting to and do research on this person to get a sense of their interests and what their personality might be like. You should choose a professional who shares common ground with your supervisor.

Either way, choose an professional whose work you've studied or followed and highlight the reasons that you respect and admire them. Speak on the qualities of the work, especially any qualities that are relevant to the aspirations of the publication or your superior.

The key here is that who you're talking about shares common ground in some way with the publication or the people you'll be working with.

Ryan's Answer
"I don't have a mentor, and at this stage in my career I'm really looking for a mentor. I really admire Susan Greenfield because she [...]."
15.
If you have a 300-page document that's a rush job and you must edit it by the end of the day, how would you approach the task to ensure timely delivery?
To give the interviewer confidence that you're able to manage your time effectively, be specific about the exact actions that you would take to ensure that the objective is completed. Explain each action briefly by telling the interviewer why you're doing it in terms of what benefit you gain from the action.

Ryan's Answer
"First, I do a quick reading of the document so that way I can get a general gist of the piece. That way I know what to expect in terms of style, pacing, and structure. On this first pass, I'll take any quick notes that come to mind immediately, but I don't pause to do any deep thinking until later.

Then I do a section-by-section reading. I start with the first paragraph and then read the last one to understand what the writer is trying to accomplish. I work backwards from the goal and see if the rest of the writing supports that goal. Next, I..."
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31 Newspaper Editor Interview Questions
Win your next job by practicing from our question bank. We have thousands of questions and answers created by interview experts.
Interview Questions
  1. Would you consider yourself to be more analytical or creative by nature?
  2. When have you had to be extra thorough in completing tasks?
  3. Name one thing that you feel you can do better than other Editors you have worked with previously.
  4. Tell me about your post-secondary education. What was your favorite course? Which was your most challenging?
  5. What do you know about our company?
  6. How do you handle stressful situations?
  7. What are your 3 greatest strengths as an editor?
  8. Why did you choose to apply with our company?
  9. What is your greatest weakness as an editor? What are you doing to improve it?
  10. What would your previous supervisor say about your time management skills?
  11. Tell me about your leadership style.
  12. Considering your background is in a different industry than ours, how do you think you'll fit into the job?
  13. Do you prefer working with print, or online publications?
  14. Do you have a mentor in the editing industry, or any particular writer or publication that you admire?
  15. If you have a 300-page document that's a rush job and you must edit it by the end of the day, how would you approach the task to ensure timely delivery?
  16. How would you handle sensitive writers who question every edit you make?
  17. Give an example of a time when you had to edit or write a piece under a strict deadline. How did you ensure that you met the deadline?
  18. What is your ideal company culture?
  19. How would you handle a freelance writer who handed in subpar work?
  20. Tell me about your editing and proofreading process.
  21. If you could write a book on any topic, what would it be?
  22. As a newspaper editor you may be asked to work overtime, evenings or weekends. Are you available to work long and flexible hours?
  23. How comfortable are you with assisting in newspaper design layout?
  24. You have two major headlines that are both worthy of a spot on the first page. How do you choose?
  25. What do you like most about being an editor?
  26. What are your career goals as an Editor?
  27. Why are you the best newspaper editor for us?
  28. Do you read any blogs on writing and editing? Which ones? What do you like about these?
  29. What books/magazines/newspapers do you enjoy reading?
  30. How do you prioritize when you have multiple deadlines to meet?
  31. Take a few minutes to bring your resume to life for me, focusing on your work as an editor and writer.
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