For more information on instituting efficient interview processes, see the Hiring writers and editors guide.
Interviewing writers and editors for brand publishing operations is one key part of a larger hiring strategy, focused on outlining the requirements of the role via job proposals, articulating its responsibilities and measures of success and conducting hiring tests designed to ensure the right candidates are brought in.
Interviewing appropriately is a critical part of this overall process. But the efficacy and efficiency of interview processes are often limited by poorly-prepared interviewers. Navigating the interview is a skill not just for candidates, but for interviewers themselves.
Interviews must seek to uncover a wide variety of information about candidates. The key is to ensure interviews are designed to give candidates plenty of room to answer, but also to avoid the risk of hiring someone who is simply good at giving answers. They also have to uncover information about hard, technical skills, managing abilities, cultural capabilities and ambition.
The key for managers and any interviewer is to ensure that the right bases are being covered, and that the interview is approached with a clear plan for what information needs to be collected and why. Goals for an interview will always vary depending on the company, the role and the candidate, but a clear interview framework can be used to help structure and guide interviews successfully.
An interview framework should seek to uncover a candidate’s:
- Knowledge of the hiring company and what it does
- Past experience
- Applicable skills
- Interests and passions, both professionally and personally
- Professional goals
- Understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses
- Communication and other “soft” skills
- Confidence and self-awareness
- Managerial and leadership skills and style (if applicable)
- Ability to ask pertinent and intelligent questions of their own
Sample interview questions
Knowledge of the hiring company and what it does
- How did you prepare for this interview?
- What do you think of this company’s strategy in the industry?
- What do you think of our competitors’ strategy?
- What about this role attracted you?
- What is something this company/department could improve on?
- What was the last story we did that you thought was great and why?
- What kinds of stories or content are we missing out on?
- What was the last story you did that you were proud of?
- What was the last story you did that you thought you could have done better at?
- What were your key contributions in your prior reporting or writing experience?
- What was the last mistake you made in writing?
- Where did you get your story ideas?
- What was the last story you edited that you were proud of?
- What was the last story you edited that you thought you could have done better at?
- What does your editing process look like?
- What would you do differently if you could, from your past jobs?
- What did your boss and your colleagues think about your job performance?
- I’m going to assign you a story about X. Walk me through how you would report, organize and write it.
- How do you find your story ideas?
- How do you know a good story idea?
- How do you like to pitch stories?
- What is your writing and editing style?
- How do you know when to “call it” — that is, know when a story is ready to publish?
- How do you give feedback to writers?
- How do you know when to “kill” a story?
Interests and passions
- What publications do you admire and why?
- What was the last great story you read?
- What do you think is the hardest part of making great content?
- How would you define an editorial mission?
- What about editorial/content excites you?
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
- What is your dream role? Why?
- If you could have any job, where would you want to work for?
- What roles are you considering, other than this one? Which roles would you turn down?
Understanding of their own strengths
- What did your editor/manager think about your stories?
- What would your colleagues/peers say about your work?
- How do you know a story idea is good?
- What are you better than most people at?
- What are you worse than most people at?
- What is the hardest you’ve ever had to work?
Communication and other “soft” skills
- How do you like to be edited?
- How do you like to be managed?
- How do you deliver critical feedback?
- How do you handle crises?
- What motivates you?
- How do you teach?
Confidence and self-awareness
- Were your pieces successful and how would you measure that?
- What kind of work environment do you work best in?
- What makes you feel energized?
Managerial and leadership skills and style
- How would you describe your editing style?
- When is it OK to micromanage?
- When is it OK to call it quits when it comes to a story?
- How do you make decisions?
- Do you consider yourself more emotionally driven or logically?
- Who was your favorite boss? Why?