Practice Interview for Journalism plus Tips for Media Interviews
JOURNALISTS need good written communication skills to produce quality copy, CREATIVITY to find new angles for old stories, PERSUASIVENESS to persuade reluctant people to be interviewed, LISTENING SKILLS to pick out the nuances of the story, INVESTIGATIVE SKILLS to find new stories and AUTONOMY to be able to work independently.
Employers will be looking to see how you can talk about and demonstrate these skills at your interview. The sort of evidence you could offer includes:
- Listening: part-time care work with the elderly.
- Persuading: telesales job in the vacation.
- Writing: for the student newspaper.
- Creativity: designing your own web page.
- Autonomy: traveling round Europe on your own.
- Good spelling, grammar and punctuation!
- Evidence of an interest in current affairs.
- A strong interest in people, places and events
- An ability to write in a clear, easy to understand style
- An appreciation of the part a local newspaper plays in the community
- A willingness to sometimes work irregular hours
- An ability to work under pressure to meet deadlines
- Determination and persistence
Before your interview research the company. At interview try to be relaxed and show you have a sense of humour - this is important for journalism where you may be working under pressure. Make sure you've done some student journalism: a portfolio of articles you have written is useful (see our portfolio page). Have a list of questions to ask - journalists need to be inquisitive, so by asking questions you are demonstrating on of the skills of the job!
There follow some of the questions that might be specifically asked of students at interviews for journalism and other media jobs. General interview questions are not asked here, so you might also like to try the general or multiple choice interviews as well for standard interview questions that can be thrown at any candidate, also our answers to 150 common interview questions. Click on "First Question" to begin. Think carefully about how you would answer, then click on "Show Answer Tips" to get an idea of how you should be answering.
If you have been to an interview or assessment centre recently please fill in our interview report form to help other students.
- Why do you want to be a journalist?
- What are your interests?
This could help the interviewer check if you have an interest in current affairs, people, places and events. It could also help the interviewer establish what types of assignments you might be able to deal with.
- Why do you want to work in magazine/broadcast journalism and not on newspapers?
- What personal qualities do you have that you feel would make you a good journalist?
Talk about your writing skills, your willingness to sometimes work irregular hours, your determination to succeed and to work to deadlines.
- Who is your favourite journalist, and why?
- Describe yourself in two minutes.
Allows the selector to see if you can provide detailed, interesting and concise information. Think about skills and abilities you've acquired that apply to journalism and practice describing these.
- What do you think of the state of British journalism?
This offers you an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the industry, touch on the importance of freedom of the press etc.
- What are the differences between BBC and ITN news coverage?
- What books/magazines/newspapers do you read?
This can verifying your interest in writing.
- What are the most important things you have learnt from your work experience?
- Can you work under pressure?
Give an example. This shows that you can work to deadlines.
- How do you follow major news stories?
This gives you a a chance to demonstrate your awareness of television and radio news and of current affairs programmes.
- How would you get a local story?
Most local papers don't want to upset people. It's important to show your credentials, explain why you want to write a story and say where it will go in the paper. If the story is about a death, you could ask for a photo of their loved one. Most people are happy to talk, but if not give them your card and encourage them to contact you if they change their mind.
- Be very up to date on current affairs.
- Make sure you have plenty of questions to ask since the interview centres around your initiative.
- Questions were demanding and tested thinking on your feet.
A newspaper or magazine might give you a "subbing test". Here you would have to correct any spelling and grammatical errors in an article, cut it back to a given word count or space while still retaining the sense and main message, possibly re-write it and perhaps create a headline for it. They will be looking for good spelling and grammar, a good structure to the document and an economical and flowing writing style. It would not be necessary to use proof correcting marks, but if you could, it would be viewed positively.
You would probably be given an article appropriate to the publication. This might be an amended version of a real article with a variety of errors, a worst-case scenario of what you might face in the job. You might be told how many errors to look for. There will be typographical mistakes, grammatical mistakes and probably examples of poor style and awkward phrasing too. There may also be duplication as well as inconsistency of facts and layout to find.
A publication seeking an experienced sub-editor might expect them to sub a whole page, including sizing and captioning photographs and designing a page using a publishing software package, the main ones being In Design and Quark (you can download free demos of these programs from the links on our computing skills page). If you know the correction notation, that could be helpful but it's not essential and standards of candidates tend to be low so if you are good it could greatly enhance your chances. The toughness of testing depends on the prestige of the publication. National newspapers would expect extremely high standards. Low budget magazines might just take the best they can get.
There is an excellent on-line subbing test you can try at www.terrygault.co.uk/subtest.htm
You wil find a very good proofreading test at http://careers.guardian.co.uk/cv-mistakes
ZigZag Education have produced a Proofreading Training Pack which is good value
Also see our our Copywriting information (separate page) which includes information on the IPA Copy test