Through hard work and a bit of luck, you’ve landed an interview for your first journalism job. Congratulations. Now you’ve got to impress your potential employer and explain why you’re the perfect person for the job.
Luckily, newsroom managers have asked interviewees roughly the same set of questions for years. Take this time to practice your answers for the big interview. And to help, here’s a list of the most common questions and how to answer them.
Tell me a little bit about yourself?
This is an open-ended question. You have different avenues for answering this. You could talk about your childhood growing up (hometown, family size, hobbies, etc.) or you could talk about your last four years in college (classes taken, internships held, extracurricular activities, etc.) Most often, a recent graduate will want to answer with a combination of personal and professional. Tell the employer about your hobbies (and perhaps your favorite food or TV show) then tell the employer about the steps you’ve taken so far to try and land a job in journalism. Also, be sure not to drag on and on about yourself.
What got you interested in journalism in the first place?
Whatever you do, do not answer this question with “I’ve wanted to be a journalist ever since I was a child” or “I’ve been interested in news for as long as I can remember.” Employers have heard that particular answer for decades. You will not be looked upon favorably if you give the “since I was a child” answer. Even if that’s the truth, know that employers view that answer as trite. Your best bet here is to be honest, even if the real answer is that you’re trying out journalism for now because you did well in journalism classes.
What’s your favorite story you’ve worked on so far and why?
If possible, you want to select a story you’ve already included in your application material. That way, the employer will likely have read it and have a working knowledge of its content. For the why portion, you want to tell an employer that you loved this story because it allowed you to flex a certain skill that you’ve acquired in college. Ultimately, you want to connect that story to a talent you have and a talent that you’re excited to bring to this new job. Employers love hearing about a tangible skill you’ve honed.
What makes you interested in working for (insert company name)?
To properly answer this question, you need to do a ton of research on the company. Go online and learn as much as you possibly can. In your research, find something that the company is doing that excites you. Once you’ve done that, make sure you mention it during this question. Maybe the company is investing in audio storytelling and you love that, or they have a program for professional development that you’d benefit from. Ultimately, the best answer to this question is mentioning something that the company is already doing that you want to participate in as well.
What would you say are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
For strengths, you probably want to say that you have a solid foundation in journalistic skills and that you’re eager to become an even better storyteller. You could also mention that you’re energetic, savvy on social media, and full of ideas. For weaknesses, it’s good to mention something that really wouldn’t harm your ability to work as a journalist. For example, say something like you keep a messy desk or you forget to eat lunch some days. If you want to mention a journalistic flaw, just make sure you follow that up with any steps you’re taking to get better in that respect.
Why should we hire you?
There’s no perfect way to answer this question. With this one, you have to basically sell yourself. Only you know why you want this job. Articulate those reasons. Focus on explaining what you do well and why those particular skills are absolutely fundamental to the job. If there are any experiences or talents that other candidates probably don’t have (foreign language, studying abroad, data visualization, etc.), make sure to mention those. Do not compare yourself to anyone else the employer has already interviewed. Your ideal answer should be honest and humble with a sprinkle of confidence.
Do you have any questions for me?
There are two wrong answers here. First, you shouldn’t be asking about salary just yet. Second, you shouldn’t say that you don’t have any questions. You should always have questions, even if it’s just one. You are allowed to ask how soon the employer is looking to make a decision. You are also allowed to ask why this particular position became open. One solid question to ask is: What characteristics does someone need to excel in this position? You can also ask “What did the previous person holding this job do well and what new skills need to be brought into this role?”