I’ve interviewed for a lot of writing jobs. I’ve also interviewed, and hired, a handful of writers in the past. I’ve made more mistakes than I’m willing to admit — and I’ve seen too many writers make those same mistakes. The interview process for writing jobs is rough. But if you do it right, it’s worth it.
Editors generally assume everyone that wants to submit to a publication on a regular basis writes good, clean, well-researched content. But it’s not enough to be an exceptional writer. You have to prove you’re the right person for the job — and sometimes, you only have one chance to do that.
Here’s what an editor is “grading” you on.
When I was the managing editor of a small magazine, I was in charge of “hiring” writing interns. This process involved reviewing resumes, writing samples, and conducting interviews. I had one prospective writer miss her interview, convince me to reschedule it, trick me into hiring her, and then quit in the middle of her internship because she couldn’t do the work. I should have known not to give her a second chance.
If you say you’re going to turn something in on Friday at noon, you should turn it in on Friday before noon. If you only have one chance to show an editor you’re going to follow through on your promises, show them you can do it — and be prepared to do it again, and again, and again.
A curious writer will make it much further — in a hiring process and in their career as a whole — if they ask worthwhile questions. I always make it clear that I’m genuinely curious about the subjects I would be covering if I wrote a piece for a certain magazine. And on the other side of things, I always hesitated hiring writers who never had any questions about the job that genuinely impressed me.
Writers who ask good questions increase their chances of getting hired. I was able to turn my phone interviews for my current writing job into actual productive conversations because I took my turn asking questions, and I’ve always assumed that’s one reason I earned the position.
A future-focused mind
Resumes have a purpose. I’m not saying what you’ve already done doesn’t matter — quite the opposite, actually. But that’s not the only thing that matters to an editor. They also want to know that you can break away from the past and look ahead.
I don’t want to only know about what you’ve done in the past. I want to know what you plan on doing in the future. I once interviewed for a company in which the editor on the other end of the phone line asked, “What’s a project you hope to complete at some point in your future?” That question really impressed me. It made me think. I don’t know if my answer mattered, but the point was to see if I could think about things that hadn’t happened yet.
Keep these things in mind when submitting work or applying for writing jobs. And if you have any other points to add, you’re more than welcome to do so in the comments below!
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.