Next Stop: Your Magazine Dream Job

How to Master Tough Media-Job Interview Questions

By Lauren Saxe

You scored the interview and now it’s time to prep for those tricky questions. You’ve gathered your back issues, stalked the website and social accounts and jotted down every little thing they may ask you. But what happens when you’re caught off-guard? We tapped the minds of experienced editors for their take on answering the impossible questions, so you can take a page from their playbook.

Why do you want to work here?

Sometimes the most basic queries can be the toughest to tackle. Lauren Phillips, Assistant Editor at Coastal Living, warns that it’s easy to get stuck in a rut with a bottled answer. When asked why you want to be part of publication, make sure to take it a step further: “I think it’s best to focus on what makes that brand or organization distinct from others and, more importantly, where you see potential in its growth and future,” she says. “It’s also an excellent opportunity to work in how you and your skill set and experience could help it reach that potential.”

What’s your greatest weakness?

One of the age-old tricks is to flip what could become a negative answer into something positive. Explain what skills you’ve developed over time and the steps that you’ve taken to remedy that weakness. Some brands may even ask you your least favorite thing about their publication and what you would do to make it better. Jennifer Ferrise, Senior Editor at InStyle, tackled this question with honesty and poise. “At first I was stumped,” she says. “I didn’t want to be insulting to the EIC, who clearly green lights every concept that goes to print. But at the same time I know that it’s an editor’s job to have an opinion, so I gave mine. Whether or not he agreed with my opinion, I think he respected my honesty.”

What makes you right for this job?

Along with having a point of view, having a sense of self-assurance always makes an answer stronger. But be careful not to confuse confident with cocky. “You have to straddle a fine line between being confident (explaining your strengths, looking like you’ve done your research) and coming across like ‘This is my job to lose,’” explains Lindy Segal, Style Social Media Editor at People.

What’s your favorite publication/section?

If there’s one thing all editors agree on, it’s research. You can never over prepare. They may not ask you about half the things that you studied, but you better be ready if they do. “While interviewing for my current job, where I work on three different home magazines, I was asked which was my favorite,” says Hannah Lavine, Market Editorial Assistant at Hearst Design Group. “Luckily I did my research, something you should always do before an interview, and gave unique reasons why I liked all three—which also showed that I understood each book’s message.”

Tell me about your experience.

You may already have your resume memorized top to bottom, but take time to reflect on what each bullet point really means. Interviewers typically have your resume right in front of them, so they want personal stories, rather than a regurgitation of your past positions. “I always tell people to look over their resume and come up with some anecdotes for each experience listed,” says Lavine. “You’re able to share with them something beyond the paper and that will make an impression.”

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