Applying for a coveted internship, freelance, or full-time position in magazine media? You may have dazzled during the initial interview, but the application process isn’t over just yet, dear whippersnapper. Completing an edit test is the best way for your potential employer to measure your creativity, research, writing and editing skills, and overall understanding of the magazine or website’s mission. So what must you do to prove you’re the ideal candidate for the job? Follow Ed’s checklist and you’ll ace your next edit test with flying colors.
Pssst! Ed is teaching a class on August 17 and 19: How to Ace An Edit Test. Sign up now!
Do Your Research.
The goal is to make your editor wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?” When Town & Country Senior Associate Editor Stephanie Wu completed an edit test, she was told that several of her ideas were already in the works at the magazine. Make sure your thinking is on the right track by grabbing—or downloading—the publication’s past six issues and looking at its website. Familiarize yourself with the type of content featured and how it’s presented, then incorporate that into your pitches.
Don’t forget to explore the outlet on its other platforms. InStyle.com Assistant Beauty Editor Marianne Mychaskiw always examines social media for reader commentary. “They might point out aspects you wouldn’t immediately notice,” she says.
Pitch Original Content.
Editors will toss tests with irrelevant, recycled, or duplicated material. “You wouldn’t believe how many edit tests I’ve seen where the first piece is literally something on our homepage,” says Kara McGrath, Fashion and Beauty Editor at Bustle.com. Pinpointing fresh stories requires more than just scouring Google, your favorite RSS feeds, and The New York Times. Research relevant surveys, reports, studies, and trends and find a news hook. Ask yourself, “How would this news service, benefit, interest, and engage this outlet’s reader?”
And please: never, ever regurgitate a press release. “Trust me, editors can always tell,” Wu says. “Press releases are vehicles for information. Just because they say something is news doesn’t mean there isn’t more information to be found with just a bit more digging.”
Capture the Outlet’s Voice.
“I hate when I get edit tests with things that clearly do not relate to a Cosmo girl,” says Dara Adeeyo, Managing Editor at XXL Magazine. Your job is to prove that you’re not only a resourceful writer, but that you can embody the brand and deserve to be on staff. Not being in a publication or website’s target demographic is no excuse for an out-of-place pitch.
Go Above and Beyond.
If you’re asked to provide one hed and dek for a potential print story, offer three solid sets instead. Need to compile a top 10 list? Include five extra examples. Then, imagine how the story could be presented through other platforms. How would it be different online or on a tablet? What type of art, video or infographic could enhance the piece? Perhaps prepare a Tweet to accompany the story.
Just don’t go overboard—text should remain simple and succinct. “I tend to believe that brevity is a good thing. Editors are typically busy and won’t want to read an opus when a few sentences would do,” says David Foxley, Contributing Editor at Worth.
Mind the Details.
Your editor isn’t only paying attention to copy—the entire presentation matters. This means consistent formatting, sending as few attachments as possible and saving your test as a PDF (unless specified otherwise). “I look for details and attention to directions,” says Adeeyo. “When someone sends something in a PDF it gives me a clue that they might be resourceful.”
Triple check your work for anything outside the Microsoft Word lexicon, read your work aloud, and have an extra set of eyes look at it before handing in. “I’m always my own worst critic, so I make sure to let a few of my friends take a look at my edit test,” says Mychaskiw.
McGrath agrees. “I like having my friends who aren’t writers look it over, to make sure it could resonate with a variety of people.”
Finally, send your test well before deadline—at least by a few hours. This proves to the editor that you’re resourceful, diligent, and not a procrastinator.
Want to learn more about edit tests from the pros themselves? Stay tuned for info about Ed’s annual “How to Ace Your Edit Test” class with Ed founder and Parents Executive Editor Chandra Turner.