Practice questions to EXCEL in your Magazine Editor job interview

In the age of digital media, being a Magazine Editor ain't what it used to be. The good news is that when interviewing for this role, there are common questions hiring managers ask, and we've got them ready!

Real people don’t speak like actors in movies. The best-organized road trips rarely go as planned. And public speaking is so much messier than good writing.

So it’s not a surprise that being a master magazine editor doesn’t necessarily make you great at talking about yourself. Even if you’re a Steinbeckian wordsmith on the printed page, you’ll need to practice to nail your upcoming job interview.

Practicing for interviews is a critical way to improve your confidence leading up to the big day.

So, without further ado, read on to find some great practice interview questions for the role of a magazine editor. We’ve added notes to provide tips and context. Enjoy!

1. Can you name a publication, online or print, that you read nearly every day?

How would you feel about seeing a dentist who never flosses? Or going to a restaurant where the chef only eats canned soup?

Your interviewer is going to want to see that you care about the work that a magazine editor does because you care about magazines. Asking about your favorite periodicals is a great way to do that.

Plus, answering this question will give you a great chance to let the interviewer know something about your personality. Do you love gossip mags or more intellectual fare? Are you The Economist or People?

Obviously, honesty is the best policy here. Lying about the type of magazines you enjoy is a great way to get an offer from a job that you won’t actually like in the long run.

But you can also, shall we say, tailor your answer to fit the occasion. If you read a variety of publications (like we all do) you’ll definitely want to focus on the ones most similar to the place you’re applying at.

And, if you do, make sure to note that you read the interviewer’s publication. A little honest flattery never hurt anyone. If it’s not currently true, well, you can make it so by catching up on some of their old issues before the interview.

2. Can you describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult writer?

Sometimes the word “editor” conjures up images of calculating word smiths sifting through copy in a back room. But any seasoned magazine editor knows that’s only part of the job.

If you want to make this job your career, you need to show that you’re great at working with writers. That may mean correcting writer mistakes gently. It may even mean hiring and firing writers.

So your prospective employer is going to want to know that you’ve had experience managing writers before.

As we’ve said before, the best way to answer these kinds of questions is with a story. Stories are naturally compelling and help to structure answers that might otherwise ramble on.

So, pick an instance in your career when you’ve had to work with a difficult writer and talk about it. You’ll want to try to find a time when you were the critical piece in finding a resolution. Then explain some of the things you learned from the experience.

By relating a time when you solved a problem with a difficult writer, you’ll be showing the interviewer that you do indeed have experience managing writers. You’ll show that you know how to mediate conflict. And, you’ll show that you grow from those experiences.

If you’re early in your career, or haven’t had much experience working with writers, dodge the question by choosing something else. Pick a time when you’ve mediated conflict as a member of a volunteer organization or even amongst friends.

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3. How do you believe print magazines can stay relevant in the modern day?

Newsflash! Times are not great for print journalism. There are still lots of great print and online publications out there, but most have experienced hardship over the last decade.

And most magazine employees know this. Downsizing is part of their worldview. I experienced that first hand when I worked at a magazine back in 2012. My manager regularly explained that it was a great industry to be in, but I always should assume my job could disappear anytime.

That’s because readership and ad revenues continue to shrink. The magazines that have survived have found new ways to stay relevant.

They’ve used a variety of tactics, like pivoting to an online-first presence like Newsweek or rebranding in significant ways like Ad Age.

But most are still fixated on finding that next hot thing that could save them if readership doesn’t pick up.

That’s part of the point of bringing in new editors. How will they keep our publication fresh? How will you keep the publication fresh?

I’m not here to tell you about the future of magazines, but it’s something that you should have an opinion on. You should practice sharing that opinion to nail this question in your interview.

My last piece of advice is not to worry too much about perfection. You don’t need to be a business-whiz. Most of the time, employers are just looking to see that you think seriously about the future of your medium.

4. What do you see as the future of our brand?

Magazines and other written publications are probably the most branded entities you can find. They have an image. They have a voice. They have special segments and logos and names that people understand to mean something specific.

So the hiring manager isn’t going to be looking for someone who’s a generally competent magazine editor. They want someone who’ll be a great editor for their magazine.

That’s why they’ll probably ask for perspective on the magazine itself. What do you like about it? What don’t you? If you had the power to change it, how would you?

The best way to prepare for these types of questions is to have been a reader of the magazine for many years.  The second best is to do your research.

5. Why do you want this Magazine Editor job?

Hiring Managers want to hire people who are passionate about what they do. They want to feel your passion and desire for the position you are interviewing for.

A Hiring Manager's job is to hire someone who is committed to succeeding within the company. Now is the time to convey just how much you want this job.

You might say something like…

“I have always loved to write. Since I was a young child I could be found sitting in my room, writing away. As I progressed through school, my love for writing only got stronger and stronger. I worked jobs in other industries, and I found myself sneaking around writing stories in my journal when I could catch a break. That's when I knew it was time to get serious about writing as a career. Working as a Magazine Editor is a job that I worked towards for years. I started out freelancing, and eventually got a job as a contributing writer. Over time my desire to become more involved with the publications I worked for increased. I love being involved in the creation of content and I really see myself doing a great job with it.”

6. What personal attributes make you well-suited for a Magazine Editor position?

Hiring Managers want to hire people who are confident in their abilities. You should be your own biggest supporter! You must be able to effectively market yourself and your winning attributes so that you will stand out in a sea of candidates.

Take some time to think about your answer. Be prepared to convince the Hiring Manager that you are the most qualified Magazine Editor around.

You might say something like…

“I was working as a contributing writer at a magazine. My boss would call me in once or twice a week and ask me to read other writers stories and offer advice or suggestions. It was a pretty small publication, but she knew I had a knack for writing and editing. Although editing wasn't my job at the time, my passion for writing was what led me to take on the extra work. I didn't mind. It felt so natural to me. That's how my first job as an editor started. A few months later, I got the title and it all became official. I helped writers to choose and finalize stories, and I became a big part of shaping the magazine's mission. Once again, my passion for writing and editing helped to guide my career. It is that passion for writing and editing that I consider my best attribute.”

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7. Can being a Magazine Editor ever be stressful or challenging? If so, how do you deal with the challenges that arise?

Hiring Managers are looking to see how you respond to challenging situations. It is important that you showcase a positive attitude. It will display that you’re a person who can rise up in the face of adversity.

You should communicate your ability to problem-solve and ease tense situations. This is also a great chance to highlight your character and strengths as a person.

You might say something like this…

“As far as I know, any job comes with challenges or stresses. Being a Magazine Editor involves a lot of organization, creativity, effective time management, and planning. There is always something to do, and usually a writing piece on your desk that needs reviewing or editing. While this kind of fast-paced work environment is not for everyone, believe it or not, it's something I enjoy. When we plan an issue, the planning and execution of that issue occupies my mind and body until it is finished. I think this kind of drive stems from my passion for the business. So while it may be challenging to always get things together on time, it's really what makes me tick.”

8. Why should we hire you?

Hiring Managers want to hire people with self-confidence and determination. You should be able to explain why you are the best choice for the job.

Be clear concise, and convincing! It’s best to avoid cautious words like “I think,” “maybe,” or “I’ve heard that.” You are the best person for the job and all that’s left is to convince the hiring manager.

You might say something like this…

“I'm sure you have many qualified candidates. But my experience, qualifications and love for this business sets me apart from the rest. My career thus far has been perfect preparation for the demands of this position. I'm confident I can deliver the results your magazine is looking to achieve.”

Feeling unsure about this one? Imagine what kind of person you would hire for this role if you were the hiring manager. Tell your interviewer what you think they should be looking for, and how you meet those needs.

It’s all just words

So, you Steinbeckian wordsmith you, are you feeling ready to wow some hiring managers with your answers?

As a final piece of motivation, I’ll remind you that even the best writers recognized the value of practice. Hunter S. Thompson famously typed out F. Scott Fitzgerald novels over and over to get the “feel” of his words.

So, to become a great interviewee, all you need to do is practice with the same zeal you already feel for your profession. That’s the best, and only way, to prove that you have the write stuff.

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