Why do you want to work for our agency/publishing house/newspaper?

Praise them. Love them. Make them believe that they are superior to the rest of the field. Most people in publishing business have unrealistic idea about their work. If you went to ten publishing houses/agencies in a big city, and asked the leaders which publisher is the best one, nine out of ten would give the award to their own company.

Have a look at their best works. The books that won awards, authors that sold millions of copies (or thousands of them), the papers that are somewhere on the bestseller list (even in the second half). Tell them that you love their style and coverage, that they have an excellent choice of writers to work with, and that you believe to fit in their team of editors. The more you praise them, the better your chances to succeed in this interview will be.


Tell us something about your editor’s experience

You should have samples of your work with you. Copies of the awards and accolades you received (on any level, even regional, or awards you won at school), books where they can see your name on the second page, next to the word Editor.

Without having any previous experience, you have very little chances to succeed in this interview. On the other hand, each experience counts. Do you have a profile on freelancer.com website? Have you done some excellent work for your clients? Got five star reviews? Print these things or bring your laptop with you and login to your profile to show them how great you are!

In an ideal case, you should have some experience with the type of publication they specialize in. Talk about it in your interview.


Here is a short piece of a manuscript. You have fifteen minutes to edit it. Do your best.

Practical tests (of various extend and difficulty) belong to nearly every interview for a job of an editor. To do well in the test, you should get some grasp of their editing style, the language they use, the syntax, the overall feel of the articles. Reading some of their publications should help you greatly to understand these things.

Once you are assigned the task, take your time, and work on it systematically. Do not let the presence of another person to distract you. They may make some mistakes in the text, on purpose, and include some tricky combinations of words. Do not let them to derail you. Just focus on your task, in a calm and cheerful manner.

* May also interest you: Journalist interview questions.

A chief editor is not satisfied with the work of his employees, and argues over the phone.

How do you ensure to meet the deadlines in your editing work?

Publishing is a business. Forget about art, or about working on the books that have an actual artistic value. Companies focus on publishing for masses, spitting out a huge quantity of low quality books that resemble each other in both topics and style. Story of newspaper is the story of the same man, wearing another jacket :).

They want you to work fast, in order to adhere to their publishing plan, and to see heaps of cash pouring in their pockets. Meeting deadlines is crucial in this job. Say them that you do not mind working overtime, or taking your work home. Say that you know how to prioritize your working duties, and how to plan your work on a book/article to manage to edit it on time. That’s likely the most you can do in this case.


Imagine that the author of an article/book did not like your edit, and argued with you. What would you do?

Unless their second name is Rowling or King, they have to listen to publishers. At least if they do not want to end up on a junkyard of millions of self-published authors, who work a lot and earn pennies from “thieves” like Amaz00n…

Tell the hiring managers that you will stick to your style, and edit the work primarily for the readers. Of course it is great to achieve a balance, the desired equilibrium, when reader, author, and publisher are all satisfied. This happens rarely though.


What are your salary expectations? What payment model do you prefer?

Say that you prefer to be paid on number of words/pages basis, if possible. Or you can say that you will accept their standard model of payments, one they follow with other editors. Such an answer says a few good things about you:

  • That you are flexible and willing to accept their rules, instead of making your own.
  • That you want to work hard, and do actual work, instead of just sitting in your comfy office and receiving a thick paycheck, regardless of the amount of text you edited each month.

Special Tip: Download a full list of questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later:

interview questions for editors, PDF

How do you deal with criticism?

In my experience, many big egos work in the publishing business. But you should not belong to them–unless you want to be stuck at the same place, both as a person and as an editor.

Tell the interviewers that you actually embrace criticism, and take it seriously, since it helps you to understand your audience, and to become better in your work.

You can even narrate a real story, when you had a vivid discussion with one of your clients/colleagues about your work, they were not satisfied, you learned something from their criticism, and eventually improved your work.


What do you expect from the chief editors and other people in the office?

You can say that you expect professionalism, clear communication, and friendly attitude. No less than what you want to bring to the workplace.

Nevertheless, you should expect a lot from one person only–from yourself. Tell the chief editor (or anyone else who leads the interview with you), that you want to focus on your job, and on things you can control in work.

Say that you have high expectations on yourself, and do not think much about the work of the others. Other people in the publishing house respond for evaluating the work of the employees–promoting them, praising them, criticizing them, and dismissing them. It’s not your job…

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Matthew Chulaw
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