Interview Mistakes to AvoidAside from making sure you look professional and you are on time -- two things you must do -- you want to make sure you’ve studied the right topics to ensure the interviewer doesn’t stump you on any questions. Although you shouldn’t think of an interview as an antagonistic situation -- most interviewers aren’t trying to test you or catch you off-guard -- you don’t want to draw a blank when you’re asked a question. For this reason, you should study up on a few things, and come up with answers to potential questions, before the big day.
Questions You Can ExpectOne of the biggest pet peeves you will hear editors and hiring managers complain about, when it comes to interviewing, is talking to candidates who don’t know their company or their publication. This doesn’t mean that if you’re interviewing at an imprint of Random House you need to know the history of the publisher. However, if you’re interviewing at, say, Knopf (a literary imprint at Random House), you should know some background on the division. What kinds of books does Knopf publish? Who are its authors? What are your favorite books that Knopf has published?
The theme of knowing where you’re interviewing carries over to various facets of media. When I was interviewing for jobs out of college, mostly editorial assistant positions at magazines, I knew about those magazines. I knew generally the general topics they covered, and I had studied them. Therefore, when I was asked questions like, ‘What’s your favorite section of the magazine?’ I had an answer at the ready. Other questions that might have stumped me, had I not prepared, were: ‘What’s one thing you would change about the magazine, if you have the opportunity?’ And: ‘If you were going to write a story for us tomorrow, what would it be about?’
To answer any of the above questions about a publication, you need to know it inside and out. It won’t do to simply know that Sports Illustrated covers sports or that Entertainment Weekly covers entertainment. You need to know specific stories the magazine published recently and you need to know the recurring sections of the magazine. (The New Yorker, for example, devotes its front-of-the-book to shorter pieces about a wide array of topics. This section is famous and it’s called “Talk of the Town.” Now if you strolled into an interview at The New Yorker, and didn’t know what “Talk of the Town” was, you’d probably blow your chance of getting the job.)