How to Interview a Journalist

Journalism is a high-pressure profession, so your candidate should be able to handle difficult interviews.

Journalism is a high-pressure profession, so your candidate should be able to handle difficult interviews.

Journalists are something of a rare breed. Since they're often required to talk to many different types of people, they tend to be "people people" who possess equal levels of charm, intelligence and an ability to think on their feet. When they decide to move on to jobs outside the world of journalism, they can be great additions to public relations or marketing teams and may excel in human resources, customer service or other jobs that require working with people. If you're going to interview a journalist for a job in or out of the media world, you can ask her some of the questions you'd ask any candidate, but you can also expect a little more.

Your Company

Whether the journalist you're interviewing is a candidate for a journalism job or something in the "real" world, she should still call on her skills as a journalist to do some homework before the interview -- this is a fundamental action journalists do. When she arrives at the interview, she should know something about what you do and the type of work she'll be doing. Ask her what she knows about the job, and about your company and its reputation. A savvy journalist will be able to answer these questions easily. From this, you'll be able to gauge her level of interest and investment in working with you.

Portfolio

Any journalist with any level of experience will have a portfolio of clips or samples of her work. Ask her to bring the portfolio to the interview, as it can be a great way to get the candidate talking about her past experiences and what types of work she's capable of doing. If she talks passionately about the work contained in the portfolio, it's a good indicator that she's passionate about her trade and will work diligently with your company as well.

Skills Test

Journalists in the 21st century are often jacks-of-all-trades with the ability to write stories, use cameras and recording devices, set up lighting, and root out stories from many different sources. These skills can transfer into many types of industries -- but a good way to know how those skills will translate is to ask her to perform a skills test during the interview. Ask her to perform a task related to your line of work, which will give you a good idea of her abilities. Likewise, you could also ask her to do a "working interview," in which you ask her to do the job in question for a day or so -- but keep in mind that the journalist will probably expect to get paid for any on-the-job try-out.

Rapport

Like any other worker, the journalist candidate will need to work well with others. As such, you should test her ability to establish a rapport with people by having her meet various key players among your staff. Ask your managers or section supervisors to sit with the journalist and ask some of the boilerplate interview questions about strengths and weaknesses, why she wants to work with your company, and how her skills translate into a job with your business. The good candidate will be able to gauge different personalities among the staff and find ways to establish rapport with everyone.

 

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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