10 Common Journalist Interview Questions (Sample Answers)

Do your prep so you can bag that job.

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Journalist Interview Questions

In the words of the late journalist, editor and newspaper publisher Robert C Maynard, “Journalism is not a profession or a trade; it is a crusade for truth”.

Indeed, thanks to journalists who uphold and honor this sentiment, we can keep up to date with current affairs and be informed in impartial ways about how the world is changing all around us. In fact, great journalists often help ignite or keep in motion that very change.

If you’re a recent graduate interested in this meaningful career path, or have been in the profession for a while and are looking for a new employer, read on. We’ll outline 10 common interview questions for journalists, and talk about why they’re asked and how to answer them!

1. “How do you manage tight deadlines?”

When interviewers ask about how you deal with and work under tight deadlines, they want to hear about the (healthy) coping mechanisms that allow you to navigate stress. Based on your answer, they’ll get a sense for how organized you are and how you manage your time and prioritize tasks.

After all, working in journalism requires you to race against the clock, gathering accurate information on events as they are happening and crafting informative, engaging stories on limited time.


Having worked in this field for a few years, I know all too well just how fast paced it can be. One important habit that I’ve formed which allows me to get my stories done as quickly and as accurately as possible is that of monotasking. Used with daily to-do lists and reminders — some days by the hour! — allows me to stay on track.

2. “Which of our writers is your favorite, and why?”

Like other common interview questions, such as “Why do you want to work for us?”, this question tests how familiar you are with the publication and the team behind it. Make sure you read a few stories before you attend the interview, as “I actually haven’t really read anything of yours” followed by an awkward silence won’t sit well with your interviewer.


My favorite journalist on your team is John Smith. I am also passionate about covering local current affairs, particularly politics, and I believe that he does so in a way that’s both informative and accessible. I thought his most recent opinion piece on press censorship was excellent.

3. “Which journalists do you admire?”

The people we look up to can reveal a lot about us, so it’s important to think about this question carefully. Although there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to your likes and dislikes, make sure that you can justify your choice of person (or people) here.

Think about the journalists that inspired you to begin your own career. Was it their storytelling ability that had you transfixed, or another skill or quality, such as their empathy? This will tell the interviewer what you value.


I have always found the work and career of Christiane Amanpour to be worthy of praise. Her contributions to journalism have been significant, and she has inspired many women with her courage to pursue the profession, including myself.

4. “Describe your writing process.”

If you’ve been in this profession for a few years, it’s unlikely that you consciously follow a mental checklist step by step when preparing to write; it most likely flows naturally and automatically.

Interviewers ask this question to figure out if you work methodically and efficiently, however. So, imagine that you’re observing yourself working away at your desk. What would you see?


The first step in my process is to gather information and verify my sources so I can ensure accuracy. Then, I consider the angle I intend to write from, giving emphasis to making my headline, opening line and first paragraph as powerful as possible. For the rest of the story, I follow a clear structure, knowing what I’ll be touching upon in each section.

5. “How would you help make our publication better?”

The way you answer this question will reveal how much “homework” you’ve done prior to your job interview.

You first need to acknowledge the things you do like about your prospective employer’s approach to journalism, and then correlate your own skills and work experience with it. Don’t just start listing all the things you think they could be doing better when answering this question!


I have seen that, in recent months, AB Media has expanded its team and began covering cultural news and events. This is an area of journalism I have extensive experience in. Over the years, I have formed a network of connections that allows me to stay up to date with the latest happenings, including small, niche events you otherwise wouldn’t hear about very easily.

6. “What do you read in your own time?”

Bestselling author Stephen King, who has sold over 350 million books around the world, has said the following: “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time to write. Simple as that.”

Reading is essential to improving your craft as a writer. If you receive this question during the interview, think about the online publications you follow on a weekly basis as well as any books (even ones unrelated to your profession!) you’ve recently read and enjoyed.


In terms of digital publications, I read the New York Times, typically with my cup of coffee in the morning! I particularly enjoy their word games, too. Where books are concerned, I am a fan of creative nonfiction. Some of my favorite writers include Tobias Wolff and Dorothy Allison.

7. “What software and tools do you use for work?”

An analysis by the National Skills Coalition and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has shown that 92% of all job roles require digital skills. Journalism, of course, is one of them.

As journalists harness technology for storytelling, staying up to date with breaking news, researching topics, and reaching their audience, it’s important to give the interviewer a sense that you’re confident in your computer skills.


Besides the obvious answer — word processors! — I am familiar with using content management systems, content research platforms and note-taking apps. I also make use of social media platforms for staying informed, connecting with my audience and generating story ideas.

8. “Describe a time when you pitched your own story.”

This is one of the most common journalist interview questions for people who have been in the profession for some time. If it is posed to you, you can presume that the interviewer wants to find out if you’re the type of person who takes initiative — an important quality, especially in journalism.

They’re also gauging your creativity and critical thinking, as identifying what stories will resonate most is another vital ability to have as a journalist.


When I was working at XY Media, I pitched a feature story on environmental pollution, wanting to draw attention to the long-term impact of poor air quality on people’s health. I am adamant in my belief that citizens deserve to know how detrimental our decision makers’ actions can be, such as the new intra-city freeway that was under discussion when my story went live.

9. “Give us some examples of your best work.”

By asking this question, the interviewer wants to gauge your own perception of what makes a story impactful, as well as find out what you enjoy working on and what some of your professional accomplishments are.

If you can, talk about measurable results here, such as a story that attracted high web traffic or a multimedia feature you worked on that won an award.


A story I’m really proud of is one I produced last summer. It started as an investigation into corruption in the health sector, and ended up evolving and combining different multimedia elements: audio interviews followed, as well as a short documentary.

10. “What qualities do you think a journalist must have?”

Though soft and technical skills (such as time management and using publishing platforms) can, to a large extent, be taught, personal qualities are often inherent parts of us. They, too, can be developed, but your “built-in” strengths can give you a natural boost when it comes to carrying out your job.

Think about other journalists you admire. What sets them apart? Is it their curiosity, determination, fearlessness or something else?


First and foremost, a great journalist must have excellent communication skills, particularly writing skills. They also need to have an inquisitive personality, integrity, and thick skin if they’re to come forward with a story that might be perceived as controversial.

Final thoughts

Going in for a job interview can be a nerve-wracking experience. The more you familiarize yourself with common interview questions and practice forming your own answers, however, the easier the process will be.

Remember to start early, read into the history of the publication you’ve applied to work at, and approach the interview process with authenticity and honesty. After all, these are two qualities that help journalists earn people’s respect — and what better way to show you have what it takes than to let your true colors shine through at the interview?

We hope you found our list of journalist interview questions and answers helpful. Can you think of any more questions to add to our list? Let us know in the comments section below.

Originally published on October 14, 2014.