From Classroom to Newsroom: 24 Essential Interview Tips for New Journalists

Congratulations, newly-minted journalists! You’ve made it through all of your classes, internships and endless hours in the newsroom. But now the real work begins of launching your journalism career. While having a degree gets your foot in the door, you’ll need to be tech-savvy and utilize every tool in your arsenal as you start your career. Now it’s time to interview for journalism gigs — which is both an art and a science. It requires a blend of strategic preparation, quick-thinking and selling your unique storytelling abilities.  

This is no time for writer’s block. Approach these media job interviews like you’re on a deadline for the biggest scoop of your life. As you prepare for those make-or-break interviews, keep these 24 essential tips from veteran journalists and hiring managers in mind. 

  1. Do an In-Depth Recon
    Leave no digital stone unturned when researching each potential employer. Study their About pages, top bylines and award winners, and get a strong sense of their brand voice and coverage priorities.
  2. Become One With the Job Posting
    Print it out in 126 pt font and tape it to your mirror for maximum osmosis. Their wish list is your command — come locked and loaded with real-world examples that prove you were born for this role.
  3. Have Insightful Questions on Deck
    Come prepared with 8-10 thoughtful questions that demonstrate you’ve done your homework. Steer clear of questions they’ve already answered on their website — make them think and try to stump them.
  4. Build an A+ Portfolio
    Assemble a portfolio of your absolute best published (or even unpublished) work across mediums — including articles, videos, podcasts and photo spreads. You’ll use these clips to showcase your serious reporting chops. This is your chance to razzle and dazzle ‘em!
  5. Dress Like You Belong on the Masthead
    Leave those sweats and wrinkled tees at home — this is your grand entrance into the hallowed halls of journalism. Make a powerful first impression in sharp, sophisticated business attire. You want to look every bit the accomplished journalist when walking through those doors.
  6. Flex Your Multimedia Muscles
    Today’s newsrooms need multimedia dynamos who can edit, shoot, code and podcast. Highlight these highly valued digital skills and your willingness to cross-train.
  7. Bring Story Ideas
    Develop unique, thought-provoking story pitch ideas that would interest their specific audience. It shows off your creativity and news judgment.
  8. Suss Out Editorial Philosophies
    Ask about their journalistic philosophies and policies around the use of perspective/opinion versus straight reporting. You want admirable ethics aligned with your own.
  9. Know the News
    Study up on recent major news stories. You’ll likely get quizzed on the day’s headlines as a basic test of your newsworthiness and subject matter expertise. Stay sharp on all things tied to current events.
  10. Underscore Your Versatility
    Emphasize your eagerness and experience wearing multiple hats in an evolving media landscape. From reporting to editing and producing, you can do it all.
  11. Get Data Literate
    Highlight any experience using data journalism tools, databases and data visualization methods like mapping and charts. These analytical skills are in high demand.
  12. Illustrate Your Personal Brand
    Discuss your portfolio website, social media strategy and how you’d grow the outlet’s audience with unique engagement ideas and a knack for self-promotion.
  13. Practice Responding Out Loud
    Prepare verbal responses beforehand to common interview questions about your career motivations, ethical decision-making examples, areas of improvement and more.
  14. Showcase Stellar Source-Building
    Highlight your skills at cultivating reliable source networks and experts in your coverage areas. Outlets need well-connected reporters hitting the ground running.
  15. Spotlight Your Principles
    Discuss your experiences upholding key journalistic ethics around sourcing, fact-checking, transparency and editorial independence. Integrity is paramount.
  16. Assess Cultural Fit on Both Sides
    Ask insightful questions about things like work-life balance, collaborative environment, DEI efforts and growth opportunities to gauge if it’s a healthy fit for you too.
  17. Inquire About Emerging Tech
    Ask what emerging tools and platforms like AI, AR/VR and data analytics they’re exploring as journalism rapidly evolves. It shows you’re forward-thinking.
  18. Get Hip to Evolving Biz Models
    Whether subscription, non-profit or ad-supported, understand their revenue model and ask smart questions about the path ahead to demonstrate business savvy.
  19. Bring Your Performance
    For broadcast roles, be ready to complete mock anchoring, reporting or live-shot exercises to showcase your polish and confidence on camera.
  20. Clarify Your Core Credo
    Maybe it’s speaking truth to power, elevating overlooked voices or democratizing information. Whatever fuels your fire, make sure you can deliver a clear, impassioned elevator pitch on why you’re called to this vocation as a storyteller and truth-seeker. Don’t be afraid to get lofty here.
  21. Research Your Interviewers
    Spend time learning about each interviewer’s background, coverage areas and recent work so you can customize thoughtful questions.
  22. Craft Custom Conversations
    Have 2-3 tailored questions ready to go for each interviewer based on their specific roles, experiences and interests as journalists. It shows attention to detail. This is your chance to show off your curiosity and insight that separates memorable journalists from human teleprompters.
  23. Say Thank You
    Within 24 hours of interviewing, send individualized thank-you emails expressing gratitude to each person you spoke with. Timeliness and courtesy go a long way.
  24. Prepare to Negotiate
    If you get hired, don’t simply accept the initial offer. Be prepared with a strategy to diplomatically negotiate aspects like salary, benefits and start dates to your advantage.

Remember, this is your time to shine! Interviews mark an opportunity to showcase reporting skills, hustle, multimedia talents and that intangible passion that newsrooms covet. Ace your interviews by turning in portfolios that dazzle, demonstrating subject matter expertise, displaying boundless curiosity and exemplifying a growth mindset. Most importantly, ensure interviewers understand your deep reverence for truth, context and ethical journalism’s vital role in society. 

Follow these 24 tips to blitz past the competition and land your dream journalism job in 2024. The future of the industry depends on go-getters like you!  

Subscribe to Beyond Bylines to get media trends, journalist interviews, blogger profiles, and more sent right to your inbox.

Sarah McGrew - Cision
Sarah McGrew
Recent Posts

Sarah is a Training Consultant for PR professionals specializing in media monitoring and social media monitoring software. She's passionate about developing effective strategies for teams in a variety of different markets and developing efficient workflows for comms teams. When she's not circling the globe on her next adventure, you can find her on the kickball field, down on the beach, or exploring with her two pups. 

You may also like...