10 Essential Writing Interview Questions and Answers
If you love nothing more than to sit down with a blank piece of paper and let your thoughts flow from pen to page—or, for that matter, to sit down with a blank computer screen and let your thoughts flow from finger to pixel—then a writing position could be your next career move. For aspiring writers, the possibilities are endless, from creative writing to technical writing, from pithy social media posts to meticulous grant requests. But just because you’re a master wordsmith doesn’t mean you’re a virtuoso when it comes to your writing interview.
Once you’ve landed an interview for the writing role of your dreams, you’ll want to catch up on the interview basics and update your writing samples. Then, review our essential writing interview questions and answers below. You’ll ensure that your interview is just as compelling as your portfolio.
Table of contents:
- How do you prioritize projects?
- Do you prefer to work independently or with others?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- How do you incorporate feedback into your work?
- How do you capture a client’s voice?
- What’s your preferred communication style?
- What’s your experience with content management systems/design software/web publishing software?
- Tell me about a time when you experienced conflict and how you resolved it.
- What’s the last book you read?
- What is your experience with social media?
Unless you’re writing your novel full-time, every writer needs to know how to balance multiple projects. Your answer should reflect your organizational and time management skills, your ability to meet deadlines, and your ability to manage stress. Clearly state how you keep track of your various tasks (and their respective deadlines) and how you separate the less-important projects from the urgent ones. It can be helpful to tie your response to a specific work experience. Bonus points for mentioning that you re-assess priorities and needs on the regular!
“I use Asana to track project deadlines, and I work through multiple projects accordingly. It sends me a reminder every morning with all the projects due that week, so I immediately know if I’m falling behind—but I still have plenty of time to reprioritize and get back on track. I create a separate project folder for larger tasks, breaking them into more manageable pieces so that I can track my progress. If I have two urgent tasks at once, I’m a firm believer in transparent communication—I’ll go to my manager to see which is more important.”
Every job requires you to play well with others, but as a writer, you’ll be spending a lot of time working solo, followed by a lot of time partnering with other writers, editors, designers, and stakeholders. Your interviewer wants to ensure that you’re focused but versatile, so the best response should incorporate what you enjoy about each style of working:
“As a writer, I spend a lot of time in my head, so I love working independently. I can control the timeline, I can focus, and I can be sure the work is done well. But I also love working in groups because many brains are better than one. We can bounce ideas off each other, creating even better ideas.”
This classic interview question is your interviewer’s way of ensuring you’re there for the right reasons—and for the long haul. Make it known that you have no compunctions and emphasize what drew you to writing and to this specific company. You don’t have to have a detailed five-year plan, but ensure your career goals follow a natural progression from this position to more senior roles in the industry. A solid response might look like this:
“With this internship’s professional development opportunities, I’m hoping to get a role as a copy editor post-graduation. From there, I’d like to take on more senior roles, working my way up to a position in which I can mentor and manage other writers, such as managing editor or creative director at an agency.”
Put another way, this question is asking how you handle criticism. Not everyone can write, but everyone has an opinion. In your career as a writer, you’ll have to learn how to handle constructive, as well as less constructive, feedback. When you answer this question, emphasize that you understand that revision is a necessary part of the writing process. Your interviewer wants to know that you are flexible and open to edits—and that you won’t be offended by significant rewrites.
“No one knows everything, and I welcome the opportunity to learn from others and improve my writing. I’m a firm believer in always having a second—or a third—set of eyes on a piece of work before it goes out into the world. While I’ll stand by content choices that I believe in, I’m very receptive to feedback. In fact, I always have a peer copy edit my essays before I turn them in.”
Each writer has his or her own unique voice, but a writer working for a company needs to be able to put that aside and capture the brand voice. Your answer should reflect your flexibility—and your familiarity with the company’s existing content.
“Before writing for a client, I review their existing materials to get a sense of their voice. For example, before coming here, I read over your website and your blog. Your voice is authentic, warm, and friendly—and I’d bring that to anything I wrote for you.”
Your interviewer wants to ensure that you can communicate effectively in any situation—not just fluent long-form articles! Share the actual ways in which you communicate (in person, by email, etc.), and then describe your personal communication style, whether it’s straightforward, diplomatic, or more of a listener. And, as always, let them know that you’re adaptable, linking specific ways of communicating to specific situations. That could look like this:
“For a quick question, I use Skype or a text—it works great for a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ If I need to have an actual conversation, I pick up the phone. And I’ll schedule a meeting for any new project or more in-depth conversation; I like to make sure everyone’s prepared for a more involved discussion. I’m a big believer in being direct, so I try to be very straightforward and leave no room for confusion in my communications.”
Your interviewer wants to ensure you can produce great content, but they also may want you to get the content out into the world. Depending on the specifics of your role, they might want you to do some light design work, know the basics of WordPress, or understand email marketing. Be honest about your experience, and if you don’t know how to respond, highlight your ability to learn new tools quickly:
“I used InDesign in my Introduction to Marketing class last semester. While I only know the basics, I really enjoyed playing around with it, and my instructor was impressed by how quickly I picked it up. I have a knack for learning new programs and love to stretch myself, so I’m confident that I can learn any new programs you need me to know.”
In any job, you’ll be working with a lot of different people, and your interviewer wants to ensure that you can get along with others and stay cool under pressure. You can use the STAR method for this classic behavioral interview question. In telling your story, briefly describe the negative part of the situation, and then focus on the resolution and positive outcome.
“My classmate and I had very different ideas about how to move forward on a group term paper. We sat down and discussed each of our ideas, and soon realized they both had merit. So, we combined them and presented a unified, stronger front to the professor. By practicing empathy and understanding my classmate’s perspective, we wrote a great paper.”
Good writers read. Your interviewer is trying to learn more about you as a person and as a writer. You don’t need to talk about the last book you read—rather, focus on one you read, liked, and remember, and use it as a way to share something new about you. A solid, creative answer might look like this:
“I recently read Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt. As a writer, I’m always thrilled to read a book where I’m inspired by both the writing and the content. This book was so original, and his voice was so clever. When I read, I like to try all different genres and authors—it keeps my writing fresh, and it gets me out of my comfort zone.”
Writing is a form of communicating, and many writers are expected to know the major social media platforms so they can get their work out into the world and make it accessible to different audiences. Highlight all the platforms you know, big and small, and if you have any particular insights to share, go for it.
“I know all the basic platforms: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I’m well versed in writing for a specific platform, ensuring Instagram posts are image-focused, Twitter posts are succinct, and LinkedIn posts are purely professional. At my last internship, I used HootSuite to preschedule my posts to ensure consistency and quality.”
Whether you’re seeking to write the next great American novel or the next viral social media post, nailing your writing interview is a key first step in your writing career. If you research the company and have strong answers for these 10 questions—and know your way around an Oxford comma—you’ll be well on your way.