I’ve been to a fair few job interviews in the past 4 years for jobs ranging from Editorial Assistant to Commissioning Editor. Afterwards, I wrote down as many of the questions I was asked as I could remember. Some of the interviews were more conversational than others, so there were fewer questions. I haven’t included my answers, because a) I didn’t write them down at the time, and b) I didn’t get most of these jobs so they would probably not be that useful! :P
The interviews I had were all at well-known trade publishing houses in London. I hope this will be helpful for people who are preparing for similar interviews!
Questions from an Editorial Assistant interview
- How do you cope with having multiple urgent things to do at the same time?
- What would happen if I (interviewer who this role supports) felt like you were doing things for other people but my stuff was getting neglected?
- What do you think your current manager would say about you if we asked him?
- Ultimately, are you more interested in working in managing editorial or commissioning?
For this interview, I was asked to prepare an idea for a new book that would fit the publisher’s list, and more questions arose from that. I also did a SPAG test.
Questions from an Assistant Editor interview
- What do you know about the company?
- What made you want to work in publishing?
- What career hopes do you have?
- What kind of books do you enjoy?
- How do you respond to conflicting priorities or juggling many things at once?
- What do you think makes good AI and jacket copy?
- Are you aware of the considerations involved in designing a book that will be co-editionable?
- Describe your current role.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses? (The interviewer said: ‘This is a cliche question but it does reveal something about self-perception’)
- Why are you interested in working with [genre]?
- (Talking about benefits of not being a native English-speaker): But on the other hand, does it put you at a disadvantage with more colloquial language and books that are written perhaps not in perfectly grammatical English?
- Sometimes, projects are running late because, say, we’re waiting for input from the author, and he is not responsive. How would you deal with this?
- What experience do you have in Picture Research?
- Do you check layouts at layout stage?
- What things do you pay attention to when you are checking plotters?
- Do you have any questions for me?
Questions from an Editor interview
- Tell us about your career history so far.
- What do you think makes you a good editor?
- Take us through the project-editing process from when you get the manuscript until the book is published.
- Do you have experience working with budgets?
- Have you worked with manuscripts a lot?
- Have you had to deal with a tardy author or freelancer?
- You say you have a close working relationship with your production department. Tell us about that.
- What do you know about [our company]?
- How do you feel about ebooks?
- Have you got any questions for us?
Questions from Commissioning Editor interviews
- How would you get access to a new author when there isn’t an existing relationship with them or their agent?
- What exactly would you say to the new author when first approaching them?
- If you started this job tomorrow, what would you do first?
- Tell us about your interest in [genre].
- What do you think a book needs to become a bestseller in this genre?
- Tell us about your current role.
- What do you think are the qualities you would need in this job to be successful?
- Do you write jacket copy?
- How familiar are you with the process of signing new authors?
- Do you know any agents?
- Which newspapers or magazines do you read to keep up with developments in this subject area?
- Would you miss working with [different kinds of books I was working with at the time]?
For one of these interviews I was asked to bring an idea for a new book for the list in question.