Questions to Ask During a Media Job Interview

Person in a job interview

OJO_Images / Getty Images

The joy you had when you landed a media job interview has probably been replaced by worrying about what you may be asked when you're in the hot seat. It's important to think about what you want to find out about the job during the interview because the answers you get from a potential boss will give you insight into whether the job is right for you and help you avoid being the victim of a bad job interview. Prepare yourself with these eight questions to ask during your media job interview. 

What is Your Management Background?

A simple question gets the conversation going. You want to know whether you and your potential boss have a common past. If you've held the same types of jobs, lived in the same states, or have some other connection, mention it. It sets you apart from the others who are interviewed and lets you find out whether you share links—like that you used to live in Los Angeles, and that's where they went to college.

In media, these answers also tell you whether his background is creative, financial, or managerial. If you're a creative writer, you may want someone else with creative skills as a boss, rather than someone whose focus is on following the company policy guide.

What's Your Perfect Day Like as a Media Manager?

This question gets you into the heart of the person who may lead you because you've moved beyond the facts of their background to their hopes and dreams. An answer like, "A perfect day would be me on the golf course, with the office running itself," may be just a lighthearted response, but it could signal that the boss is less hands-on. That might allow you to have more control over your day, without someone breathing down your neck.

In contrast, a response like, "We'd have a world exclusive on our magazine cover and sell out all of our advertising space," shows the boss is competitive with specific goals. You can decide if you thrive best with a highly-driven leader in news management.

What Are the Management Challenges You Face?

Asking this will show you the frustrations in this workplace. If you hear, "There's never enough money to cover stories the way I want," this may indicate that this manager may have financial battles and might even be bitter about it. "Every time I get new hires trained, they leave," might indicate that there are personnel issues or that it's not a happy work environment. On the positive side, it could simply be a case of new hires being incredibly ambitious and getting better jobs elsewhere. Every media manager faces obstacles of some kind, including ratings pressure and keeping employees happy. Don't let the responses immediately scare you from accepting the job, use them as insight.

Where Do You See Yourself in Five or Ten Years?

You need to know if your potential boss plans on sticking around. If they hit the road six months later, you're left proving yourself again to a new boss, without having time to create a track record of achievement. There's nothing wrong with a manager who has personal ambition; you can end up following them up the corporate ladder or replacing them when they move on. However, it's important to know if they have their eyes on the exit door as they're interviewing you. If they do, you may not get the training you need to get started correctly.

What Do Your Competitors Do Better Than You?

If the answer is, "nothing," then the walls are still up—you've likely not made your way into the manager's head or heart. Even if the job is a top company, there has to be something admirable they see in a competitor. You want to know where the manager wants to take their team because whatever they think a competitor does better is where they'll put their focus. "They break stories faster than we do," gives you an opening to tout how you've hustled to get an exclusive. "They have more Facebook fans," presents a way to emphasize your social media skills.

What Happened to the Previous Person to Hold the Job?

Now your attention shifts from getting to know your possible new boss to finding out more about the job. Learn what was expected of the person who held the position and whether the outcome ended happily. "It just didn't work out," could set a low bar that you can easily leap across, or maybe it shows that unreasonable expectations were made. In either case, you need to find out more, though personnel policies may prevent the manager from telling you everything. "She won a Pulitzer Prize and now works for a national newspaper," presents the opposite issue; you will likely feel there are huge shoes to fill, but at least you know the company produces great work.

How Much Does the Media Job Pay?

There are risks in asking this question too early or too directly. You don't want to appear as though money is all you care about, but you also shouldn't show that you assume you're getting the job just by being in the office. Wait for the manager to bring up the subject. If they're talking about employee benefits, cost-of-living, or whether there's an employment contract to sign, then it's natural to ask. Prepare yourself in case the manager throws a question back at you like, "How much do you think it pays?" or "What would it take to get you to accept the job?" because this is usually an attempt at getting you to say a number. In a friendly way, avoid answering this question.

If you say $75,000 and the manager was prepared to offer you $100,000, you've likely cost yourself a lot of money. It's better to say you don't know the cost of apartments in his city or the condition of the local advertising market, so it would be impossible for you to guess. You want the manager to give the dollar figure.

What's Next in Your Search?

As you're leaving the interview, you deserve to know where the manager goes from here. They need to tell you how and when they'll make a decision. Don't be disappointed if you didn't get hired on the spot; some managers have to check with their own bosses before inviting you to join the company. Ask if you can email or call to check with them in a couple of days or weeks. Make sure to promptly send a follow-up thank you note for the interview. Most interviews will leave you with excitement, yet some concerns. Weigh all of the manager's answers instead of just the ones that turned you off —that's what they're doing as they consider you. That way, you'll make the right decision when considering whether they're the one to lead you as you move up in your media career.