At our latest event Jo Dingley, editor at Canongate, talked us through her experiences of interviewing for jobs in editorial, and shared her top tips for getting those coveted entry level roles.
Jo started by describing the various roles in editorial, highlighting the importance of having an understanding of how the pieces of the editorial puzzle fit together, and noting that being able to specify which type of role you aspire to will help candidates get ahead. Though job seekers should be willing to gain experience wherever available, knowing what types of books you want to work with, and how you want to be involved in their development is useful. Considering whether you are aiming to be a production editor or a commissioning editor is a good place to start. Be ready to explain why you want to be an editor, not only because it is likely to come up during an interview, but also because it will be valuable in maintaining motivation during your job hunt.
Your goals and needs should not be forgotten during the interview process. Though there is a tendency to focus on what the interviewer is looking for, Jo highlighted that the company should also be aiming to woo interviewees. This holds true, despite the highly competitive nature of editorial positions.
Tests are often part of the application process for entry level roles in editorial departments. Jo mentioned taste tests, and recommended that job seekers keep a list of their top 10 recent books at the ready, along with proofreading tests, and readers’ reports prepared in advance.
Jo closed the session by asking us for the trickiest questions attendees had faced in interview situations, explaining what type of information she would expect in response. Different publishing houses will have different questions, and will be looking for different answers; however, the goal across the board is to determine how well you fit with the company and their culture.