Supported content from City, University of London Journalism Department
January 9, 2023 (Updated )
So, you’ve put together your application for a journalism MA course and have now been invited for an interview. Usually, as journalists we’re used to being the ones asking the questions — so how’s best to prepare for your turn in the hot seat?
To help you on your way, we’ve asked lecturers and students from City, University of London, one of the UK’s leading courses, to run through what happens on the day and how you can give yourself the best chance of success.
When Will I Be Invited To An Interview?
First things first, it’s worth stressing that not all journalism masters courses require you to attend an interview. For example, the International Journalism MA at City will assess you entirely based on your written application — although all of their other MA journalism courses will require an interview — so make sure to do your research before you apply.
If a course does require an interview, generally you can expect to hear within one month of submitting your initial application. You will then be invited for an interview online or in person, depending on the course.
It doesn’t matter how your interview is conducted, assures Jason Bennetto, City’s senior lecturer in Magazine Journalism. “It certainly won’t reduce your chances of being offered a position on the course if you aren’t able to come in person,” he says. In fact, some courses offer online interviews as standard.
He adds: “I do recommend coming to City for an open day if possible — where you get to meet other applicants: your fellow cohorts, your course tutors, and see our cutting edge facilities. That can be really useful to experience beforehand.”
“We won’t discriminate against anyone who might be away or can’t come down for the interview. It certainly won’t reduce your chance of being offered a position on the course if you aren’t able to come in person."
Jason Bennetto, Senior Lecturer
How To Prepare For An MA Journalism Interview
Perhaps the most important thing to do ahead of your interview is to go through your original application to the course. Take a bit of time to go through your answers and think about what people might want to know more about if they didn’t know you — it could even be worth asking a friend to look through it to see if there are any gaps.
It will help also to be crystal clear why you are applying for a particular MA programme and what you’re hoping to achieve from the course.
“Be ready to give us an idea of the next steps you envisage for your career after the course — or how you will use it to explore journalism in more depth,” urges Jonathan Hewett, the head of postgraduate journalism at City, University of London, who also runs the MA Newspaper Journalism.
Take a look again at the course, the modules, and the facilities they offer, as well as where previous alumni have ended up working.
Explore City's Sector Leading Multimedia Facilities
The Journalism Department at City, University of London boasts sector-leading facilities developed in consultation with experts from the BBC and ITN. Whether you’re looking to lay out a magazine, put together a podcast, or produce a full-scale television broadcast, you’ll find the right resources.
Here are just some of the facilities you’ll find:
• Two digital newsrooms where you can produce newspapers, websites, and magazines — including their own publication XCity.
• A broadcast standard television student with a green screen to produce TV news and current affairs programmes.
• Two radio production newsrooms and three broadcast standard radio studios to produce a variety of programmes.
You should be able to clearly and succinctly answer why you want to be a journalist and show examples of the work you have done to date to support your interest in journalism. This might range from work experience at student publications to local media work — it could even be your own blog or a social media account you’ve set up.
Archie Earle, 23, took his interview last year, and successfully gained a place on the MA Newspaper Journalism. He advises: “If you aren’t feeling confident in your experience, you can make up for that by being very passionate about wanting to be a journalist. Remember, whatever your experience you are still starting the MA course as a blank canvas. You are there to learn and grow into a brilliant journalist.”
“We want people who are curious about the world,” advises Bennetto. “So, make sure you know what’s going on in the news and in the world. Come with ideas on what you would like to do and achieve as a journalist – and be ready to discuss them with us.”
The interview is also a great time to ask questions and find out more about the course, work experience and job prospects. Make a note of your queries beforehand so you don’t forget anything; being thorough can ensure the MA you have chosen is right for you and also shows that you’ve done your research and know your goals.
What’s The Format Of A Masters Degree Interview?
For the most part, you can expect an interview to last from 20 to 30 minutes, typically led by the course leader or their deputy.
The interview, whether in person or via Zoom, will be a smart casual environment so ensure you have something comfortable but appropriate ready in advance. In other words, there’s no need to get out the suit.
"Make sure you know what’s going on in the news and in the world. Come up with ideas on what you would like to do and achieve as a journalist and be ready to discuss them."
Jason Bennetto, Senior Lecturer
What Questions Are Asked In A Journalism Interview?
The interviewer will start by asking you to go into further detail about your initial application — getting to know your background, your motivation for applying for an MA in Journalism, and why you have chosen this particular programme. From there, you will be asked to demonstrate your commitment to journalism in the past, any work experience or other relevant work you have done, and what skills you have learnt from it.
“If you are already working and wanting to change your career path, think widely about how your experience shows your commitment to journalism,” suggests Bennetto. “For example, PR, writing advertorials, blog posts, or even doing TikToks… That is all relevant experience — so don’t forget to include that when explaining your experience. Social media is huge within journalism — storytelling and editing are really good skills — so don’t leave them out.”
For the second half of the interview, you may be asked about a topic currently in the news or to pitch an idea in the style of the course you have applied for. You might even be asked to write a short story or complete a mini written exercise, which will use your general knowledge of what’s happening in the news both in the UK and internationally. For this reason, it’s important to be across all categories of journalism in preparation for your interview.
Find The Perfect Journalism Course For You At City University
Applications for City’s journalism courses are now open and run until the start of the next academic year — but early applications are encouraged.
They offer 10 courses tailored courses, all giving up-to-the-minute industry insights and access to specialist journalism facilities developed in consultation with BBC and ITN experts.
Hridika Nandra, a 22-year-old who now studies on the TV Journalism course, says she was given a short photo quiz, where she had to recognise the person in the picture and share her knowledge about them.
Nandra adds: “I was asked how I felt my undergraduate degree in Psychology and Consumer Marketing would help in journalism, and why I felt my chosen course was for me. They then asked me for examples of my work experience and how that has also helped me in journalism. I would certainly recommend people to watch the news before your interview because you might be quizzed on that – but mostly, don’t try to be someone you’re not and just say if you don’t know something.”
Earle agrees that you should be following the news as part of your weekly routine. “My Zoom interview began with questions about why I wanted to be on the course and what I hoped to gain from the programme. From there, they asked about the experience I had and what I had learnt before asking four questions on current news and affairs.
“I remember them clearly: Who was one of the judges on Strictly Come Dancing? What was Thérèse Coffey’s current role in the government (at that time)? What was the capital of North Korea? And a short maths-based question to do in my head. I actually got all of the questions right apart from the Thérèse Coffey question.”
What Happens After The Interview?
Depending on what course you’ve applied for, you may be asked to complete a short task or submit an example of your work.
“I was given two days to send in two tasks,” says Earle. “[There was] a grammar test, which I had one hour to complete, and a written news piece of 300 words which was derived from a set theoretical scenario. There was a clear brief on how to write the piece — which I did within a day.
“Once I had sent the material back to the tutor, it took about three or four days to hear back from them,” says Earle. “As I had already achieved a 2:1 in my undergraduate degree, I was given an unconditional offer.”
After your interview has taken place and any exercises have been submitted, you will typically hear back within a week. This may be conditional and based on your undergraduate degree results or an IELTS test. If you have already met all the requirements the offer will be unconditional.
Before accepting your place, it’s important to make one final consideration of if the course is the right fit for you and whether you’re able to dedicate yourself to it. While you can work around the course to support yourself, this will take dedication and organisation on your part.
“It’s important that students know an MA course is nothing like an undergraduate degree,” explains Bennetto. “Most students are in four days a week and the fifth is for assignments or work experience.
“Frequently, those days are full days and there is a lot of contact time. So, you have to be committed. If in doubt, it’s worth coming in for the interview to find out more — but remember we are looking for people who are determined and, ultimately, want to be journalists.”