As usual, the oblivious hacks at CJR have a useless article about how edit tests are out of control” because people in the business are work averse and making them take tests is a horrible thing.
Considering all the lies that made the news, I can see why edit tests would be a good thing.
When I worked as a journalist so I could understand what went on, I had applied for jobs around the clock, whether there was a hope in hell I qualified, or would even want the job at all.
The gigs I wanted and got never required me to do any sort of test. I pitched; I got. Sometimes I pitched, I had a phone or face-to-face interview, and I got.
But then there were the ones that required taking a “test.”
Some I never bothered to complete because if I passed, it would have meant springing for a plane ticket, and I wasn’t going to waste anyone’s time or money, theirs or mine. For example, I have seen tests from CNN, the New York Times, and Interview magazine (which I hadn’t anticipated as I suggested freelancing, I got a job interview, I drove all the way up to New York City, slept in my car and got changed in there, then went all the way to the offices to be given an edit test, which I didn’t bother to really answer, and left as this seemed to be for a position not at all related to what I had expertise or interest in doing). I had done another editor’s test for a Canadian magazine which was far more involved than the sample CJR provided in the piece, but while the publisher thought I did extremely well and we hit it off during the interview, the owner just said forget it, and that was that.
The problem isn’t having to do these tests. You are not supposed to keep doing tests and then complain you aren’t getting jobs. If you didn’t nail the first two tests, there is a reason for it, and it has to do with the fact that you don’t have what they are looking for in an editor.
All the tests are looking for the same thing. You either have what they want, or you don’t. If you struck out the first time, you have to figure out what it is that they want and then just give it to them. It is a matter of shameless pandering. If your second or even third strike gets you no closer to a job, you are not getting a job.
I known people who over-edited and criticized copy in an edit test, thinking going too hard on it showed vigilance, never thinking perhaps it was someone doing the hiring who wrote it, and then you stomped all over their prose reminding them of their grade nine English teacher who said they had no talent for writing. Most of the tricks on tests like these are easy to decipher if you are shrewd enough, and if you cannot “think outside the box” or be cagey with your answers, you won’t get a job.
You need to try a different route, such as networking.
Which brings us to why these tests are just garbage.
The profession has collapsed.
The tests may be longer or more complicated, but they are still testing for the same bad qualities that sunk the profession, only looking for extremists who have the most of those irrelevant and toxic qualities to hire them.
The larger the publication, the less risks and chances it will take.
These publications always look for established talent that were cultivated in smaller venues. They do not know how to find original talent. They do not know how to find innovators, mavericks, visionaries, futurists, or anyone with an original thought in their swelled up heads.
What they are looking for is safe, tried, tested, and broken in to keep the status quo going.
The places that cultivate new ideas are tiny venues that scout talent, inspire, push, and then their thanks is the talent jumping ship for the big leagues.
That is what slowly poisoned journalism.
So if you want a job in a dead profession, have two brains to rub together, find people who successfully took the test, and ask them what they did to pass.
Don’t keeping doing the same thing and expect a different outcome.
With massive job losses, these jobs are scarcer to find — and not worth the effort as they will be eliminated in a year’s time anyway.
And no, you should not get paid for taking the test. There is a suggestion you should take the test once, like the GRE, and then have them sent to everyone, regardless if that’s what the publication is looking for or not. If you flubbed the test, you are disqualified from any of the jobs because you at least never got a first chance to get familiar and improve in a more private manner.
Besides, that is your audition, but I suppose the hangers-on figure maybe they can make a living taking edit tests. It is not as if these people are smart enough to innovate anyway.
And we wonder why journalism used to be a thing.