Editing tests taken as part of a job interview are a contentious topic among copyeditors. While some editors have no problem taking them, others are quite vocal about not taking them.
In this new series, I’m looking at the question from both sides: the test takers and the test givers. Part 1 outlines some reasons for skipping the test, while part 2 outlines some reasons for taking the test. Today, I’ll look at what you can do instead of taking an editing test.
Options to Taking a Test
Editing tests are given to evaluate a candidate’s skills. Especially when the pool has been reduced to just a few candidates, a test can be a good way to decide on a finalist. Yet if you don’t want to take the test and still want to be considered for the job, you have options.
You could, of course, just talk your way out of taking a test. Your résumé, past projects, and recommendations might speak for themselves. If you can make the case, kudos to you!
Editors aren’t generally known for their talking abilities, though, so having a couple more options at the ready can help.
Instead of a taking a test, you could offer to work a trial period or edit a sample of the manuscript, depending on the situation. Either option could be free or paid, again depending on the situation.
Early in my career, I applied for a full-time proofreading job. Select candidates were brought in to work in the office for a day (on separate days, of course). We were paid for the day, received preliminary training and oversight, and given some work to do. The employer was able to find out not only what my abilities were but whether I’d be a good fit for the team. I was able to see what the work was like, what the commute was like, and whether I’d like the team. Plus I got paid for the day. Not a bad deal all around. (I didn’t get the job—a good decision for both parties. I was too inexperienced for them, and I hated the commute.)
If you want to offer a free or paid sample edit on their copy, be sure to set some ground rules. The sample edit should take no more than an hour and be of a reasonable length (I cut off samples at 1,000 words). My preference is to review the entire manuscript and choose what to edit, so that I’m not sampling a particularly clean section.
It’s possible that someone will walk away with my edits for free, but that’s an acceptable business risk. Whether they use my edits or not, I’ve lost no more than a couple of hours. And if I think they’re trying to get an entire project edited for free through editing samples, as with editing tests, I’d let fellow editors know (see part 1 for how best to do this.)
Whether you take editing tests or not often comes down to your experience in the industry and the demand for you specifically. Experienced editors can be choosier and eschew tests; newer editors may need to prove their skills.
In part 4, I’ll look at copyediting tests from the employer/client side. Stay tuned!
Read the whole series!
- Testing Copyeditors, Part 1: Skip the Editing Test
- Testing Copyeditors, Part 2: Take the Editing Test
- Testing Copyeditors, Part 3: Alternatives to Editing Test
- Testing Copyeditors, Part 4: Why You Should Test Candidates
- Testing Copyeditors, Part 5: Why You Don’t Have to Test Candidates
- Testing Copyeditors, Part 6: How to Test Copyeditors