I sat in the interview for the major publication — a big newspaper for a big city and its big surrounding metro.
I was a 22 year old college senior, desperate for a place to go and write when I was finished with school, but with no real experience besides a handful of unpaid internships and an editorial position at an online student publication.
I didn’t even want to write for this newspaper. I wanted to be a copywriter. But I suppose I figured I’d take this interview to get practice.
The editor sat across from me at a giant metal desk that took up two-thirds of the tiny, bare bones room they’d given him for the day to conduct interviews.
He’d come all this way to do some recruiting at our j-school. So there I was.
I shared with him some clips and attempted to charm (aka bullshit) the crap out of the editor.
“Well, unfortunately, we have all of our entry writing positions filled,” he said, “And, we actually only hire Yale grads.”
“Then why are you here?” I said.
“Why are you wasting my time?”
“Why are you wasting your time?”
Only I didn’t say that. I didn’t say any of that.
What I did say was nothing. Nothing memorable. I shrank into the itchy, woven chair I was sitting in that demanded slouching. The little confidence I did have deflated like a sad balloon.
I’ve heard horror stories about insane questions and hoop jumps interviewers ask of applicants. I guess It’s not unusual that people holding interviews come across kind of … douchey.
But what I think interviewers forget is that just as they’re interviewing an applicant for a right fit, applicants are also interviewing a job, a company, a culture, a boss.
But when you’re 22 and the economy’s in the toilet — especially the economy that hires WRITERS… with ZERO experience — you tend to lose sight of that fact. You put up with a douche bag or two.
I had seven interviews for a job once. Six on the phone. And for the seventh, they flew me down to meet the team. I left at 6am. The cab dropped me a mile away from the office. I walked to their high rise in 100 degree Texas heat in the middle of July.
I interviewed with the team for eight hours. They told me they liked me. They seemed cool. The work was copywriting. It wasn’t the sexiest copywriting. But it was a start.
And in the final hour, the whole team and I met in a conference room for rapid fire insanity. “Do you ever cry at work?” “Are you scared of moving away from Ohio?” “Do you clash with people?”… DO I CLASH WITH PEOPLE? Like, if I did, I wouldn’t tell you anyways.
You’d think I was going for a C-level gig. I wasn’t.
I’d wished I’d had the cajones to tell them their interviewing was ridiculous. That they should know by now if they liked me or not. I wished I’d had the walk-away power to, well, walk away.
But I had no confidence.
Yet, I did have work ethic. And I had proof from keeping a minimum wage job for seven years. I had an auto-sorting brain that created outlines as stories unfolded. I had a ginormous heart. And spirit. And I also had drive.
If I could do it all over, I’d forget the bullshit. Because that’s all it is … bullshit.
I’d tell them straight up, “look, I don’t have experience. But I can promise you that I will work my ass off. And I won’t settle for good work. I won’t stop until I’ve done great work. And I can’t prove that until you give me a chance to.”
And if it was a company who decided they’d want to string me along for seven interviews and ask me questions about how likely I was to cry at the office, I’d walk away.
Imagine my surprise when I interviewed at my current company and they were interested in my heart. And my years spent volunteering. And they were excited to invest in me as a writer. And show me what kind of stuff we’d be doing as a team.
Our graphic designer and my now great friend applied to a position at our company right out of college that required 5-10 years of experience. In her interview she was honest and passionate (and had a kick ass portfolio which helped.) She told us straight up, “Obviously I don’t have ten years of experience, but I do have raw talent. And I know I’ll do great work.”
And we were sold. Our CEO and creative team created a position for her. And now she’s kickin ass.
Honesty in interviews, imagine that. That’s no bullshit.