Sidetracked



One of the few times that I will listen to advice instead of being my usual stubborn self

I’ve lined up a job interview for next week. I’ve been on a handful of interviews since I moved to Austin and, obviously, none of them have panned out. Despite having an impressive resume, or so I’ve been told, something gets lost in these interviews and I get that disappointing call a few days later telling me they’ve decided to hire someone else. This is either because I technically have no professional experience, or I come across as too young, too naive or just not smart enough. Maybe it’s all of those factors.

I’ve been on the other side of interviews, and I usually chose the person with the most experience. If I didn’t choose that person it was because of a language barrier or they weren’t planning on being at the job long enough. I’m thinking that’s how it works in most interviews, and if that’s the case, I need something more than experience to win over the interviewer.

So, you guys have jobs. You obviously said or did the right things to get those jobs. What were those things? I’m open to advice.

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  1. * lorie says:

    We were actually talking a bit about this the other day at work. We’d interviewed a guy who had an opportunity to really rise to the top and he didn’t, and our questions gave him a ton of openings to go for it. Basically, the gist of our discussion later was that everyone should have a couple of “home runs” tucked away. I have two that I use in most interviews, and I will come up with a third when I research the company before the interview.

    Since my career is in higher ed, I get a lot of points when I talk about how I was the first in my family to go to college, and how 90% of my education was funded by scholarships and I could not have afforded college otherwise. It’s directly relevant to my line of work and makes it clear that I understand and buy into the mission of higher ed fundraising. That’s one of my home runs.

    My second is that I can learn to do anything. I really believe that is true, and I always have specific examples to back that one up. It’s one of my greatest strengths.

    For the third, if I’m applying in higher ed I will try to find some examples of really awesome and inspiring work the place has done so I can name-check them and talk about why I’m impressed.

    I’ve had a lot stacked against me in some interviews because for a while my age and experience were real obstacles, but I think the home runs* (*not my phrase, btw, but it works) help.

    I have some other ideas but I don’t want to monopolize your comments, so maybe I will write a post about this in the next couple of days. Good luck, in the meantime!

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 8 months ago
  2. * ~A says:

    Lorie, you should totally monopolize; all I had to offer was, “Show a little leg.”

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 8 months ago
  3. * mike says:

    I try to avoid saying stuff they’ve heard before (stuff like “[blank] is my passion,” “My biggest weakness is that I’m a bit of a perfectionist”—you know, shit you’re supposed to say). I think you’re best shot is to go in there and be serious, but be yourself. It’s kind of like going out on a date with a robot. Give them a reason to like you, and then they’ll find a reason to hire you. Résumés are nice and good, but people are also looking for someone they want to work with and who will fit in.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 8 months ago
  4. * Lauren says:

    I know for a fact that the people we hire at my office (whether editorial, production, or admin) are hardly ever those with the most experience. Same with my last job too. Since my company is small, and growing, we try to hire people that will seem to fit in best with our atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong, relevant experience is definitely a big factor, but the willingness to learn and grow is just as important. I’m with Lorie on researching the company before you go into the interview. I know you probably know that, but if you can have something prepared along the lines of “I like that your publication does X, and I think I can contribute to that because of Y…” it helps. I know that I got hired here over my competition because I had experience putting out multiple magazines. I definitely played that up in the interview too. I also made sure that all the writing samples I sent were pet-oriented — even though they weren’t necessarily my best pieces. I’ve been told that was what got me in for the interview, even though I was applying from Dallas. Anyway, I’m sure we’ve talked about all this before. I hope it helps!

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 8 months ago
  5. * Amy Bo Bamy says:

    Aww, I’m afraid I’m of no help here.

    Just about every job I’ve had — I got through a “connection.” My first “real” job-job was working for a medical transcription service in their main office, and I only got that because I knew one of the women working in there and they needed admin help, bad. Working there introduced me to more people, who worked in other places that needed help, etc etc. It’s kinda worked like a set of dominos, if you will. It really showed me “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

    And then I moved to Dallas, and went on sooo many interviews the first two weeks I lived down here. I had a “killer” resume from all my work experience up in Chicago, but alas, I was only 20, and still working through getting my degree. I’ll never forget the interview for the job I *SO* wanted — the last person I spoke with, asked me my age; and like a dumbass I answered. To which she replied, “Oh, to be 20 again…” I knew right then and there I was NOT getting the job. Finally it got to the point where I stopped stressing before each interview because I had gone on so many of them — and lo! I finally got one, which was an admin job. Repeatedly told myself “oh, it’s just temporary until I find something else,” but eventually rose up through the ranks. My current job I got because my boss at my last company left the company to go start his own, and was already familiar with my skillset and work ethic.

    Like Lorie, I always play up the fact that I’m a quick learner, and can learn to do anything — I think establishing that right away removes any doubt on their end on if you can contribute to the company. And yes, I always research the company beforehand, that is, granted the company information is readily available. I also don’t think it hurts to have a set of questions on hand for the interviewer about the company; it shows you are interested in the direction the company is headed, etc.

    Sorry this took so long. 🙂

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 8 months ago
  6. * David G says:

    They really should not be asking your age.

    http://jobsearch.about.com/od/interviewsnetworking/a/illegalinterv.htm

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 8 months ago
  7. * Rebekah says:

    Thanks for all of the helpful advice. I’m just going to do my best and hopefully that will be good enough. If it’s not, I’m sure there will be more interviews around the corner. One of them is bound to work out.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 8 months ago
  8. * Amy Bo Bamy says:

    Oh, I realized that shortly after the interview (back then I was also naive to what were ‘legal’ questions and what weren’t) — but of course didn’t do anything about it.

    “One of them is bound to work out.”

    Most definitely — I always told myself “It’s just not meant to be,” if I didn’t get the job, even if I wanted it so badly, as much it hurt. It helped somewhat. Good luck! 🙂

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 8 months ago
  9. * Rebekah says:

    Update:

    The interview went well, I think. Everyone was nice and easy to talk to. I only got tongue tied once. I hate it when that happens. And I only had one of those out of body experiences once. The kind when you’re talking or listening to someone talk and sort of leave your body at the table and observe what’s going on. Also hate it when that happens.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 8 months ago
  10. * ~A says:

    I hope it all works out, Rebekah.

    But remember: whenever God closes a door, he opens a window.

    …for you to jump from.

    :o)

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 8 months ago
  11. * jessie says:

    I’m a little late in commenting, but I’ve recently realized a big interview helper. I’m a smaller-statured girl, with a tiny little voice and can come across as shy even though I’m absolutely not. I had an interview awhile back in Dallas where the lady referenced how “timid” I seemed several times. This really pissed me off, but I realized it was just her perception and something I needed to work on to change that perception. The next interview I had, I was very focused in making sure I sounded strong and confident. I basically answered all of the questions in a way that sounded like I already had the job. Overall I think confidence is key. Try to think about how your voice and body language comes across and see if there’s anything you can do to boost them.
    Good luck in your job hunt!

    P.S. I came here to tell you about the most awesome thing in Austin ever. I thought about it today and got so excited thinking about how you’d just moved there and I could tell you to go check it out. I’ll write another comment or send you an email about it. You will seriously love this. Eeeeek!

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 8 months ago
  12. * Rebekah says:

    Jessie – I probably do come across as timid, which isn’t how you want to be in journalism. I get comments like that when I’m around people I don’t know. I try not to act that way in interviews, though.

    What is this awesome thing in Austin?!

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 8 months ago
  13. * ~A says:

    Ah, the too-timid problem… well, that’s an easy fix: when you’re in the room with the interviewers, just imagine you’re naked!

    er, they’re naked – imagine they’re naked and you’re, um, not.

    Now, the real reason I’m leaving another senseless comment: What is this awesome thing in Austin?!

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 8 months ago
  14. * jessie says:

    Okay, you are seriously going to pee your pants when you go see this. Give it another week or so and head down Guadalupe to 37th Street. Trust me, find a place to park your car and walk down 37th, don’t just drive down, because you’ll miss a ton of the details (and the quirky details are what make it so amazing). 37th Street is Austin’s version of decorating for Christmas. It is by far one of my favorite things about that city. Ugh, I so wish I could see it again. Let me know if you guys go and what you think (I hope you love it as much as I do).

    HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 8 months ago
  15. * Rebekah says:

    I love finding new interesting things in Austin. I’ll definately check it out.

    | Reply Posted 10 years, 8 months ago


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