My worst and most successful job interview
Journalists are one group who can definitely take the heat, including from interviewees
Writer’s note: This post was originally published on Medium’s “We Need to Talk” on June 18, 2021.
After seeing HBO Max’s #DearIntern trending on Twitter, I thought of a story I’ve occasionally told to new journalists and at public speaking events. Although I never ever recommend they try to get a job this way, it was my first lesson in the news industry: Journalists are oddly intrigued by conflict, even if the rant is against them.
I have never had a job interview more awkward than the one I had in 2008. I’d just read an op-ed in a newspaper and completely disagreed with the writer. I wrote a long-winded Letter to the Editor picking apart everything I didn’t agree with in regard to that post. I had minimal interest in hard news, but I really enjoyed reading this niche newspaper. I never wanted to be a journalist. I had zero desire to watch the local or national news.
So when the editor contacted me to first compliment my writing and then ask me to come in to speak with him about that particular op-ed, I figured, “Why not? I’ll get to see the inside of the building. This’ll be cool.” I dropped by and chatted with the editor for about 20 minutes, and he asked me, “Do you know who I am?” I repeated the name on the emails. He looked confused and asked me, “Do you know who the writer of that piece was?”
I couldn’t remember. I spent more time picking the piece apart than I did paying attention to the name. And he responded, “I’m the one who wrote that piece.” I’d completely forgotten (or overlooked) that detail. And my shoulders slumped, realizing if this would’ve been a job interview, I’d have blown it completely. And then the editor offered me a job. I was startled. He said that he respected that I was not a “yes” person, and quality writers and editors welcome constructive criticism.