In the past few years, I’ve had interviews at a few personal dream-job companies.
The problem is that I suck at interviews. I’m okay speaking personally and being honest with trustworthy individuals; even about socially awkward topics. But, I just can’t bring myself to erect and Windex-clean a façade for professional interviews. So, what was I to do under the pressure of formal, perfunctory standard interviews that my career depended on? I have such a hard time answering tricky questions like “Name 5 negative things about you.”
Everyone has their go-to answers and most people probably sell a variable version of themselves to get these cooler-than-thou jobs. I certainly have never been good at lying or acting. I’m the Jimmy Fallon of lying – tears of comedic shame stream down my furry face in front of live-studio audiences.
Here are two stories from job interviews that I wanted so effing bad that I couldn’t even restrain myself from being a brutally-honest version of myself.
Job: Editor at Alternative Press Magazine
Life was going all too well when I saw this job opening. I was just promoted at my current job and was thus feeling indispensable. I recall leaving work early that day for the interview. I had to give myself plenty of time to botch my Windsor knot several times before the beheading. I was extremely eager to get into magazine publishing, specifically music (although, I don’t care much for what AP covers nowadays).
The Alt Press premises were intimidating before I even got up to their offices. It was actually the former spot of American Greetings: a warehouse-type building filled with art and music studios. Alt Press itself was adorned with framed covers of past issues of 90s bands like Soundgarden, Weezer, and Radiohead. Thoughts of hanging with musicians and attending free shows immediately boggled my melon.
After meeting the managers, I took an editing test which consisted of copyediting a story about a lame-0 band – I think it was Good Charlotte. I probably passed this part of the interview. Next on the list was the in-person meeting with two managers where I got to sit on a couch. This wasn’t a $3,000 leather sofa that would inspire me to sit at a perched 90-degree angle. This was akin to a frat house basement couch: used, abused and cozy enough to force me to drop my professional guard.
The first question posed: “What are you currently listening to?” Oh how sweet! An answer I can allow to spill from my mouth. I gladly say, “I’m really into Ween’s catalog lately and have just re-engaged myself with The Flaming Lip’s Zaireeka.” After much discussion about these bands, among others, I feel as though I’m going to score a dream job right out of college…or at least, a job that will lead to a dream job. A mere unclipped toenail in the door was all I needed!
This was easier than I thought. These managers are just humans; music geeks with cool jobs. It was too good to be true. Then out of nowhere, they blind-sided me with work-related questions. The horror ensues.
The final question (for me): “What are 5 things about you that could be negative?”
I reach into my honest soul and mustered: “I suppose I have a bad work ethic.” That’s only one thing, not five. But only one answer told the rest of the story. In what can only be described as a Larry David moment, I spent the next 5 minutes trying to clarify what I meant.
So you wanna know what I meant? I mean that, I have a bad work ethic! But if it relates to something I care about – like music or making fun of mainstream media – then I can tolerate it. The rest of the interview was a blur as all I could sense was the sweat dripping down from my brows – the taste of salty failure.
Job: Greeting Card Writer at American Greetings
Full disclosure: I’ve been trying to get a job with this company for years. Every time a position opens that I’m remotely qualified for, I apply. Whether it’s a greeting card writer, editor, or some creative role – I still go for it, shame-free.
And, the reason I say “shame-free” is because:
I applied to be a writer about 5 years ago. And in order to be considered for an in-person interview, you must complete an online writing test. And me being me, I sometimes think that I’m at the peak of my creativity and charm when I’m high. So, I had a That 70’s Show moment before the test. Not only does being high spark my creativity momentarily before it makes me tired; it also makes me retrospectively emotional and skews my tasteful judgment of everything sensory.
The test – from my recollection – consisted of basic English-grammar questions, basic copyediting, and the most memorable to me, a lowly poem. Now, the poem…seems easy right? I thought it was. I recall writing about love (lame I know). It wasn’t just general, universal love…more like, idiosyncratic love (think Stephen Malkmus lyrics). I was cathartically pouring my liquid heart onto an American Greeting’s writing test.
What was I thinking?
Oh I know what I was thinking. “They’ll think I’m sooooo deep and smart.” I submitted my heartily scribed poem and thought, “That oughta be the next Greeting Card of the Year and I’ll score the job too!”
Instead of editing my work the next day with a clear mind, I sent in my test and did a few cartwheels for good measure. After reviewing my submission the next day, I noticed some kindergarten copy and syntax errors, and – even worse -- mountains of bashful text about love and the meaning of life that probably sounded like the sequel to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”
The lesson: Not only should you not edit your own work – you also shouldn’t edit your own stoned work when you’re stoned and in a vulnerable state of mind.
PS: I even thanked them for the opportunity to take the test and stated that it was “therapeutic.” Hindsight is always cringe-worthy .