Score Your Dream Job. Just Avoid My Mistakes

Everyone has their go-to answers when interviewing. I'm a terrible liar. I’m the Jimmy Fallon of lying – tears of comedic shame stream down my furry face in front of live-studio audiences.

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 .

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Michael A. Miller June 09, 2012 at 12:38 PM
If you expect to get a job in publishing, You might want to rethink using the words "why" or "because" in the same sentence as "reason". I interviewed for some support position, maybe in circulation, at "Alternative Press" in the '90s when they were still in the basement on West 65th Street, I think. I remember Mike Shea as a smug hipster douchetool. I requested and received several writer's tests from American Greetings in the '80s. I never could complete them because just trying to phone in mainstream schlock for the sake of completing the test made my stomach curdle. I also heard, time and again from unrelated sources, that American Greetings treats their creative talent like something they step in. They also practice the follow-up snub and are the types of supergeniuses that post on job boards the day after stories of 500 layoffs are published in the paper.
Hol June 10, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Here's a tip about answering the question of negative things about yourself: Tell them you are a work-a-holic, your a perfectionist, your are overly critical about your work. It's music to an employers ears!!!! They are looking for reasons NOT to hire you. Don't make it easy for them.
Troy McClure June 10, 2012 at 05:07 PM
And, as someone who is part of the interviewing process, I can tell you those "tips" are not 'music to an employer's ears'. I would hope a prospective employee is all of those without having to say so, and if someone hires someone simply based on those "tips", I question the employer.
Andrea S June 11, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Did you seriously just talk about being stoned when you did a job application? On a public blog on Patch? I'm hoping you meant stoned in some non-drug related way. Otherwise, totally inappropriate to include.
Joseph Rafidi June 11, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Oh Andrea, aren't you adorable?! Did you seriously just exhibit your naivety on a comment board? Mostly everyone you know abuses or is addicted to some 'get me some sleep' or 'make this migraine go away' meds. Chill out, Queen Conservative.
Debbie S. June 11, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Good employers don't want people to lie, act, or create a facade for an interview. They DO want someone who is honest, able to accept constructive criticism, and dedicated. Feeling the need to do drugs to showcase one's best work (and then defending your choice by essentially saying 'everyone does it' as you did to Andrea) indicates a lack of self esteem, confidence, maturity, and judgment. I would suggest working with an employment counselor who can help you take an honest assessment of yourself so you can genuinely present your strengths and weaknesses.
Debbie S. June 11, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Actually, when I was a hiring manager at FedEx Supply Chain Services, I would have avoided hiring an overly self-critical, perfectionist work-a-holic. Here's a REAL tip: be yourself. If an employer doesn't want to hire the real you, you probably don't want to work there anyway.
Joseph Rafidi June 11, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Oh dear, the motherly figures are deploying from crossover vehicles. This was purely an entertainment piece; poking fun at myself from 5 years ago for being foolish. And, let's not be judgemental either way; everyone's got something to deny.
Tim Torrence June 11, 2012 at 05:41 PM
You wrote a blog... on the internet... What did you expect people to do? Maybe you haven't learned from your foolishness?
Gerald Elekes June 11, 2012 at 08:00 PM
Lol. Better than most the stuff I read on this particular site. Remember, "Don't let the Yahoo's get you." Some people just don't get satire-- or-- all too obviously-- having a little bit of fun for that matter. They just need to be right. Just imagine what they would do to Jonathan Swift if they lived during those times. And George "Sativa" Washington would never have been elected. I won't even go into Thomas Jefferson's morality.
James Thomas June 12, 2012 at 01:50 PM
MAM, You sound like someone I wouldn't hire.
Troy McClure June 12, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Are you serious?!?! Good Lord. Some of you need to learn how to read. For crying out loud.
Andrea S June 12, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Yes, except keep in mind future employers WILL Google you, come upon this blog and then most likely decide not to hire you based on it. People normally keep their vices in the closet for a reason.
Gerald Elekes June 13, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Unless of course, he happens to put in an application for employment at a Marijuana Collective in one of the many, many states that have legalized it for medical use in the U.S. In fact, usage having been so common and widespread, many law enforcement applicants can admit to prior marijuna use and not be automatically disqualified. But if they lie about it and then get caught-- forget about it! Lack of integrity and dishonesty are considered worse character flaws then having once ingested a weed. Based on some people's logic, our current president should not have been given employment as the nation's leader because he is an "admitted" Herb smoker. The use of the phrase "keep their vices in the closet for a reason" is certainly a positive affirmation of Joseph's concerns. Oh, my! I'd sure like to know what else we should keep "in the closet"...? I fear I already know why. And I was certainly right about some people just not getting it. That last sentence, if not this entire comment-- was constructed with a hint of irony, a smidgen of sarcasm, and laced with dash of satire. Fear not and march onward, Joseph, remembering many "censors"-- ("Otherwise, totally inappropriate to include")-- are often a humorous pain. Is that an oxymoron or an enigma ?
Joseph Rafidi June 13, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Cheers, Gerald. Good to read such enlightened thoughts. Next time I'll give my blog a PG-13 rating to appease everyone else.
William B Budner ESQ. June 13, 2012 at 08:20 PM
everyone's a hater on kent patch!
dawn miller June 14, 2012 at 02:22 PM
I took it as a blog about stupid things you did 5 years ago and lessons you learned from it. Entertaining to say the least!


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