Monday, September 7, 2009

Interviews: a necessary evil.

Last week I had an interview for an Editorial Assistant position with a magazine—my first. Over the course of three months in NYC I’ve had several informational interviews with magazine companies (more for networking than securing an actual job), a handful of real interviews with textbook publishers, and an interview for a PRish magazine job which, after taking a look at my resume full of editorial internships, my interviewer decided I did not really want.

“Your passion appears to be editing,” my interviewer concluded. “No,” I wanted to tell her, “Actually, my passion is securing financial stability.”

Needless to say, I did not get any of those jobs.

But this interview was different from the rest. It was both a job I really wanted and knew I could do well. The position was a full-time, temporary with the possibility of becoming full-time permanent. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but in an industry where the main publishers are all on hiring freezes, well, I was salivating for it.

I went into the interview feeling nervous, but still, pretty confident. The editor I interviewed with knew my internship supervisor from last summer. I spent most of the interview telling her about what an awesome job I did with HOME, hoping my old boss would later back me up on it. Walking out, I felt like it had gone pretty well… until I got halfway down the hallway, heard the door shut behind me and lock automatically, and realized I’d left my purse in her office.

My first reaction? Leave it. Just. Go.

I quickly realized that plan would never work. She’d see my ID in my wallet and it would be game over. So, I did the only thing I could do. I waited for someone to exit so I could get through the door. Thankfully, I remembered the way back to her office. I knocked, entered when she answered, and made a joke about it. Silly me, forgot my purse, so yeah, that responsibility thing I was telling you I’m so good with…ha.ha.ha.

I felt like I might die by the time I made it outside the building.

But I didn’t. Instead, I went home and wrote her a thank you email, certain I’d never get a response. To my amazement, almost instantly I received a message via blackberry telling me it was nice to have met with me to and, to my interviewer’s credit, containing no mention whatsoever of the forgotten purse.

Heartened (I’ve always wanted an excuse to use that word!), that weekend I completed an Edit Test for the job. It required I pitch six story ideas for two specific sections of the magazine, write two 150 word articles on my chosen topics, write an example blog post for their website and edit a terrible 500 word article. So, a lot of work.

She responded to my edit test with a request for two references. I listed my supervisors from HOME, and felt, as I always do at this stage of the interviewing process, that I very nearly had it in the bag.

Over the course of the next few days, however, I became less and less certain. She told me she would let me know her decision by Friday. Still, I checked my email obsessively the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday prior. When I didn’t hear from her by 6 pm Friday (apparently you can’t will an email into your inbox with mind bullets, no matter how many times you click the “refresh” button and think, be there) feeling something like a girl whose date’s just blown her off for the senior prom day of, I decided to give it a rest over the weekend. In the back of my mind, I thought, just maybe, I’d wake up to my offer email Monday morning and, in the style of grand lovers’ quarrels, all would be forgiven in the end.

When Monday came and the only email I’d received all weekend was some warning from my former college about an outbreak of swine flu on campus, I sent her a message just to see what the status was. Again to her credit, she responded immediately.

Hi Leigh,

Thanks for checking back. I’ve actually just offered the job to a former intern and she has accepted. Thank you for taking the time to interview and for doing such a nice job on the edit test. Best of luck finding a job you love.


Leigh’s Interviewer

I thought I’d write a little about this experience just to present a view of what it’s like looking for jobs up here. That was my fifth interview in New York and the experience is always the same: hellish. It’s nerve wracking. There are moments of both extreme hope and doubt. And the market is nearly impossible.

Still, I’m hopeful and currently have two jobs that, combined, pay the bills. And the weather’s pretty rockin’ up here now—a cool 65 degrees. Could be worse.

How are things going with the job hunt where you guys are? Any terrible interviews? Or great ones? Drop me a line and let me know what’s up!