March 7, 2011

Memorable Job Interviews



The postaday prompt was: Describe a memorable job interview. I immediately thought of two jobs I successfully applied for, one as a photo/journalism freelancer, the other with a youth shelter.


     How many articles will you give me a week?

     The interview question startled me. I was new to the community and not yet ready to jump into a full schedule. However, I was about to attend a workshop on youth violence, and had called the editor of the local paper about the possibility of writing it up for a feature story.

     In my previous community I’d worn many hats. I headed a child abuse prevention project on a Children’s Trust Fund grant; I wrote for the local newspaper, and I was a pastor’s spouse. The time and energy crunch emanating from these stressful “hats” often had me multi-tasking. If I attended a human service workshop, church program, or oversaw a program within the Family Support Program, I’d write up a news story—which would also prove that I’d attended continuing education events.

     When I called the newspaper, I spoke with Paul Heyworth, who asked me to come for an interview with some clips of previous newspaper articles with my byline.

     I sat across the desk from Paul while he reviewed at the articles. It only took a minute.

     “I speed read,” he informed me. “And I don’t care what your educational qualifications are. All I want to know is can you write?”

     Then he looked at me hard.

     “How many articles can you give me a week? Two? Three?”

     I was taken aback. All I wanted to know was could I cover the meeting for the paper, which he ultimately agreed I could do.

     “But I want you to bring your work in and sit with an editor during the editing process,” said Paul as the interview ended, to be substituted by a very positive working relationship that lasted until Paul’s retirement.

     I don’t know what Paul saw in me or what he saw in my writing, but what he offered me was not only a job but an education. During the years of sitting with other writers and editors, I achieved an education equal to a journalism degree. I was even offered the occasional opportunity of editing my boss’s or other freelancer’s work.

     To this day, every time I write  a news article I can hear the question How many articles can you get to me each week?


     By the way, there’s a computer in the office around the corner, in case you need to research something.

     I looked at the man interviewing me with surprise, thinking, oh yes, I have this job.

     Numerous persons had told me to apply at the youth service agency for work as a fill-in worker. Since the agency had four youth homes, the furthest away four blocks, I finally took the step. I didn’t need the job. That might have made the difference in my attitude.

     “I am interested in working about four shifts a month, and I am only interested in the night shift,” I said, The young man interviewing me raised his eyebrows. I explained that this would provide me time to write. Since a fill-in worker had no responsibility except to be present and awake—two workers were required to be on duty during the night, to monitor the youth—I would have an entire shift to ply my trade.

     My forthrightness didn’t handicap my interview. My training and experience overqualified me for the position. Perhaps that helped.

     “All I need is a card table, chair and outlet,” I said, boldly.

     “No problem.”

     As time went on, I became a valuable asset. Living so close, I could be depended on to be available on short notice. I developed a good relationship with the youth during the single hour before their bedtime, or the hour they were wakened and preparing for school. Furthermore, I stayed awake—in fact, I was often still working when the morning staff arrived. And I had between seven and ten hours of time to work on my own projects.

     And so, this unusual interview where I stated my needs rather than emphasizing the needs of the youth in the shelter was a success, although I wouldn’t recommend all my interviewing techniques for all job interviews. During my time in Connellsville (PA) I spent many night hours writing happily while in-house youth snoozed away. My time was a benefit to both me and the agency—and, I hope, for some of the youth.



When Children’s Service Agencies Won’t Respond to Complaints

How to Get Help for a Child

Journalism Rules and Professionalism: I had neither!

How to Write About (Historic) Buildings


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