In the Spirit of Failing – Practice Interviewing Like It’s an Instrument

By: Ashley Jones

My Dad, The Drummer

My dad is a dedicated drummer. Anytime you look at him he’s tapping away to the beat of a song in his head or following along to a song he has blasting on full volume. After a couple of introductory lessons to learn the basics when he was 12 years old, he taught himself the rest (and this was pre-YouTube tutorials, mind you).

When I was 11 years old, my dad tried to teach me to play. He held my hands as I held the drumsticks to demonstrate some rudimentary drum rolls – easy as pie, a piece of cake. The second he let go, the bakery was on fire. I couldn’t hold a beat with two limbs, let alone four.

I gave up so easily. Despite knowing practice and studying were necessary, I still maintained that desire for inherent aptitude and instantaneous perfection.

Pfft, Interviewing is EASY

When it came time to interview for my first big kid job, an administrative coordinator position at ARTnews in New York City, I thought I had it in the bag. I studied education – if I could command the attention of a room full of angsty teens to explain classic literary works, surely, I could hold a conversation and answer the questions of one professional. I did a couple of hours of research on the magazine the night before, checked out a few common interview questions and made sure I got to bed early. Enough effort to ace an interview, right? Wrong. So wrong.

I couldn’t give a coherent explanation for switching career paths. I couldn’t remember the current editor’s name or the year the magazine was first issued. I couldn’t give examples of what was happening in the modern art world or what some of my favorite art publications were. When the interviewer asked me if I had any questions for her near the end, I squeaked out a very unsure, “no.” I was never so embarrassed in my life.

I don’t think I have to tell you I didn’t get the job. I didn’t even get the courtesy let-down email. Rightfully so. I made it clear that I didn’t take the opportunity seriously enough to pass even the most routine aspects of the interview. I never wanted to feel that way again.

Just Kidding, Interviewing Takes Work

For my next interview, I was full-on determined for redemption and success. I spent at least a full week in preparation –

  • I didn’t just peruse the website, I studied it. I made sure to know the company’s CEO, mission, values, clients, and industry.
  • I went on Glassdoor to try to get an idea of the interview process and questions individuals had been asked before.
  • I researched general interview questions and interview questions specific to the position I was interviewing for. I wrote down my answers and took up at least seven pages of notebook paper front and back. And then I studied that.
  • Then, I had a friend ask me those questions and I answered them verbally without reading the answers I had previously written down.
  • I researched the best kind of questions to ask after an interview and made a list of roughly 12 questions to ask, just in case some of the ones I initially planned to ask were naturally answered throughout the interview.
  • Finally, I put together a portfolio binder complete with my transcripts, letters of recommendation, resume and tons of work samples to reference and present.

Embrace Embarrassment

After a phone interview and two rounds of in-person interviewing, I nailed my first professional job at ProExam in New York as an editor. In each interview, I felt confident and prepared, almost a step ahead of my interviewer. I was able to anticipate their questions; I was able to provide real-world examples, and I was able to genuinely demonstrate my interest in the company and the opportunity before me.

I’ve used the interviewing practices previously mentioned to great success, landing three of four career opportunities stemming from interviews since my job in NYC.

But if it weren’t for bombing that first interview, I wouldn’t have learned how to prepare properly. Sometimes it takes embracing embarrassing situations and failures to challenge you to do and be better.

It reminds me of my dad and his drums: repetition, patience, dedication, and passion. You might drop the drumsticks now and then, but picking them back up is what matters. That’s what it takes to succeed.

Join us at the 2019 PR Summit: Failing Forward

Join PRSA Pittsburgh at the Ace Hotel on October 1 from 5:30PM to 9:00PM for an evening of networking, learning, and failing forward. For one night, we’re ignoring those award-winning ideas, and we’re going to instead talk about the presentations we bombed, the campaigns we created that met exactly 0 of our KPIs, and the jobs we lost.

Get tickets here!

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave the field below empty!