Inside the interview room

Feb 08 2016

I got to my interview 10 minutes early. I’m always early to things, even when I try to be late. Well, actually, I got there 20 minutes early but hid around the corner.

Then I decided to sneakily peek into the office where the interviews were being held, hoping to get a look at my competition. My plan backfired when Sara Peach, one of the Reese News Lab leaders, caught me lingering nervously in the hall and invited me in to begin the interview.

Now I feared that I already looked overeager, but I brushed it off and told myself, “Being prompt is a good thing!” as I sat down across from my three interviewers. The three-to-one ratio was intimidating; I’m not going to lie. Three faces to gauge, three sets of eyes to make contact with, and three sets of scribbled notes about me that I wished I could read.

Then came the first question:

“Why did you apply?”

My mind reeled, sifting through all of the cluttered thoughts I had in my head about myself, filtering through the good, the bad and the ugly to find the relevant and appropriate descriptors for myself. Thoughts, fears, experiences, calculations, perceptions, and corny jokes were ping ponging off the walls of my cranium at the speed of light, finding their way to their correct bins and categories for retrieval. All of this occurred in approximately three seconds, of course, because any longer would have resulted in an awkward pregnant pause that would have demonstrated a lack of creative thinking that I had promised I possessed in my application.

Something about the nature of the job I was interviewing for made me more nervous about this interview than I normally am. On paper, I had told these people that I was innovative, creative, and quick-witted. And now, here I was sitting in front of them in person having to be all of those things.

I tried to embody the person that I told them I was in my application as I answered the next set of questions. “When has someone depended on you for something?” they asked.

“When was a time you were in a conflict with someone and how did you solve it?”

“When was a time that you faced a problem, and how did you solve it in a creative way?”

All of the normal suspects.

I answered the questions to the best of my ability, every so often including awkward anecdotes from my childhood, and managing to earn what I hoped was genuine laughter from the crowd.

After the interview portion, they asked me what I wanted to know. Oh, man. I had not prepared for this part. I was so concerned about putting on my best possible face that I had forgotten this was a two-way street. I referred back to the initial question they had asked me, “Why did you apply?” and how I had wondered what the ideal News Lab intern would be like, and if it was someone like me.

I asked, “What kind of personality types typically thrives in the Lab?”

Executive Director John Clark’s answer was something like this: “Honestly, the type of people that really do well in this kind of setting are just a little bit weird.”

He said that in order to thrive in the Lab you couldn’t be too concerned with social norms and what people think about you. You have to pursue your idea fearlessly and sometimes insistently. It takes a special kind of person to do that. A person with one little screw that is just the tiniest bit loose.

I breathed a sigh of relief in that moment, because although I wasn’t entirely confident that I lived up to all of things I had said I was in my application, I was definitely and undeniably just odd enough to do the things that the Lab requires. I felt as if that had come across in my interview.

Since starting at the Lab, I have gotten to know my three interviewers, Hannah Wang, Sara, and John, a lot better. They are not nearly as scary as they looked from across the table that day.

I still don’t know how many people were interviewed for the job, but I am already impressed and excited to work with the new class of Reese News Lab interns (or “News Lab Rats” as I affectionately refer to us).

Everyone is different; different areas of study and different passions, but we all have one thing in common. We are all just the tiniest bit weird.


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