Turning a Bad Job Interview Into a Positive Experience

by Vault Careers | March 12, 2010

When it comes to the job search, desperation is your enemy. It will make you do some crazy things, many of which are ill advised, but sometimes, desperation leads to creativity, especially when turning a negative experience into a positive opportunity.

There was one period of desperation during my unemployment that I decided to broaden my search beyond the boundaries of New York. In doing so, I found an independent book company in Los Angeles that was in need of a publicist. To prepare for my phone interview, I researched the company and found a great deal of information I could relay should they ask what I knew about them (which they did). I picked up on several books they published and studied them intently with the idea that I would mention them at varying times in the interview (and I did). On the creative end, I even rewrote their press release in case they asked me what I thought and how I would improve it (they didn't).

With all that done, I wrote up a cheat sheet and then waited for my phone to ring. When it did, I was on point, answering questions left and right and turning an interview into a fun conversation.

But then, the bottom fell out beneath me. In addition to having to prove that I was truly ready to commit to a move from New York to Los Angeles, the interviewer started asking me about specific books that I did not pick up on while doing research for the company.

There's no way an interviewer can expect you to know everything about their company, but I had a gut feeling that mine was unimpressed with some of my answers. The tone of the interview was getting worse and the interviewer didn’t appear too interested in hiring me. His promise to “let you know if we would like to schedule another interview,” sounded exactly like someone saying “I’ll call you,” after a one-night stand, knowing they had no intention of doing so. I felt so dirty.

I could have given up, but I decided to take some initiative and try to change his mind. I researched the books he'd mentioned and came up with a plan of attack. I emailed the company, letting them know how much I enjoyed the interview and was looking forward to continuing in the process (always do that, even if your interview goes well). I then made brief mention of how when I was at the New York Public Library, there were some exhibitions that went beyond my scope of knowledge, but that I was able to come up with successful strategies after doing some research. To further demonstrate that ability, I then rattled off a number of blogs and websites I would pitch the company's books to, as well as a list of other promotional ideas I had come up with.

Two weeks after my email, I was given another phone interview. Another one followed, and then a Skype interview. The company was still worried about me moving to Los Angeles, so I ended up not getting a full-time job, but I did land a freelance gig promoting one of their books, and was commended for the job I did on it. I now have experience as a book publicist and a new contact that I still keep in touch with regularly. (Always maintain contacts: they may lead to your next job.)

I ended up staying in New York and truly have no desire to leave my beloved city just yet. While I now have a full-time job again, my experience with turning a negative interview experience into a positive outcome is something I am very proud of. When it came down to it, the job with the publishing company was one where who I know didn’t matter; the only important thing was how bad I wanted it and what I was willing to do, creatively and outside the box, to get it. If you hold on to that philosophy in your search, there is no situation you can’t handle.

--Posted by Jon Minners, Vault.com

Filed Under: Interviewing


NYC Job Fairs and Events -- March 15-21, 2010 Turning a Bad Job Interview Into a Positive Experience

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