Category Archives: hiring process

>Interview Questions

>I hate interviews. There’s something about being scrutinized like a bug specimen that makes me a little nervous. Go figure. I find myself giggling unnaturally, saying stupid things that don’t make sense and – oh, God – stuttering. My worst flaw in an interview is my horrible tendency to answer questions on a delay. If it is a telephone interview, the interviewer will inevitably say something like, “Is this a good time?” and I’ll just sit there for, like, an entire ten seconds and then say something ridiculous as a failed attempt at humor: “Yeah, this is a great time. I’m just driving.” Marvelous. Irresponsibility makes for a great first impression.

Interviewers, at some time or another during the interview, will ask if you have any questions. On my first job interview, I confidently lifted my chin and said, “No, I think I have all the information I need. Thanks!” Crash and burn. This response is the absolute worst to this question. The interviewer wants to know that you are interested enough in the position to ask questions. Any question will do. And, really, did I know everything about the position? Anyone who thinks they know so much about a position that they haven’t a single question to ask, is either way overqualified for the position or way too cocky to be given the job.

So this time around, when my interviewer asked very sweetly (she was really nice), “Do you have any questions?” I knew I had to come up with something. But I had forgotten to prepare a question and all my safeties had already been answered! So, pacing in front of my bookshelves during this phone interview, I hastily asked,” Can you recommend any reading I can do for background material before I start the internship?” I shut my eyes tightly and waited for the proof in the interviewer’s tone of voice that I had asked a stupid question. It came. She stiffly said, “No, I don’t think there’s anything that–” and then she paused. I opened one eye – was there hope that this question wasn’t so stupid after all? Yes! As she rattled off different blogs, websites, books and magazines I could consult, I opened the other eye and ran to my desk for a pen and paper. She kept going! There is so much information out there about publishing and this girl seemed to have all of it catalogued in her head! When she finally took a breath, she said, “Wow, that was a really great question. I’ve never heard that one before.” Grin from ear to ear on this end.

Note: some of the sources she mentioned were Publisher’s Weekly, Publisher’s Marketplace, Twitter, her company’s website and blog and Romantic Times Book Reviews, which have all turned out to be beyond informative.

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>Slave Labor

>So, I just landed an internship at a literary agency in New Jersey. It’s not a paid internship, and by the way those are few and far between, not to mention highly coveted and competitive in the cut-throat tradition. Many, if not most or even all, companies in the publishing arena offer to work with your college or university to get you at least three credits for the internship, which is near enough to getting paid. But those three credits, at least at my own school, Pace University, are assigned an actual course number, which means I can’t take the credit for an internship more than once without taking the same course twice. Even if I did want to take it twice, one instance of it on my transcript would cancel out the other so what’s the point?

My point? I’m a slave. Literally. Not only will I be working for free and not getting any college credit, but I’ll be driving something like sixty miles there and back twice a week in order to perform my slave tasks. Am I a masochist? Not really. My own worst enemy? Depends on whom you ask. In order to make it in publishing – and by this I don’t just mean get a job – really make it, you have to become a mule for a few years, suck it up and take your crap years.

Publishing courses like those at New York University and Columbia boast that very high percentages of students get jobs after completion. This is because they thrust the students, who have been groomed and educated within inches of their lives (we’re talking day, night and weekend classes at Columbia) in front of the people who hire entry-level publishing candidates. Sounds great right? Sounds like a done-deal? It is if you work hard enough – but in order to be allowed to pay the $5,000 – $7000 to work hard enough, you have to work hard.

So that’s why the slave labor. The key is to like it. Without pay or college credit, the only benefit I can gain from this situation is to soak up as much information and experience as possible, and to enjoy myself in the process. Beyond that, it’s another set of brownie points on my resume and another reference in my pocket. That’s not to say, however, that I don’t actually enjoy interning. I do! Just sitting idly in the office and listening to the industry jargon and news is worth its weight in gold. Something said and remembered now can become small talk in your next interview, securing your next internship and therefore your next line of Excellent Resume. Is it a game? Yeah, a little. But, really, what isn’t?

>My First Telephone Interview

>Because I didn’t know they existed at the time, I completed my first telephone interview without first having consulted any of countless resources on interview etiquette and procedures. At the time, I felt perfectly confident, having once worked in an office environment. (I worked for a small office supply company in high school) Wasn’t that enough? Apparently not, because I completely bombed that first telephone interview with Simon and Schuster’s HR department. When the interviewer asked me, “Why do you want to work for Simon and Schuster?” which is a very common interview question, I didn’t know what to say. Um, because you’re a huge publishing house in New York and I know it will look good on my resume? I didn’t say that, of course. I wasn’t that naive. I think I told her it was because Stephen King was one of my favorite authors, which isn’t the worst answer and not really the best either. I’m sure S&S doesn’t appreciate being summed up by the name of only one of their authors. Now that I’ve completed and internship in this industry, I have a firmer handle on what this interviewer was trying to ask. They like it when you know about the industry and the company to which you’re applying. Peruse the Internet for news reports and recent acquirements (books taken on).
The only experience on my resume at that time was my college literary magazine work. I expected her to ask questions about what kind of work I had done on the magazine, so I had my answers rehearsed and at the ready. But she threw me for a loop when she asked, “What would the advisor of the literary magazine have to say about you?” Um. I told her he would say he couldn’t have done it without me, which is true since I created that magazine, but this answer sounds way overconfident. Instead, I should have discussed specific qualities that were necessary in order to complete the work involved with the literary magazine. This would show the interviewer that I’ve put thought into that question, instead of providing a sweeping overgeneralization that sounds awfully contrived. A great resource for interview techniques and sample questions is “Can I Wear My Nose Ring to the Interview?” by Ellen Gordon Reeves, who is the resume expert at the Columbia Publishing Course.

After months had passed and I heard whether I had nailed the opportunity or not, I sent a thank you note to the HR (human resources) representative who’d interviewed me. She got back to me right away to tell me they still had a position, and would I like to come in for my second interview? Since I had read up on interviews and how to behave during one, I felt totally confident in the second interview, which was in person, and I did get the internship!

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