Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My failed job interview at Kent State: What I would say differently

   This is a story about failure and sabotage.
   I’ve lost plenty of sleep over it, and played back my poor performance in my head a million times. How could I have done it differently?
   Well, this is my first step in trying to redeem a little of myself, by helping others. Though it’s too late for me because I didn’t get the job, it’s not too late for others, who will be in my shoes at some point in their careers.
   Earlier this year I applied to teach at my Alma Mater, Kent State. The position was in the journalism department, and it was for a nine-month tenure track position, meaning full-time employment with summers off. I was selected for the first initial Skype interview.
   Though my attention to details is fading, and for the sake of brevity, I will highlight two major mistakes that could have cost me the job.
 Because I started teaching podcasting at Kent and Owens CC, I 
was compelled to do this podcast series for a Toledo Blade story. 
"In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn." Phil Collins
Mistake No. 1: My paraphrased answer to their first question.
The search committee: “So, why should we hire you?”
Me: “Because I worked very, very hard to get here.”
   What? Did I really say that? Who doesn’t work very, very hard to get where they are?
   What I should have said was this:
“Because I’m a very experienced journalist, photojournalist and newspaper editor. I’m also social media savvy. I believe every student journalist should graduate with multiple skills (writing, shooting stills and video, podcasting) because that’s what the job dictates these days.
“I’m also experienced in the classroom, teaching the skills I have mastered over the years. 
“I love teaching so much that I went back to school and received a Master’s degree in Journalism Education in 2012. In fact, I currently teach the Teaching Multimedia grad course within that program, which is at your fine institution.
   I also have written two articles in 2016 on journalism education and photojournalism interns for NPPA's News Photographer Magazine. Plus, I'm the faculty advisor for the Owens Outlook student online newspaper.
   “I think you should hire me because I understand that this field is always evolving, so I continue to learn, and I thoroughly enjoy evolving with it, and taking students on that journey with me.”
o   Mistake No. 2: My answer to this question: “What is your biggest weakness?”
   “Um, I guess research.”
Sigh. Did I really just admit that? Yes, I did. I was even warned that they were looking for a researcher. This is when I truly sabotaged myself. What I should have said was this:
   “My biggest weakness is my greatest strength.
   "As you know, I am a working full-time photojournalist at the Toledo Blade. The strength of that job, which I've had for the past 21 years, is that it keeps my shooting and communication skills sharp. I’m shooting everyday, and using social media to promote our stories. I’m also very aware of our First Amendment rights, and am very ethically and legally fit. Students should be aware of our photographer rights, as well.
   “However, the weakness of having that job is that it takes up at least 40 hours a week of my time. Consider that each fall semester I also teach a class at two universities, and in the spring I teach a class at three universities! Can you imagine how much energy I can put into my job at Kent State if I directed all my resources into one, single school and job? I would be thrilled to devote that extra 40 hours to do research on innovation, which I would love to do if I only had the time.”  
   So, there it is. Truth is I am not quick on my feet in front of a search committee. 
   Maybe next time, since I’ve actually written this out, I can do a better job in letting them know that I would be a great asset to their school. Sure, I’ve failed in two formal job interviews at Bowling Green University and Kent State, but I can’t give up because I still believe I have a lot to give.
   Of course, I could be totally wrong about why it didn't work out. But regardless, my advice is this: 
  • Write an essay on both your strengths and weaknesses. Read it over and over again before the interview so it’s fresh in your head. 
  • Know exactly what you want to say about why you would be great at the job. 
  • Don't be afraid to brag about your accomplishments. I should have told them to look at my website and my class blog, because the proof is in the demonstrated work.

   Maybe I didn’t have the courage to talk up my accomplishments enough, and that could have been my biggest mistake.

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