On the heels of LSU running back Derrius Guice's not-so-excellent adventure at the NFL Combine, I thought back to my own horror show during one job interview early in my career.
My experience doesn't compare to Guice's, for a couple of reasons.
First, the questions he was asked ("Do you like men?" by one team, "Is your mother a prostitute?" by another) were not only over the top and indecent, they were, in the first example, illegal.
Second, he was interviewing with multiple people from multiple teams.
My miserable beat down came courtesy of one guy. A small-time newsman in Providence, R.I.
I was working in my first job in Midland, Texas.
As they said when LBJ replaced JFK, "Austin ain't Boston," and I was a complete misfit in West Texas.
Less than a year into my career, all I wanted to do was go home to New England. And here came my chance: an interview with a station in Providence, a mere 20 miles from my home in Taunton, Mass.
I had prepared well for this interview. In fact, a sportscaster friend of mine had advised me to be ready for the question, "What are your weaknesses?" (I wanted to answer: "How long do you have?")
And midway through the job interview, the guy hit me with it. "What are your weaknesses?"
"Well, I'm not very experienced. I'm less than a year into this, but I know I'll... " I started to say.
He cut me off and asked: "No. What do you need to work on?"
"I guess I'd say I'm a perfectionist," I replied. (This was a safe one. Everybody uses this at some point). "I get locked in, to the point of being obsessive, until it's exactly right."
(Years later, one of my news directors, a great man and leader, put it better: "Tony, you don't have to leave blood on the floor on the way to a good sportscast.")
This guy wasn't that guy.
"I'm asking for a negative quality," he said.
Now I'm red-faced and sweating. What does this guy want to hear? That I kick puppies?
"Well, I'm stubborn. I sometimes think I know it all. I need to be better at trusting my co-workers, and... " he cut me off again.
"No. I mean, what do you need to be better at?" he asked.
"Uh, a lot of things. Breaking stories. Telling stories. Creativity. I'm sure I'll find out as I go," I replied.
"Those aren't negative qualities," he said.
"Um, I'm cranky in the morning. I drive too fast. I believe yellow lights at intersections are mere suggestions. I... " and he cut me off again.
Him: "OK, So ... you're saying you really don't bring any negatives to the table?"
At this point I was mentally exhausted.
"I guess not," I replied.
I didn't get the job. And at this point, I didn't want the job.
It was the lowest-rated station in Providence and was attractive to me for only two reasons: it would bring me home, and I really liked and respected the sports director.
About six months later, I would get a job in Providence anyway, at the dominant No. 1 station in town, WJAR-TV.
As for the guy who interviewed me, who enjoyed bullying a 24-year old, I don't want to name him.
He's long-retired and, with a little luck, maybe even dead by now.
Just kidding. I forgive him. Besides, he unknowingly made me a better interviewee and prepared me for the future.
"What do you need to be better at?"
"Answering stupid questions."
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