Why did I say that? Job interview questions I’d like to answer again

Steinbach pounds away on the Mac he is trying to learn to use at the West Liberty Index.

Nearly everyone who has ever interviewed for a job knows the feeling of driving home and thinking of everything you wish you had said.

That’s the conversation I had with myself Monday while driving home from the  first real job interview since my old job was eliminated at the Muscatine Journal in February.

Many friends have asked: How did it go?

My response: It went OK, but not great.

This, however, is a question I’ve never been good at answering. Years ago, an interview I had for a new job lasted maybe 15 minutes. I returned to the hotel, where my wife was still eating breakfast, told her it was the worst interview ever and that she should prepare for another winter in North Dakota.

We went up to our room, gathered our things and headed for the front desk to check out only to pick up a message with a job offer from the editor who had just interviewed me.

So, I guess, anything can — and often does — happen.

If nothing else, the experience Monday was good practice. Still, I wish I had done better.  I was interviewed by four people at the same time. They asked one question I should have hit out of the park, but didn’t: If we could ask them, what would your friends say about you?

And they seemed a bit concerned that an old news guy might not be able to tell uplifting stories after years of reporting bad news.

After having more time to give those questions some thought, both could have been answered with the same response. If there was a theme to the many comments I heard and emails I received after my job was eliminated, it was how the newspaper’s coverage had become more personal and better during my time there.

If the people I met with Monday were to talk with even some of the Muscatine residents who read this blog, I’m pretty sure that is what they would hear. Hearing those readers’ thoughts about my approach to journalism might have put to rest concerns about taking a chance on someone who really never was an if-it-bleeds-it-leads newsman.

And there is at least one other point I would have liked to make more clearly. Anyone who knows me well, knows I grew up on a farm — the oldest of four children. At a young age, I started working alongside my two brothers and our dad. It was the only way we got to spend much time with him, because he was always working.

In addition to his work ethic, perhaps the greatest gift Dad ever gave us was the ability to think for ourselves. He seldom told us what to do. We were supposed to see what jobs needed to be done and then figure out how to do them. He never really cared how we did them just as long as they were done well and on time.

This meant working together and doing whatever job — however big or small — that needed to be done at the moment. I’d like to think this is how I have always approached newspapering. It’s why — as an editor — I’ve done everything from write, edit, take photos, paginate pages and learn to use social media. It’s also why I’ve taken missed newspapers to readers, delivered entire routes when there was no one else to do it and worked in the mail room to put inserts in  papers when extra help was needed.

It wasn’t an accident that many of my former colleagues in other departments at the newspapers where we worked said I was the most cooperative news guy they had ever known.

That is something I wish I would have found a modest way to say Monday. Without a doubt, I can say that kind of willingness to pitch in will be how I approach this new job if I am hired.

As I understand it, the four people I met with plan to narrow their list down to a couple of finalists, who would then be brought back for testing and possible follow-up interviews in a couple of weeks. They don’t intend to actually fill the position until Sept. 1.

Only time will tell what happens. But I can tell you one thing: After seeing the place Monday, it still looks like a great opportunity to use the old skills I’ve acquired through the years in new ways.

4 thoughts on “Why did I say that? Job interview questions I’d like to answer again

    • They are good people, Dan. And they were very nice. I enjoyed meeting them and hope to get to know all of them better. I know at least one of them follows me on Twitter, so there is a pretty good chance they will read this blog post.

  • It’s difficult to balance selling yourself and your skills with modesty. But it’s too bad the DIDN’T ask us 🙂

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