I’ve never been a confident interviewee, even though I have interviewed thousands of people in my newspaper career. It’s very different when the roles reverse.
This is particularly true when I want to get something out of the interview, like a job. They say you only get one chance to make a good first impression, something I usually handle with no problem, but not when a position I really want is on the line.
It starts with the dreaded sweaty handshake. The joke intended to break the ice falls flatter than a fly hammered with a frying pan. I forget about my experience and the skills I bring to the table, my triumphs and failures, all those humorous anecdotes you collect over the course of decades spent doing what you do.
When I interviewed at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, I met with half a dozen key executives over lunch. I knew and respected each one of them and they knew and respected me, but I still felt like Galileo at the Inquisition.
When my nose sniffed the pepper I just put on my salad, the resultant sneeze was violent and sudden, too fast for me to grab my napkin, turn my head or even close my eyes. That was embarrassing and I don’t remember anything about the interview afterwards, except by some miracle they offered me the job.
My interview at another newspaper ended badly when I told the writing staff I would put the reader ahead of them, because our duty is to the reader. They’re the reason we’re here doing what we do. It’s called service to the community. I apparently didn’t word the message correctly because they thought I said I wouldn’t back them up if a story angered some folks. That certainly wasn’t what I said, but that’s what they heard. Needless to say, no job offer was made.
Nothing quite so mortifying happened when I interviewed for the Times-Independent position in July, but I was still nervous.
Zane and Sena and Tom did everything they could to make me feel at ease, but given my historical record as a poor interview and the fact it was scheduled for FRIDAY THE 13th had me as wide-eyed as a deer in the proverbial headlights. I really wanted this job not only because it perfectly fits my career arc, but also because it’s in Moab. I’m a soldier’s son so I’ve seen some beautiful country all over the world, but there’s something special about Moab, particularly for people who love the outdoors.
I didn’t sleep much the night of July 12. The bed at the inn was comfortable, but I was road-frazzled after driving about 500 miles and the interview weighed heavily on my mind.
I shared my concerns with my wife, Sheila, who has walked beside me for nearly 30 years. I expected her to be supportive, to pat my hand and tell me everything was going to be okay.
“Just don’t Doug it up,” she said, delivering a playful punch to my arm with a wink and a smile.
“Don’t Doug it up” I repeated, like a chant, as I walked from the Rustic Inn to The Times-Independent. My hand was dry when I shook hands. I didn’t try any jokes. I was mildly worried about my unruly hair, but not too worried, and the interview went well. I was offered the job and I accepted, trying mightily not to dance a jig.
And here’s my promise to you, Readers: The Times-Independent will continue its longstanding role as a community watchdog, our commitment to informing you of what’s going on, good or bad, unvarnished, as the writers of history’s first rough draft, will remain steadfast. Our allegiance is to you because you are the reason we do what we do, all in service to the people of Grand County.
I promise I won’t Doug it up.