When Hiring Isn’t Hell It Looks Like This
Great hiring experiences stand out; here are a few
A couple of weeks ago, I published an open letter to hiring managers highlighting how broken the hiring process is in journalism. The response was overwhelming. Almost all of the feedback was people, mostly women, sharing stories of similar, frustrating experiences. That made the good experiences shine like gems, so I asked people to tell me more about what good hiring practices and processes stood out to them while interviewing and hiring.
The Good Parts
I’ll start with one of my own stories.
When I was applying for my first full-time job after two internships, I sent my application materials all over the place, but I had my eye on this one particular job in Florida. I didn’t hear back from the hiring manager for a few weeks, and I decided to email him once more before giving up. He replied that my application had fallen off his radar, but it shouldn’t have, and he was grateful that I followed up. I was impressed that he took the blame for not getting back to me, and his conversational tone throughout our communications put me at ease. I got the job, and he’s the best boss I’ve ever worked for.
Here’s what others said they really appreciated. All responses are anonymous to protect privacy, and have been lightly edited for style.
A Clear, Intensive Interview Process
I interviewed at a public radio station in the west and they were fantastic. Clear communication with me and they flew me out for a two-day, in-person interview with exercises. I got to meet everyone in the newsroom and it was a very positive experience for me to get to know them well.
Humanizing the Salary Game
When I was applying for my current job (at age 22), I thought I had to fill out my expected salary in the HR paperwork. The editor hiring me called me and said, “You need to fill this out again with the word ‘negotiable,’ because I want to offer you much more, but HR won’t let me do that if they see that number.” It still amazes me that he used that moment to earn my trust and loyalty and teach me a career-long lesson when he could have easily taken advantage of my ignorance.
Prepared, Communicative Interviewers
Two of the internship interview processes I’ve been through recently were very pleasant for the same reason: the interviewers made it clear from the very beginning that their questions would only take 20–25 minutes and they let me know the basic questions they’d ask me in advance. Though I could anticipate their questions, it was useful to have a timeline and plan so I could gather my thoughts and be prepared for follow-up questions. I get nervous when an interview seems short or when interviewers don’t ask me a lot of questions because I assume they’ve already made up their mind even though that’s not always the case.
Walking the Inclusivity Walk
I recently went through an interview process for an internship in which I knew all three of the interviewers personally. I appreciated that they went through their standard interview procedure of asking me the pronunciation of my (non-Western) name, my pronouns and whether English was my first language (so they could make accommodations if it wasn’t). It wasn’t something I’d been asked before, but I appreciated that they had the foresight of making the interview process so inclusive and gave me a very good impression of what the team culture at the company would be.
Interview as (Non-Creepy) Deep Dive
I’m 30 days into a new job, and one thing my new company did is they worked with an outside company to give me a 90-minute phone interview in which the questions really dig deep into my strengths, how my mind works and what I was really looking to do in a job based on skills. I know it sounds horrendous—like one of those ’80s personality/psych interviews, but I found myself explaining my skill and strengths—not just that I can show up to work on time. I appreciated being asked specifically about the details of a job right down to how I manage deadlines, mistakes and also staying organized while managing multiple projects.
I really was seeking a position to put more of my varied skills to use and they seemed to care about that. They also made sure I met with and spoke to people inside the newsroom AND at the corporate level. I really got the sense that they wanted it to be just as good of a fit for them as it was for me. Their corporate recruiter even told me they like to keep the people they hire and they want to make sure and avoid say, placing an aspiring reporter into a project management type job. It was all about the right fit, and whether my strengths fit in with the rest of the team.
Bring Your Best Experiences
It’s been amazing to see the conversation about hiring grow, and I want to keep it going. Tell me about positive hiring experiences in the comments, and we’ll continue tracking them.
Rachel Schallom is an editor specializing in digital strategy and visual and data journalism. She’s the newsroom project manager at the Wall Street Journal. She curates a weekly newsletter highlighting interesting things happening in visual journalism. She has been an adjunct professor teaching coding for journalism students, has spoken at national and international conferences, and is involved in making journalism a more equal place for women to work.