Unlike a lot of recent college grads who are job hunting right now, and sending out resumes and cover letters to what seems like an abyss, I was a fortunate young college graduate who was asked to go in and interview for many of the jobs I applied to. Coming out of college, I did not get most of the jobs I interviewed for, but I learned a lot about what employers look for during the interview process, and the main thing I learned was that everyone expects different things, so you have to be prepared for anything.
At one magazine job I applied to, I was asked to set aside 48 hours to write and layout an entire section of the magazine. This meant writing actual features and sidebars that I thought would be a good fit for the glossy. It was really stressful because the section usually consisted of multiple contributors and editors, and they were asking me to put the section together by myself in less than half the time it takes an entire team to do it. I ended up spending 36 of the 48 hours furiously putting the section together, and did not finish. I did not get the job, but the magazine offered to pay me for one of the features I wrote to be published in a later issue. I took the money and ran.
At another magazine job I applied to (at the time, I thought my career path would lead me to be an editor at some big Conde Nast publication), there was no writing involved. Instead, I spent an hour meeting eight different people from various departments, who then all met in one room to decide whether or not I would be an appropriate addition to the team. If the decision was not unanimous, I was told right there and then that I did not get the job. The decision was not unanimous.
There was also another interview where I showed up and was asked to start working right away. All candidates were put to work for a week (paid, thankfully), and then at the end of the week, they fired most of the candidates and kept the handful they liked for the job. I was kept, but I didn’t stay for very long because the work environment was so volatile. Every now and then some new people would show up to start working and then you learned later they were actually candidates trying out for the job, and they would disappear on you.
Have you had any atypical job interviews? How did you deal with them?