Well, I was pretty unprepared for that

The “interview”, which was really just a written test, was for the position of copy editor at the Augusta Chronicle. I was shown to a private conference room and given an hour and a half in which to take the test, using no references.

I did not sign a nondisclosure agreement concerning this test, nor was I told that this procedure was a “trade secret” or anything of that sort, but if posting about it constitutes a violation of the company’s privacy, I will be more than happy to remove the following.

There were several parts to the test. The first few consisted of one-page, simple questions that focused on the writing/editing craft. Page 1: Grammar, word choice, and punctuation errors in short sentences. Find and correct them. Page 2: Commonly confused words. Read the sentences and choose the correct word (e.g., “The news editor was [adverse/averse] to the changes”). Page 3: Common misspellings. Find the misspelled words in a list and correct them. (An example misspelling: seperate)

Next came two pages I hadn’t even expected. One was a page full of people’s names. I had to identify who each person was. There were sports stars, pop singers, actors, writers, politicians…all kinds of people. This was bad. I am pretty horrible with names. (I did think it was great that “Winston Smith” was on there, though.) The other page had a series of questions about current events in fill-in-the-blank format. It was very, very sad how few of them I knew. I recognized most of the stories, but I didn’t know people’s names, nor did I know death toll numbers.

The last part was putting theory into practice, using real, unedited news stories. I had to look over the stories, correct errors, write down what questions I would have for the reporters in order to flesh out the articles, and create headlines. This was the most challenging (after all, questions I don’t know the answers to aren’t “challenging”), and also the most enjoyable. I think my headlines were okay, but I don’t know that they were gripping. My copy edits were good, and made the stories flow the way I’ve seen stories flow in other news articles, but I don’t know if I did them correctly, because I’ve never copy-edited for the news before and I have no training in it.

So I am not wholly confident about my performance. I think I did well in the writing and editing, but my showing in knowledge of people and events likely hurt my score considerably. There are half a dozen other applicants, and it will take time to pick “the best” (their words), so I will find out if they liked me sometime in the middle of next month. It all comes down to what they’re ultimately looking for, and how I performed against the others–if, for example, someone else got all the references right, but messed up a lot on grammar, would they pick me over that person?

Whatever the result, it’ll be interesting to hear what they have to say. Hopefully I’ll learn something.