Confession: I Played Sneaky Tricks On Job Applicants


Today, more and more jobs require top writing skills. When I managed public relations and advertising at a large corporation, excellent writing was a must for members of my staff. All of our work was deadline driven. We had tight schedules, and I needed creative and competent writers who could meet them.

During those years I hired many writers, mostly recent college grads with a year or two of experience. My requirements to earn an interview were simple:
1. Honest info in a short, concise, grammatically-correct letter.
2. Degree in marketing, journalism or advertising.
3. Several published samples, preferably in PR, advertising, magazine or newspaper writing.

I probably interviewed the top five from the usual 50 letters submitted for each job vacancy. When the candidates arrived at my office and survived the one-on-one part of the interview, I then played my sneaky trick. 

I required them to sit down immediately at a typewriter (computer in later years) and write me a 400-word news story within 30 minutes. For instance, report on the first explorers on Mars who’ve just encountered intelligent life. The trick worked, because some interviewees didn’t have the required skills, panicked or couldn’t think fast enough. The most competent one got the job.

Conclusion: I’m sure many current managers looking for qualified candidates are applying similar surprise tests. Therefore, when applying for a writing job and your query letter gets you an interview, you’ve already jumped the first hurdle. Don’t screw up by not being totally prepared to ace the sneaky flash quiz.


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