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What Not to Do at an Interview: Or, Why I Might Be Doing Better than Rory Gilmore

Those of you who owned a television during the early 2000s and were old enough to watch adult-ish programming have probably heard of a show called Gilmore Girls. Since I spent more time between the covers of a book as a child than pressing any button attached to an electronic device, I myself didn’t come across it until I finally caved and got a Netflix in college. I gorged on the series last summer, wondering how I could possibly have missed this gem – a cheery, aesthetically pleasing, acerbically written dramedy where problems mainly consist of misplaced commasin The Yale Daily News or a casual boat abduction (for which Rory gets off easy, not that we expect any less). 


One of my favorite parts of the show, at least in the early bits, was the character of Rory Gilmore, the youngest of the Gilmore Girls in the title. At least, some parts of her. Sure, Rory, or perhaps Alexis Bledel, the actress who plays her, is a bit too gorgeous to seem real; I stare hard at her face every time she comes on screen, half thinking she’ll freeze and marble up like some sort of reverse Galatea. And sure, I’m just as mad as you are that Rory and her mother, Lorelai, eat themselves sick in practically every other episode and stay as maddeningly slim as ever. But nevertheless, Rory filled a hole I didn’t quite know existed for me in modern television: that of the young student who’s brilliant, unapologetically geeky, and is willing to sweat for it. Rarely do we see Rory in her Chilton years when she isn’t bent nearly parallel to a textbook, pretending not to see her vanilla milkshake of a first boyfriend, Dean (not that there is anything wrong with vanilla; I myself consume vanilla ice cream often, but that doesn’t mean I want to paint my room white with black specks, now does it?). She signed up for fifty classes during “shopping week” at her first year at Yale, and not because anyone told her to. Could she slack off and still be a star student? Likely. Is she going to? No, because it’s in her bones to work hard, and she loves every minute of it. She knows what she wants from episode two: to be a foreign correspondent, not a glamorous TV reporter, but someone who goes where the stories are. I caught glimpses of one of my childhood heroes, Hermione Granger, in her – and, full disclosure, of myself as well.


And then she went and slept with a Wookie-costume-wearing interviewee in the Netflix revival.


This, and other irresponsible behaviors of the grown-up Rory, irked me for countless reasons (look up “unethical female journalist” and pull up the Atlantic article you see if you want the biggest one). Rory also botches a job interview she should have had in the bag. She takes on an unpaid internship of sorts in her hometown and doesn’t seem to have much to add to the newspaper that supposedly inspired her to become a journalist in the first place. She can’t even unpack her freaking underwear. 


But here’s what rankles with me so: even when she was anchorless, irrational, and as boy-plagued as ever, I still saw a tiny bit of myself in Rory Gilmore.


You see, I once behaved badly on an interview, too. 


But I don’t want you to be like me and Rory! I want you to learn, to impress, to interview with aplomb. So here’s what I suggest: listen to what we did, and do the exact opposite of that. Ready? Go.


Number 1: Do some research.


So I was looking to do some writing jobs while in school. I got an email from a professor advertising a position at an online magazine and sent in my application before I could think twice. Should I have looked up something about this publication before applying? You betcha. When did I do it? Twenty minutes before my interview.


Yes. Really. I was that stupid.


While glancing over the website, I wasn’t sure I wanted the position after all. Like Rory in her run-in with the girl-power millennial startup Sandee Says, it wasn’t my first choice, and I couldn’t for the life of me really see myself writing for it. But, also like Rory, I jumped in anyway, totally unprepared.


Number 2: Learn to use technology. 


This might seem like a no-brainer for my generation, but we’re talking about a person who, at age twelve, knew what a garret was but could not have picked out Katy Perry from a lineup if her immortal soul depended on it. I manage well enough when I bother to figure out what the apps on my phone do, but this interview involved a technological communication site that I’d never used before, and I didn’t bother to check how it worked before starting. Needless to say, I was the last person to make it to the phone interview. Rory could learn a thing or two from my story; in the revival, she owns a ridiculous three cell phones and can’t seem to get reception on any of them in Stars Hollow. Her hometown. Where she lived with a cell phone for years.


Number 3: Think about what the company might want in an employee and anticipate the questions they might ask you.


Remember when I said I was the last person to make it to the interview? It was a group interview. There were three other students who were participating in this. All of them had a clue what they were talking about, which made them already better than I was. One student wanted to talk about going to college while suffering from depression. One wanted to talk about queer issues on college campuses. Another wanted to write about being young and black in the era of Trump.


And what did I say? “Um – I like books! I’ll write about books!”


Now, I’m not suggesting you answer questions in a way that isn’t true to yourself. I wouldn’t have been able to write about depression, or being black, or being queer, because those just aren’t identities and experiences that pertain to me. I could, however, have written about having gone to four different elementary schools in four states, or why I chose the college I did, or why you should just tell that guy you like him. 


Remember Rory’s interview at Sandee Says? It gets WORSE. She’s asked what kinds of pieces she can see herself writing and can only produce a halfhearted “girls who sleep with Wookies” sort of reply. Wow, Rory, bet it took you WEEKS to come up with that one. Or maybe just, you know, five or ten minutes, time to change clothes not included.


Number 4: Let people know that you’re going to be in a meeting and that they shouldn’t disturb you.


Full disclosure: this isn’t on Rory. This one’s on me. I didn’t tell my roommate that I was doing an interview, partly because I didn’t think she’d be in the room anyway and partly because I might then have had to tell her that I didn’t get the job. This roommate was taking anatomy at the time and, understandably, wanted to change out of her morgue-scented scrubs. When she walked in the room, she thought I was watching a movie and that it was okay to yank off her shirt on camera.


Neither of these things turned out to be true.


Let’s see, I beat Rory Gilmore . . . three out of four times! Looks like I’m doing better than I thought. But, please, I hope you all beat her four for four. Life is too short to blow interviews.

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