I had recently applied for a Graphics Editor position at The Onion, which is consolidating its New York headquarters into its already existing HQ in Chicago. The Onion, a satirical news and entertainment magazine, offers some of the best interviews and reviews in the business. Chicago is home to the A.V. Club and the New York office is home to the comedy writers for the paper and The Onion News Network. The parody news show, started as a online feature in 2007 and was picked up by IFC in January 2011 and put back down in March 2012, but the online productions will continue in Chicago.
In May, I found the job listing on Craigslist and immediately applied. At literally the same time, I found out my position at the Rockford Register Star was being eliminated. ... continues
I sent my resume, and samples of my work, including the stuff I did for my Facebook page, Stop Passion Fruit Allergies. (Side note on the SFPA. It all started with the Adam Carolla Show. In short, we hate passion fruit flavored iced tea. So big deal, right? But here's the problem, restaurants are replacing regular iced tea with flavored tea, thus removing the plain iced tea option. Carolla's solution: Create a passion fruit allergy awareness campaign to get passion fruit out of the beverage business. My campaign "Our Cause, Our Passion" was born and billboards, T-shirts, bumper stickers, candle light vigils and a 5K run soon followed. All of it faked with Photoshop, accept the T-shirts and bumper stickers that you can buy.)
My desperate email got a response. A date for a 20 minute interview with art director Nick Gallo and some jpgs for a Photoshop assignment as a test. They sent a photo of a woman with frizzy hair for a cutout and a photo of two guys barbecuing with instructions to put Vice President Joe Biden's head on the guy in the foreground. Done, and done.
The photoshoping went easy and so did the interview. Gallo responded well to my work and I thought I was a shoe in for a second interview with the rest of the staff, but no. A few weeks later I get this:
I was slightly crushed. I thought with all my experience (after all, I did work for real newspapers) and my shtick, I'd be perfect for the job. I must have screwed up the interview. I remember being torn between showing off my portfolio or doing 20 minutes on farts. In this case, a well placed fart joke might have tipped the balance.
On a high note, Gallo really did like my portfolio and my Biden assignment. He remarked that I was the only one who put Obama in the background. I had put some real thought behind it too, because I think everything should tell a story and I articulated Biden's story during the interview. It went a little something like this:
Obama might be the Commander in Chief, but Biden says he's the Commander in Chef — when it comes to barbecuing. You see in the photo, Biden is relaxed, having fun, dressed casual. Obama is not. He is taking five in the Rose Garden, but he's working and it looks like he's having a hard time of it, because he's taken off his suit jacket. Biden is "working" too. He's been given the most important job of all, working the grill. This plugs into the convention that men like to think that grilling is helping out around the house and nobody can do the job quite as good a man. Of course this is a ridiculous fantasy that most women are happy to entertain. That's this photo's story. Biden is a dufus, living in his own fantasy of self importance and the White staff is entertaining this notion — after all — it keeps him busy.
To me, it wasn't about taking Biden's head and putting on this guy's body, making the apron a darker shade of blue, putting the Vice Presidential Seal on it with fabric wrinkles, fixing the spatula, making the arms less muscular and toning the skin to match his face. It was about giving the photo some context, otherwise it's just Biden barbecuing and the joke is just the apron. The only question is where did that apron come from? Did he have it custom made or was it a gift? Yawn. I should note that I wasn't given a story to work with, not even a headline. I was left to my own devices. In fact, I'm starting to think the Biden photoshoping was never the test, but what you placed in the background was. You can start slow-clapping at anytime, because now I get it!
OK, so why didn't I get the second interview? Maybe it was money, maybe it was the fact that I'm not a professional photographer, maybe I came off as a world class a-hole. I'll never know the real reason, other than someone else was better for the job. I doubt that's true, but The Onion thought so.
I hope to go on more interviews and get more rejections, from people that maybe didn't "get me" because it's important for people in the creative world to be understood by the people who hire them. Wow, that sounded kind of lame.
Funny story. My position at the Rockford Register Star was the best job I ever had. In 2003, Linda Cunningham interviewed me and gave the job to another candidate whose qualifications more closely match the paper's requirements. Sound familiar? In 2004, I interviewed again, only this time she had no choice, but to hire me. But you know what? My friend Linda didn't "get me" until much later. She didn't hire me the first time because she didn't understand me. She didn't hire me because the other candidate had more management experience.
This blog post isn't about the interview with The Onion, its about the interview with Linda in 2003. You can start that slow-clapping again, because I get it.
Do you want to know what this blog post is really about? It's about finding a good fit. It's about finding a place with people that can see my talents, the way Linda did in me. And, I don't think she saw them during the interview process, certainly not the first interview, but she learned to "get me".
So, I hope to go on more interviews with people that want to learn to "get me". And, hopefully find a good fit at the coolest place to work. That's what this post is all about. Well, that and this fart joke.
P H O T O S H O P T E S T