I went on an interview a couple of days ago. I had a great conversation with the hiring manager, another great conversation with the team, and then was given an editing test. I’ve taken (and created and handed out) a lot of editing tests over the years. It’s customary practice when interviewing for an editor job, so I wasn’t surprised by the request. But I was surprised that it was more a math test than an editing test, and that it was in PowerPoint not Word. Only four slides. Thirty minutes to complete it.
It took me five minutes to read the instructions. I was working on a laptop with a very small screen, which means I wasn’t able to view a whole slide and still be able to read the words. I had to keep zooming in to see the words, then move around to another part of the slide. And each slide had three charts or graphs that were cross-referenced in the copy on the slide. It was a struggle to do a cross-reference review.
But the worst part was you needed to have knowledge of math formulas in order to edit the copy.
Being that I work with words and understand punctuation, grammar, and style rules, math is not my strong suit. And I don’t use it enough in my current job to have total recall of math formulas. I could recognize that numbers were not correct, so I made note of that. But I didn’t have the knowledge to correct the mistakes. And I wasted valuable time trying to figure it out.
Maybe that was the point—that I could see a mistake and knew to query it and move on. But in the moment, I felt set up to fail. I hate timed tests. And this particular test had so many errors that I could have easily spent the entire thirty minutes on just the first slide. I know I overlooked things. And I only completed two of the slides.
When my time was up, I had a few minutes to talk with one of the team members. I admitted the test was challenging and asked if the slides were representative of the work performed on the job. I thought if these were actual slides that I would be working on every day, then I wasn’t qualified for the job. The team member chuckled and said, “I made up this test. It’s our reports on steroids.”
I am fairly certain that all candidates seriously being considered for this job were given the same test, the same laptop to do the test, and the same amount of time. Did other candidates get flustered as I did? Did other candidates have recall of math formulas or did they struggle as I did? Was I the only one who felt set up to fail?
At times the process of searching and interviewing for a different job can be intimidating and humiliating. I work so hard to build up my confidence, to find a comfort level to brag about my skills and accomplishments. As a woman I also have to make a good first impression without setting off other women on the team. I don’t think guys struggle with that issue of personality clash. Despite the challenges involved, usually I can feel energized by the process and hopeful for a new opportunity.
That day I came home feeling deflated. All that afternoon I asked myself why I couldn’t just settle and be grateful that I have a job. Why do I need to reach for something different? Why can’t I just learn to deal with being bullied and manipulated in my current job? Why can’t I turn a blind eye to the toxic environment in which I work? Why do I care so much?
I’ve been reminding myself that no one has told me I’m not getting this job…yet. I’ve been repeating the message again and again that I am a smart person and capable of finding a different job, maybe not this one. And I’ve learned from the experience. If I’m ever given a test like this again, I will focus on the editing skills that I have and not allow myself to be thrown off and flustered by the math. I don’t want to get stung again.