Interviewing: Be Human and Enthusiastic


I was speaking with Michelle, a friend of 20+ years. Michelle is a writer. She was telling me about her upcoming interview with a nature non-profit in the Mid-Atlantic region. 

I asked, “why should you get this job?”

“Nature writing is in my wheelhouse. I have written for the city Natural Gardens Journal, the Northern State Nature Society, the Friends of the Walden Forest newsletter, and was a quarterly contributing writer for the op-ed section of the County Times. In addition, I have won awards for my nature articles.”

“Hmmm. Michelle, that’s pretty good. May I ask you a different question?”


“Why do you want this job?”

“When I was 12 years old, my father gave me the book “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” by Annie Dillard. Both of my parents were writers. I had written school essays and reports, but that book inspired me to write some of my own essays. Since that time, I haven’t stopped. I love writing articles for the Natural Gardens Journal, the Northern State Nature Society, the Walden Forest newsletter. I’m going up to Middle State University in June and July to teach nature writing in their Middle State Summer Writers Program. I’ll be teaching graduate students. While I am up at Middle State, I will speak to the Middle State Press folks. My book “Life of an American River” was due to be published late last year, but due to the COVID pandemic, it was pushed to a later date. I want to see if we can develop a strategy to publish the book earlier rather than later. I love writing about nature.”

“I know we are friends, but am I allowed to give you some advice on interviewing?”


“Pretend you are a software hiring manager. You are deciding between 2 programming candidates, Candidate A, and Candidate B. You ask Candidate A and Candidate B this question: when did you start programming?”

Candidate A answers, “I entered college undeclared. At the beginning of my sophomore year, I researched good career moves. I discovered that software development was a great field – lots of opportunity and lots of stability with good income. I had always been good with computers, so I switched my major from undeclared to computer science and learned how to program.”

Candidate B answers, “When I was 8 years old, my father brought an early model PC home. I fell in love. By the time I was 9 years old, I had reprogrammed the parameters on all the games and was building databases for my toy racing cars. I am not sure that my father ever got to use his own PC. I don’t know, I just can’t stop myself. I always have to make things better or faster or more complete or more automated.”

“Michelle, who would you hire?”

Michelle got back to me regarding her interviews. 

She said, “I was human and enthusiastic in all my interviews. I got the position.”