Monday, January 12, 2009

The interview question that probably cost me a job

It’s reasonable to expect editors to be grammar experts. After all, correct grammar usage is one cornerstone of good writing.

But like some teachers who know their subject but have trouble teaching it (i.e., they’re not good lecturers), there are editors who sometimes can’t explain grammar very well. There have been instances when I have had that problem. One such occasion probably sank my chances for a job I applied for.

After successfully navigating my way through the telephone-screening interview, I had my face-to-face interview with the person to whom I would report.

The interview proceeded without a hitch. And then I had a “deer in the headlights” moment. From out of the blue she asked, “What is a gerund?” (A gerund, I shall never forget, is a noun formed from a verb, e.g., “swimming.”)

I don’t remember my exact response. It was doubtless some attempt to finesse my momentary ignorance.

Lesson learned: Regardless of how good you can walk the walk, never underestimate the importance of also being able to talk the talk.