Job interviews always come with a certain amount of pressure. Whether you’re trying to break free from unemployment, fleeing a job you’ve grown tired of, or just happened across a really awesome opportunity that’s too good to pass up, there’s automatically a sense of longing built into your very presence at an interview. You’ve got your eyes on a particular prize, and you don’t want to fuck it up — or worse, have something else potentially fuck it up for you.
You guys get where I’m going with this, right? By “something else,” I’m talking about metal fandom.
As I mentioned in last month’s column, I’m a proud metalhead, and I don’t really try to hide that from anyone. But I’d argue there’s a line between “not hiding” and “actively advertising” that sometimes needs to be toed pretty damn carefully — e.g. while interviewing for jobs. Unless you’re applying specifically to a position within the metal community, there’s always a chance you’re going to come across a hiring manager who’ll look upon your involvement in the scene with suspicion or reluctance. It’s not a certainty, but it’s not a nonexistent threat, either.
The trouble is, that line can sometimes be tricky to toe. I put Nine Circles on my LinkedIn page, for example, because I can point to a number of specific skills I’ve either gained or enhanced from working on this stuff — podcast production, basic HTML / CSS skills, multitasking and time management, etc. But on a resume that I’m actually sending to potential employers? Nooooooo, thank you. I’ll list the skills out and that’s it.
I realize that LinkedIn is essentially a kind of resume these days and, yes, I see how some might call my approach inherently flawed. But again, I see it as “not hiding” versus “actively advertising.” If someone discovers through my LinkedIn page that I work for a blog that covers bands like Generichrist — or, hell…employs Ritual Grim! — it’s a result of their own action, not mine; if I send a resume to someone talking about this stuff, I’ve deliberately put that out there for them, and put myself at risk for exposure to non-open-minded types.
(The only exception I’ve ever had to this rule is when applying to writing / editing jobs. It seems like poor strategy not to advertise a cushy title like Editor-in-Chief when trying to get into journalism, y’know?)
ANYWAY. That’s more than enough context for you. Let’s hop back to mid-June and talk about an interview I went on at a PR firm down in Philadelphia.
The opportunity came about through a friend of a friend of mine. I had logged a few years in PR before taking my current position, and having grown frustrated with said current position, started thinking about diving back into that world. So I polished up my resume, put together a cover letter tailored to the firm’s particular needs — Pro-Tip, kids: DO THIS. ALWAYS. Form letters will be identified as such — and before long, was invited down to interview at their office.
As an aside, one of the firm’s senior executives added me on LinkedIn almost immediately thereafter, but after a few initial moments of panic, I decided not to worry about a potential Nine Circles discovery. The guy headed up their financial practice and I had some financial PR experience, so I figured that common interest would cancel out any concern over the metal that he may (or may not, I really don’t know) have had.
At any rate, I ended up speaking with something like six or seven different people over the course of a three-hour interview, and they were all quite lovely. They were good people, working at what seemed like a genuinely fun firm — one that had cornhole games still set up in their parking lot from an office party the night before, no less! It was just a cool place all around, and for the most part, the interview made me feel totally at ease.
I say “for the most part,” because of course, the metal came up at one point: during a double-interview with two of the firm’s vice presidents.
Now, to my knowledge, neither had viewed my LinkedIn profile, though I guess they may have done so through anonymous browsing. (Which, side note, is my least favorite feature of LinkedIn. If you’re on a site that is, ostensibly, about making professional connections, why would you let someone hide the fact that they’re interested in a potential connection’s career arc?) And they didn’t follow me on Twitter, though my feed is public, so wouldn’t have needed to to happen upon the stream of metal related tweets and Nine Circles retweets that fill it.
Anyway, we’re there discussing my past PR experience, my work in social media…typical job interview questions, basically…when all of a sudden, things shift to a more conversational question: “What do you like to do outside of work?”
I always like questions like these. It’s kind of disarming, and gives you a chance to show a different side of you — which is important on a job interview. Folks should be interested not just in what kind of employee you’re going to be, but in what kind of person you are, too. So I took it by the horns:
“Oh, lots of different things! I do a lot of volunteering, I play soccer, I cook, I go to concerts…”
“What kinds of concerts?”
I don’t want to say I “panicked” here, because that wouldn’t be the way to describe it. But I did pause for a second, because it struck me as a bit odd that they’d interject during a relatively innocuous rundown like this. Nevertheless…
“All kinds! I went to Governors Ball up in New York this year, but then I like going to smaller shows, too. Hip-hop, rock, country, you name it!”
“Any heavy metal?”
Dammit. They knew. They’d found out somehow. Oh well, no use trying to hide it beyond this point…
“Definitely. I’m very much into metal.”
“What’s the best heavy metal show you’ve seen?”
Ugh. This was a test, wasn’t it? This had to be a test. They wanted me to name-drop some sort of bizarre, vulgarly-named band and play up the genre’s most morbid cliches. (They probably didn’t want this at all; this was just what was racing through my head at the time.) But either way…what to say here? I decided on something universal; something that was both accessible to non-metal fans, but also unimpeachable among the community’s most hardcore members.
“Probably Iron Maiden, a couple of years back. They blew me away.”
“Iron Maiden? Aren’t they kind of old, though? What about stuff from your own era?”
Shit. Well, that didn’t work. Umm…umm…who the hell am I supposed to go with here? I didn’t need to tell them my real favorites; I’d just settle for ANY show here, to end this agony. Oh! I’d just recently come back from Maryland Deathfest! Was there anything tame-ish I could pull from there? Let’s see…
Napalm Death? Nope.
Internal Bleeding? Double nope.
Skinless? Probably not.
“Well, I actually just recently saw one of my favorite bands for the first time. They’re called Amorphis and they’re from Finland. They play a kind of melodic, progressive metal.”
After that, I was home free. The combination of a non-offensive name, PLUS Finland, PLUS progressive metal, I think, all went completely over their heads, so they decided to drop the topic. At least until the end of the interview, when one of them told me to “keep it heavy.” I wanted to melt in terror.
I ended up getting an offer from the firm, but ultimately turned it down. (They wanted me to join up with their financial team, whereas I was more interested in working with clients in other fields.) Not only had the metal not really come back to haunt me, but it also ended up being me that got to have the final say on the matter.
Check back next month for more dealings with the simps, and make sure to share your own with me in the meantime!
Keep it heavy,