What Mr. Hearst Taught Me About Being Prepared For Job Interviews (and life)

Updated: Aug 9, 2019

I traveled to California’s lush Central Coast in the summer of 2017. It’s where old California remains an integral part of small town USA among sleepy marinas and misty mornings, where the coastal bluffs rise to meet the great Pacific and where the San Simeon Valley’s rolling hills are home to grazing cattle and horses. On one such bluff, now stands Hearst Castle, imagined and built by publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst. On our trip, we visited this exquisite property he built atop the hill that was once his family’s campsite turned successful cattle ranch.

Hearst once wrote to his mother that, "I'd rather spend a whole month at the ranch than anywhere in the world." 

Over the years, Mr. Hearst came to be known as much more than a publisher, but there’s one thing that stood out on my trip to Hearst Castle. Being prepared.

Thanks in part to his ranching roots which taught him to explore and live off the land. Later in life, his sense of preparedness can be seen his partnership with the accomplished architect, Julia Morgan, who conceived and oversaw the entire 28-year design and construction of the castle. This marvelous mansion on the hilltop was completely self-sustaining from the drinking water and plumbing to the very food his guests dined on including chicken and cattle raised on the property and fresh vegetables and fruits harvested in the castle’s green house. 

So you may be asking yourself “What the heck does Krista’s Central California vacation have to do with my media career?”

Cut back to December 2008. I am on a Metro North train from Brewster, New York heading into New York City [or “the City” as most in the tristate area call it]. This was my winter break from the Cronkite School and I was staying in Connecticut with my family. I had an interview for a web internship at “Seventeen Magazine”– published by Hearst – thanks to my sister’s best friend who was the web editor at the time. It was my dream to graduate from Cronkite, move back east to live and work for a major magazine in The City. 

After the train rolled into Grand Central, I hailed a cab to Hearst Tower at West 57th Street and 8th Avenue. I was sweating. Normally back east in the wintertime you sweat profusely among the mix of brisk walking and wearing an insane amount thermal layers. But I was nervous. Unlike Mr. Hearst, I showed up for this interview so ill prepared. It’s quite embarrassing to recall now that I’m a seasoned communications professional. It was my big chance – and I blew it.

My first mistake, not researching…well, anything at all. Not Hearst’s repertoire of publications, not my interviewers, not the competition, not even the attire. Think “The Devils Wear’s Prada” where Anne Hathaway’s character shows up to “Vogue Magazine’s” headquarters in a cable knit sweater surrounded by super modelesque females dressed to the nines.

All that time I thought to myself “I’ve got this in the bag because I know someone.” That was my first lesson to never be entitled on a job interview ever again.
If my grandma-chic outfit wasn’t enough to ruin my image, I completely bombed the interview – hemming, and hawing at basic questions. To cap off the train wreck that was my interview, I left the one-sheet take home writing test on the shiny conference room table.

As I descended the elevator my shoulders slumped and the giddy feeling vanished. I’d blown it and needless to say never got a callback.

So if you are searching for your first dream media job, please take one from Mr. Hearst and ALWAYS be prepared with these four things to help build your proverbial castle of a career:

  1. Questions you’ll be asked and questions to ask.

  2. Research the company and your interviewers. 

  3. Research the competitors. 

  4. Company culture (to help you dress appropriately- always keeping a polished- professional look in mind).

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