5 Application & Interview Sins
I have been meaning to write this since the day I started the #XJBlog. Interviews, for many, are a horrific stage in applying for a job or internship and yet they are integral for both parties. Now, these days I am in the nicer position of being the one to hold the interviews instead of the one to attend - but that doesn't mean I didn't exercise these pointers when I was the other side of the table. Obviously the employer wants to hone in on your interpersonal skills, your verbal skills, and in the creative industry; your handwriting as a designer. Please note when a job application mentions handwriting, this doesn't literally mean how neat you are when taking down notes, it means your aesthetic as a creative - there we go, you can have that tip for free. Well... you can have these next 5 for free too. Let's get through them in chronological order shall we...
Disclaimer: There are photos in this blog post that should not be taken seriously
SIN 1 || I WOULD DO ANYTHING 4 THE COMPANY
Here is an insight into how I personally sift through the mountains of applications I receive on a weekly basis:
Spelling mistake? Delete.
Evidence of a copy/paste cover letter? Delete.
People who start their application "Dear Xandra," ? Delete.
And should the line "I have a passion for fashion" or worse, "...because I love shopping" come into play?
Delete. Block. Take a deep breath.
(Yes I have received all of the above)
Story time: When I was working for KTZ, one of my duties included reviewing applications. Whilst sifting through the managerial position cover letters, I came across the number '4' replacing the word 'for' - I'm pretty sure I whimpered. It went along the lines of "I would do anything 4 the company". Now I'm sure you are empathetic with me and laughing along to this, I don't expect you to sign off "Pls hire me, thx." but to me a spelling mistake is almost as bad.
Let me just highlight to those that may be dyslexic and in an acute state of panic - you have every chance of getting the role as anyone else! If you misspell notes on the job, I will not unleash my wrath. However, if you can't get an application together that hasn't been edited, reviewed and even looked over by a third, fourth and fifth party to ensure there are no mistakes then I would assume your application was rushed and this job doesn't mean enough to you. It also highlights you do not pay attention to detail and struggle with an editing eye, which are two big qualities employers look for.
SIN 2 || learn how to tell the time
Let's set the scene: it's interview day, you have been asked to come in at 10:00AM. You get an early train because there is nothing worse than being late, and arrive at the venue half an hour early. You go inside and let them know you've arrived and are ready for your interview... No. No you don't.
I have a golden rule with timing and arriving 10 minutes early is probably the maximum amount I will allow. 5 minutes early is spot on, and you are managing yourself efficiently. I have had people knock on the studio door half an hour before they are due to be interviewed interrupting the poor soul I am already in discussion with. You have been delegated a time, please learn to keep to it.
Arrive half an hour early: yes. Scope out the area, ensure you know where your interview location is, but please go and grab a coffee. Time management is an integral skill to have, it's not only being late that looks tardy. Respect other people's schedules. Even if you are the only one being interviewed that day, the employer may have meetings prior to your time slot, or simply be involved with other tasks. Manage your time responsibly.
Sin 3 || who ARE YOU?
So let's recap, I mentioned above that if I read the opener "Dear Xandra," it is followed by a swift click on the rubbish bin and sent straight to my little MacBook trash can. Why? No one who works at this company is called Xandra - and that information really isn't difficult to find out. My name is Alexandra, Alex, Al, Ali (the latter are not professional suggestions, I am merely highlighting how my name does not begin with the letter X) and my last name is Wall.
Yes, you are applying to a company, but you are speaking to a person. I even sign my e-mails off with my name and the responses I get still don't pick up on it! Again, this feeds into attention to detail but also focuses on basic research skills.
I have been blown away by applicants in the past who have done their research and really shown a keen interest in the role, even when there wasn't much information online about the brand. I remember half the time in an interview I attended was spent asking my potential boss about how she got into the industry. I had researched she studied english and fine art, not fashion. I was interested in her background and her journey. I had done my research, asked my questions (see Sin 5) and was hired there and then on the spot.
sin 4 || 20 projects later...
If you are successful in landing an interview (congratulations!), you may be asked to bring a refined selection of your portfolio work.
When you are presenting your work, please bare in mind that the interviewer does have plans for the remaining 8 hours of the day. Pick up on the word refined.
Showing me your first ever project does nothing for me, I'm sorry. I don't need to see how far you have come on your wonderful fashion designer journey, I am not your tutor. I need to know who you are in the present day and what kick-ass perspective you can bring to my brand. I also do not need a five minute run through of every page. I am aware what a technical flat is and why you need to compile specification sheets, I also know how to construct clothes. What I don't know is what inspired you and why, what challenges you overcame and what would you do differently. Cut out the boring saga and hit me with the answers to my questions before I ask them. This shows me a considered presentation where you have displayed impressive verbal communication skills whilst giving me an insight into your designer mind.
As a general rule of thumb, open with a strong project, close with a strong project and display your skill set and handwriting in-between. Do you love textile design? Show me. Highlight your strengths and how they influence you as a creative. I've had applicants come in who are so much stronger than me in areas and I can't wait to get them on board because they've shown me their worth and I can see how they can enhance my brand.
SIN 5 || Please, please, please have a question prepared.
I am begging you. I honestly NEVER went to an interview without preparing a question to ask at the end. This includes when I was 17 and working in retail for ZARA. Always prepare a question. It must be one of my biggest pet-hates when an applicant has gone so far through the process, their CV and cover letter has been written impeccably and obviously proof read, they have been asked in for an interview to see more, I have reviewed their portfolio, everything is looking good until the last question:
"Do you have any questions you'd like to ask?"
Now this honestly is a sin in any interview, but let's just remind ourselves of those applying to a creative role. You're meant to be creative, to show initiative, to think on the spot - and you haven't got one little question you would like to ask? It's a red flag. To me that shows a lack of interest in the role and the company. Do not despair, here's some help:
- Is there room for progression?
- What has your journey been so far?
- Who will I be reporting to?
- Where do you see the company in the next 5 years?
- What's the pay?
- What is the brand's aesthetic?
- What breaks do I get?
- Am I expected to do overtime or work weekends?
And finally, please bare in mind you're simply talking to another human being. There is nothing to be scared of! I personally conduct my interviews in a very informal manner because I feel I get a better picture of the individual if we have a relaxed chat, they show more of the 'real' them, and I love seeing peoples personalities shine above the nerves. One final piece of advice would be to attend every interview offered to you so you can practice and familiarise yourself with the process. You may have changed your mind on the role, but the interviewer could throw in a question you didn't expect or prepare for, giving you experience and confidence for the next one.
So should you ever come into the atelier and meet me, pray you've read this article and I hopefully can't wait to welcome you on board!