I have had several interviews in publishing. It is an area that has become vastly competitive over the past few years, as many jobs have been cut due to companies now publishing online. One role I was interviewed for told me they had had 178 applications, and interviewed 14 people. Here are some tips.
The first interview was for editor in a medical organisation. This was the first interview I’d had in 8 years. I went very naively to this interview, believing that if I was truthful it would stand me in good stead. I have since learned that though you should tell the truth at an interview, it is better if it’s the truth the employer wants to hear.
Don’t look ‘different’; dress to suit the work environment
I also had bright red hair at this interview – which having had for so long, I had forgotten all about, but which I think probably was not suitable for that particular company. Though this was not for a public facing role and hair colour shouldn’t really matter, I still have a feeling looking ‘wacky’ counted against me in the ultra conservative environment I found myself in. Now if it was a media job – my hair would have fit right in!
If there are two equally good candidates and one of them has something that makes them different – a visible tattoo or wacky hair – I think it’s likely (and unfair) that the candidate who doesn’t show any quirkiness will win over the one who could be considered a bit alternative.
Put yourself in the employer’s shoes; give them what they want
When they asked what my reasons for wanting the job were I honestly said, ‘it’s a job I could do standing on my head and I want to move back to the area, this seems like a good way to do it’ (or words to the effect).
I now realise this was a big mistake, you have to think from the employer’s side, and give them the answers they want to hear. They didn’t want to hear I could do the job. They wanted to hear how passionate I was about the role and the company and the opportunity it offered me to develop.
Your real reasons – that you want a job, any job; how well paid the job is; how near it is to home; that you could tell them how to do the job – will not impress.
Research the company; read the papers
I recently went for an interview at an organisation with a very outspoken Chief Exec. That morning there was also a front page article about something he’d said on one of the broadsheets, I had been lucky enough to see it when I went for a coffee before the interview. I didn’t get the job, but I felt prepared when asked what I thought of his comments. I agreed of course. Also make sure you check out the company website – in all publishing jobs they will ask you how they could improve their website!
A personal story can work wonders
Another job I went for was editing publications for a charity that focuses on lung health. I was able to give them a personal story (all true). I got that job. In charity roles particularly think of any way you might have a link to their organisation – has anyone in your family experienced whatever the charity supports or campaigns on? They will like that.
Stand out, but don’t stand out
It seems like a catch-22, how can you stand out but not stand out? Take time to give your answers. If you really are stumped, ask them what they would do in that situation. You are going to be working in the team, after all.
For graduates, try to build up a portfolio of additional skills which could make you stand out from the competition. Voluntary work, especially in the arts, is a good way to look like you mean it. Learn about social media. And learn from your interview mistakes. Or mine.