In my time as the editor of Vogue I conducted a great many job interviews, and post Vogue I wrote a book about how to get into the industry, called Impressive: How to Have a Stylish Career (MUP 2014).
So many avoidable mistakes are made in the early stages of an interview that can spoil a candidate’s chances, no matter how talented or passionate they may be.
Now I have found myself needing to employ staff for a new business venture, and I’ve set about the process of interviewing potential employees.
Once again, there were so many applicants that made basic errors from the outset. Here, a quick checklist to make sure you make your application counts.
1. Supply a headshot
Many employers will use LinkedIn as their main recruitment option, and a plain avatar looks impersonal and generic. You don’t need a professional shot, but also, it’s probably best you don’t pop in the one taken in the nightclub a few drinks in.
One applicant had a very good resume, but in her photo she was flipping the bird which was just plain weird. Do a well-lit selfie (not in the bathroom) and smile. Also, lose the sunhat, the sunglasses, the beanie, and the bikini. Your employer is expecting you to dress professionally and your photograph should reflect that.
Spellcheck exists. Use it. Typos are an issue. One typo is forgivable (maybe). Any more than one, I’m moving on. A sloppy CV implies the person pays no attention to detail. Get the name of the company you are applying to right, make sure you spell the contact’s name correctly.
3. Write a cover letter
A CV can be attached in a template format, but a covering letter or paragraph tells you so much more about a person than a list of previous jobs. It is especially important if you are trying to pitch yourself into another industry i.e. “I currently work as an admin assistant for a bank, but I would love to apply my skills to an industry that I am passionate about.”
4. Get as much work experience as you can
It is understandable that someone who is applying for an entry level position will not necessarily have much job experience, which is where interning comes in. I was advertising for a position in fashion, so I looked for CVs that told me the person had volunteered at fashion week, interned at a bridal store, or assisted a stylist for free.
5. Do some research on the company
It takes 10 minutes. It is so pleasing to see that someone has looked at your business, and can express why they are drawn to it, and what they can add to it. Employers can tell if you have just done a cut and paste. A few words about why you would like to join this specific company will send you straight to the top of the pile of interviewees.
As a postscript, I now have about 20 one-on-one interviews scheduled for next week. Part Two – how to blitz an interview in person!