How to Ace a Job Interview in Publishing
I recently appeared as the first guest on Ain Chiara Bensenouci’s #PublishingNotes Instagram Lives. It was a half an hour Instagram live where Ain interviewed me about my publishing past and my tips for entering the industry. One of the questions was about how to ace a publishing job interview.
I thought I would share some of my tips via my blog – as I’m aware I got very passionate and spoke quite fast. A weakness of mine, which I embrace.
Firstly, my top rule for any interview is this. 75% of the interview should be you telling the interviewers why you are perfect for that role, and 25% of it should be you finding out why they want you in that role. You need to ask relevant questions, and they convince you that this job is perfect for you.
Ask relevant questions
So what are relevant questions? Here’s a list:
- For any role, entry-level or managerial, you should find out what the progression of the role is like.
- How often do you have a review?
- Are objectives set that you discuss quarterly, yearly with your line manager?
- Who will be your line manager?
- Are your mentorship schemes available – for you to volunteer as a mentor or indeed become a mentee?
- Do they have an example of someone who has worked in the role previously and what they’ve gone on to do?
- What do they want in a person in this role?
Do you research
It’s a given that before any publishing interview you should do your research and find out the basics of the company.
For example, who do they publish, what appears to be their big upcoming book – why do you think this is their big book? Have you seen it everywhere? Has it got a TV/Film coming out? Was there a large auction during the London Book Fair etc? Who else is on the team, and what would you like to learn from them.
And find out about the company’s history, not just the division but the general overall company as well. For example, I work at Avon a division of HarperCollins UK. It was useful for me to know that Charlie Redmayne is the CEO of HarperCollins and that the company is owned by NewsCorp. It’s not something that you need to bring up in the interview but it may come up and it is relevant and proves that you’ve done your research.
Job History, Side Hustles and Passions
Don’t just talk about your work experience. Yes, this is important but passion and side hustles are equally as useful as showing off your skills and abilities than your work experience. The knowledge is not lost on interviewers that half of all work experience, particularly for entry-level roles, means that you’ve sat at an empty desk, filed items, put labels on packages, run errands and done basic tasks. This is still good, but it doesn’t tell them anything about your ability to design, code, write, brainstorm, speak etc.
A side hustle is not a necessity to get a job in publishing – I would never tell anyone that they must have a second job in order to get the job they actually want?! First comes heart, then comes hustle.
If you have a side hustle naturally then utilise that. I became a blogger at university and I utilised that to show off my writing, coding and design skills which ultimately led to me getting my first three roles in publishing. I didn’t start my blog to get into publishing, it just naturally helped, as a podcast, being an artist, a film blogger, volunteer at a charity shop etc can help with you getting a job.
Skills and side hustles such self-drive, passion and the desire to learn. When you’re applying for a job that’s what your interviewers will want to see in a candidate.
60% vs 100% knowledge
There is a well-known fact that women will only apply for a role if they know how to do 100% of the job specification, whereas a man will apply if he knows how to do 60%. The man has it right. Not because he has confidence, or arrogance, in his abilities but because when you start a new job you’re going from the top of the ladder to the bottom again.
You shouldn’t know everything! If you do, then you’re already doing that job and are undervaluing yourself! You should apply for the next job up the career path.
Something that stuck with me when I interviewed for my current role as Marketing Manager was that they weren’t looking for someone that knew how to do the job 100% because someone that does doesn’t have a challenge in front of them and will leave sooner.
Interviewers want you to stay long-term and develop your skills, and your loyalty to the company. They hate interviewing – trust me! They do not want to do it again in a year’s time.
Someone with 60% knowledge, with the passion and desire to learn – as I mentioned before – is a better fit for a role than someone that knows 100% of the job specification and is looking for the next best-thing.
Remember that when you’re applying, and also during your interviews. If you don’t know how to do something admit to it but explain your desire to learn and how you think you would go about doing it. Use your research on your company or division to put together this plan, and ask the interviewers questions about how they can help you to develop in the role.
And that’s how you ace a publishing job interview.
Additional tips for a Job Interview
- Put your hands on a radiator briefly before you go into an job interview, or make sure that you don’t hold your own hands together, to avoid clammy palms
- I always recommend a power item in your outfit to boost your confidence. For me, it’s red lipstick, it makes me feel like a boss. For you it could be a blazer, or a particular pair of shoes, a piece of jewellery or a watch that comes out at special occasions, a particular hairstyle etc. A power move is a good way to boost your confidence
- Practice your answers to generic job interview questions in a mirror, i.e. where do you see yourself in 5 years, what your biggest weakness, how would you XYZ this book i.e. market/sell-in/edit/brief a cover etc
- Makes notes before the interview and leave your notebook out on the table with a pen, even if you don’t write anything down, to prove that you’ve done your research as well as have a reminder of key points you want to mention
- Refer back to the job specification – think of it as a cheat sheet – your cover letter and your CV. It’s all the information they have on you, be sure to drive it home.
- Get to the interview in plenty of time, the last thing you need is to rush and panic. You’ll end up red-faced, out of breath and thrown out of your element.
- Thank the interviewers for their time: they’re missing out on meetings, answering emails and eating breakfast… in order to interview you. Thank them, they’ll appreciate it.