As promised in yesterday’s post, today I’m going to tell you my top five tips for a successful job interview. These wise words have been gleaned from several years on both sides of the table. I have interviewed people for jobs and newspaper articles, and I’ve been interviewed for many different kinds of jobs.
Let’s start at number five and work our way down.
5. You must make yourself memorable. Obviously, you shouldn’t come right out and start swearing. That’s a very bad idea — unless you’re 17 and can get away with it. Then it’s hilarious. I would suggest wearing something interesting or telling a funny story. Always try to incorporate humor into the interview.
Example: A couple summers ago I did an internship with a local weekly newspaper. Before going in for the interview, I carefully selected the articles I included in my portfolio. I made sure to give prominent placement to an April Fools Day article I wrote about my university sending admissions counselors to other planets.
The interviewer scanned over that article, scoffed a bit as he read it, and moved on to the very last article in my portfolio detailing the number of sex offenders in the area around my school.
Him: scoffs. I hate these kinds of articles.
Him: They’re just people trying to live their lives.
Me: Well, I didn’t include any names. Besides, it was assigned to me. I wasn’t going to pass it up. It turned out well, I think.
Him: I know, I just don’t agree with posting the names of new sex offenders in the area in a newspaper.
Of course, for the rest of the interview I was thinking, That’s not what I did. However, he remembered me as the girl who wrote about sex offenders. So there’s that.
4. Dress well. Don’t wear jeans ever. It doesn’t matter what job you’re going for, how casual the position is, or how well you know the interviewer. Working as a manager as a portrait studio, I met a lot of people who were looking for jobs. I always made mental note of the people who seemed serious about their job search by dressing well.
Example: As I sat at our front counter one afternoon confirming appointments for the next day, a man walked into the studio. We had a session going with a mother and two kids, and the man walked in as though he was looking for them. When I asked if he was with them, he gave me a confused look. I pointed around the corner to where the lovely mother and her two darling children *cough*LIES*cough* were being photographed, and he turned to me and said, “No way, man. I ain’t got kids. I’m looking for a job.”
Now let me tell you what this guy looked like: shaggy, dirty hair. Ripped jorts. Birkenstock sandals with socks pulled up to his shins. A dirty white shirt with yellow armpits and a hole in the back. One dangling silver earring with a feather at the end. A hippie.
So listen up, hippies. Don’t dress like you’re going to Burning Man when you’re going job hunting. You’ll get turned away, I promise. That guy could have been the next Ansel Adams, but Birkenstocks and socks? This isn’t 1994, buddy. Take off those jorts, put on a pair of slacks, and run over to Penney’s for a button-down. Then we’ll talk.
3. Be careful what you bring with you. This is specifically for those of you with portfolios. As you consider what to bring, make sure it’s appropriate for the job.
Example: Imagine the look on my face as I open the portfolio of a gentleman applying for a job with the portrait studio and right there, in my face, BOOBIES.
The guy had done freelance work as a photographer at strip clubs. There were photos of ladies crawling across the floor, ladies hanging upside down on stripper poles, ladies with their tatas hanging out, ladies with their legs wrapped around chairs … lots of ladies. I couldn’t look away. I was caught in this awkward situation of having this book in my lap, wanting to maintain my composure, and being completely flabbergasted that this guy brought it into a family portrait studio.
Me: You’re aware that we don’t do … this kind of photography here … right?
Him: Oh yes, of course. But this let’s you know that I do have experience working with women.
Me: I think your talent may be better suited for Glamour Shots.
2. Make sure you know that Mary Kay Place did the voice of Julie’s mother in Julie & Julia. This is of the utmost importance. You never know when someone might ask.
1. Let your personality show. Make sure you are at ease with what you say. If you’re nervous, employers can smell it. They’ll latch onto that and run with it, taking each question as an opportunity to make you feel less and less at ease. I know, because I did this.
Let this be my confession: I tried to use interviews as a way to make people come out of their shells. Photographers at the portrait studio for which I worked had to be “performers.” They had to be able to entertain and have a great time with kids while being respectful of parents’ wishes. We were told to think of interviews for new employees not as interviews but as auditions.
There were so many times I would get a shy kid looking for his first job. I would ask the routine questions: Why do you want to work here? What are your qualifications? Did you bring a portfolio?
Then I would get weird, and I would do it on purpose.
“If you’re in a sitting with three children ages 3, 5, and 19, and the 3-year-old won’t stop picking his nose, what do you do?”
“If a pregnant woman comes in wanting photos of her in lingerie, how do you turn her away?”
“If you see someone stealing a sheet of portraits while they’re viewing their images, how efficiently do you hit them?”
“If a father is hitting his child, which prop would you smash into his head?”
“What’s the most efficient use of these props: alphabet blocks, rose petals, blue blanket, ball point pen?”
“What’s your favorite cartoon, and how many lines from it can you quote?”
To all of those people I may have made extremely uncomfortable, I’m sorry. But these all were actual experiences I encountered while working as portrait photographer.
Oh, and the ball point pen? The kid wouldn’t let go of it without crying, so I gave him a yellow steno pad and a pair of another photographer’s glasses. He looked so fricking snazzy, like a little businessman.
Hopefully these help. As one last note on making yourself memorable, it helps to say ridiculous things, too. Here’s a good one: if you see a person eating a brownie, say, “A brownie is a wish my mouth eats.”