A close friend of mine (also a designer) recently found herself thrust unceremoniously into the job market after a seven-year turn as an in-house creative. Due to budget cuts and the increasing challenge to justify the cost of her team, her department was eliminated, and so she is back on the hunt, revising her portfolio and attending interviews, the determined piggy on a mission to find her truffle, a new creative home.
She posted about a recent interview on Facebook and a friend of hers replied thusly (and I’m paraphrasing here):
“Here’s some interview advice. Tell them what they want to hear. I spent years being honest in interviews before I finally wised up and got hired.”
Unfortunately Facebook has yet to invent a button that elbows someone in the ribs, so I made due with an indirect comment about my own interview advice: be yourself.
Not your whole, uncensored self. An interview is not the time to air your grievances about a relationship gone awry or bitch and moan about the weather / your bunion / your recurring tooth loss dreams. But you should be honest about who you are professionally, what kind of role you’re looking for and the skills you’ll bring to bear.
Interviewing is kinda like trying on clothes. You’re looking for a good fit – if possible, a great one. And you really can’t return that new full-time gig as easily as you can an ill-fitting little black dress. And yeah, finding the job that fits can be five times as challenging as finding said dress – but that’s part of the process, especially for a creative.
You won’t always get hired, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. If you’re offered (and accept) the wrong job based on fibs shared in an interview, you might be missing out on the right gig waiting around the corner. Worse still, you could be damaging your professional reputation by faking your way into a gig you don’t deserve. You won't be remembered as a great vice-executive-head-bitch-in-charge, but you may be remembered as a liar.
Be truthful. Be yourself. And be patient. It might take ten, twelve, fourteen interviews for your particular skill set to meet the needs of an employer – and for them to meet yours. Maybe even three interviews with thirteen people over the course of seven months. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.) And not having a job or the right job is a scary place to be.
But that’s ok. Be scared. Use that fear to fuel your redoubled efforts. Take the crappy side gig and pay the bills. Work on your portfolio. Get feedback and revise. Keep applying, searching, showing up.
And hang in there. Good things come to those who wait – and those who work their arse off for them – and those who tell the truth.