PATH TO PUBLISHING: Interviewing

The CV’s been sent off, the deadline has come and gone, and you’ve been invited to interview. Here’s how my first interview for a job in publishing went and what it taught me.

As previous readers will know, last week I was tackling my second round of job applications in the publishing industry. Thanks to a posting on Twitter, one of those applications came through for me and within a week, I applied for, interviewed for, and secured an internship at a reputable literary agency in London.

Whilst I have nothing to compare to in regards to the norm for this industry, I have a feeling my experience is verging on the uncommon: having sent off my CV and covering letter on Thursday, I received an invite to interview on Friday for the Monday, and got the job on Tuesday!

In the lead-up to my interview, when friends asked me if I was nervous, my answer was always ‘no, I’m excited!’ and that’s how I knew if I ended up getting this role, it would be the right one for me.

Before interview, you should already have a good idea of the company – if you don’t, then why did you even apply in the first place? Interview prep for me instead consisted of thinking about questions I had about the placement: what have past interns gone on to do, how many interns does the company take on, what will my roles be? I’ve always been told it’s a good idea to ask these questions during your interview, usually at the end when your interviewer will probe ‘do you have any questions?’. Answering this with a no can make you look disinterested, and so it’s always best to think about what you could ask beforehand.

In terms of dress, from previous work experience in the industry I knew most offices tend to be smart-casual, but I steered more towards smart in order to give a professional impression, wearing a smart white blouse and black trousers. I’d recommend this style – it’s always better to be over-dress than under-dressed!

And before I knew it, the weekend was over, and it was interview time! Arrive 5-10 mins before you are scheduled. Allow extra time if travelling from far, even if it means having to hang around for a while outside – just take a wander around the surrounding area and get a feel for the place where you could, hopefully, be working someday!

Be nice to the receptionist – they work hard and they will always be welcoming to you, so return the kindness.

During the interview, listen intently and answer any questions you’re asked directly and without needless chatter. My experience was relatively informal and was much more of a chat about the role and what I wanted from it, as well as expanding on a few things from my CV and covering letter. This was quite different from interviews I’ve had in the past for part-time retail roles, where the typical questions just keep coming: what’s your greatest strength, what can you bring to the team, what are you most proud of? Overall, I found this a pleasanter experience because I felt like my interviewers had taken time reading my application beforehand and getting to know me in the same way I had spent time learning about their company. If you’ve been invited to interview, your interviewers are really trying to get to know you as a person and seeing if you match up to the merits of your application. It’s your chance to shine and show what can’t be shown on paper: passion, enthusiasm, knowledge of current events/releases/issues in the industry.

I’d recommend at the end asking when you can expect to hear back if they haven’t already let you know. This will save you from fretting for the next few days if you don’t hear and it shows you’re eager. I feel very lucky in this sense because I found out the very next morning that I’d been chosen for the internship! If only all results would come this quick, eh?!

And so, unexpectedly, this week I got a job. It’s at a real life literary agency, and a damn good one at that. This short, sharp, but testing process has taught me that perseverance is key, and that good things will come when you least expect them. And, that just like publishing itself, the pace is mutable – it can take months or days to hear about your application – and maybe that’s a little bit thrilling!

Be ready to drop everything and follow your dream job when it comes knocking on your door. Even if it means you aren’t going to be getting that long summer break you were gearing up for!

Good luck to everyone dreaming of/ applying to/ interviewing for/ starting in publishing! I’m starting on Friday and I can’t wait to let you all know how it goes!

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