Category Archives: Job interviews

Do I look confused in this?

What are people wearing these days to job interviews? Here is some helpful advice:

From The Return of the Interview Suit, NY Times:

“… go with a pantsuit because that gives a better silhouette.” — Simon Kneen, creative director of Banana Republic.

“I’m really against pants. They look too casual in most situations.” — Designer Nicole Miller.

“… clean and simple lines — anything that doesn’t distract the interviewer from understanding the qualities you bring to the table.” — Karen Harvey, a recruiter for top fashion and retail jobs.

“ … give people something to remember. … pick a color, as opposed to wearing all gray.”  — Jenna Lyons Mazeau, the creative director of J. Crew. “”

“I’m a big fan of sticking with navy or gray pinstripes.” — former designer James Purcell, who now works as an image strategist for executives and politicians.

Cost of all this?

From Buyer’s Guide: The Perfect Interview Suit:

“It’s reasonable to expect a suit to cost somewhere between $300 and $1,000.” — Erika Chloe, celebrity stylist and founder of fashion consulting company “My Image Expert.”

Confused and depressed now?


Best foot forward

I had two interviews recently that I considered fairly important — good jobs at respected, successful companies (dare I dream of longevity? … no, let’s get in the door first). I had done enough research about each company that I was prepared. Still, I had a certain amount of anxiety. Both jobs are medical editing positions. This is work that I know, but it’s been a few years since I’ve worked full time in medical publishing.

Because of this time gap, when I look at my resume and writing samples, I will sometimes get this odd, disconnected feeling that someone else wrote those stories, that someone else did those jobs, that someone else holds the experience listed on the resume with my name on top. My medical pieces were published before I got married, so my maiden name is on the bylines. But it’s still me; I haven’t changed (much). I wrote those stories, I interviewed those doctors, I attended those medical conferences — all those things my resume says I did. And I consider myself more valuable to employers these days. I have more computer skills, I know more about web research, website creation and maintenance, blogging and tagging, and at least a little bit about using social media.

So there I was, conservatively dressed, with extra copies of my resume, the job description, a list of references, and a few informational pages about the companies for me to review prior to the interview. In the first interview I met one person; in the second  I met a team of 10, over the course of four hours, and took an editing test. Although the rapport was good and I left both interviews with a good feeling, I have no idea what impression I really made.

Did I seem positive? Did I seem confident? Did I come across as phony? I certainly wasn’t depressed and I don’t think I acted negative. I worry if I seem less confident when I start to think, What are they looking for? Is making a joke good or bad? Do I come across as too aggressive or not aggressive enough?

The people I met were in a very wide age bracket. The youngest looked 30-something, possibly late 20s. The oldest might have been 60-something. So I didn’t feel I would be shut out because I was too old. But there could be any number of reasons why I don’t make the cut. If I’m offered a job, they might tell me what led them to make the choice, but if I don’t get selected, I’ll probably never know why. It’s emotionally draining because you might know how to do a job but if you can’t win over an interviewer than you’ve failed.

And the process starts all over again — I have another interview on Monday. I’ll research the company, I’ll make copies of my resume, I’ll get all dressed up, I’ll be upbeat.

Someone gave me some interview advice a few weeks ago that I had completely forgotten until just now. “Walk in on your right foot.” Damned if I know what foot crossed the threshold on the last two interviews. I’m not a superstitious person in general, but I’ll try anything if it seems harmless. Maybe I’ll get some placebo effect going — if subconsciously I think the superstition works, maybe I’ll project onto the interviewer that I am the person he or she is looking for.

Was that an interview or a drive-by shooting?

Also appears on the blog, Politics of the Workplace

The “creative talent coordinator” at the agency sounded very enthusiastic on the phone. The job description matched my credentials. I had all the experience they were asking for and more: twenty-five years in publishing; more than ten years as a medical writer and editor. We set up an interview the next day with the “lead recruiter.” It seemed very positive.

Yet the next day I found my suited-up self in a gray windowless cube, across from a woman who was frowning at my resume.

“You don’t have pharmaceutical industry experience.” It was an accusation.

I had come in feeling confident. Even though my resume hadn’t gotten a bite in a while, I do have a good background, and I figured that eventually someone would notice, or someone who had already noticed would finally get the green light and the budget to hire someone like me.

I’d traveled over an hour from northeast Queens to get to Manhattan that morning, had taken twenty minutes to fill out the agency’s ten-page application, and had sat waiting another ten minutes or so for the unfriendly recruiter who was now lecturing me about not having the “right” background.

What do you say when an interview turns out to be nothing like you expected? No matter how much you prepare, occasionally someone tosses you a curve ball.

Trying to maintain my cool, I pointed out what my resume said: “I have more than ten years in medical publishing. I have experience using AMA (The American Medical Association Manual of Style).”

In response, her finger moved down my resume and she said that my last medical editing job was a while ago. Technically, she was right; that job had ended in 2003 and I was a freelance medical writer for a year or so after that. I had worked at a medical publisher more recently, and I had reported on medical studies on my last job, but I was not a “medical editor” in those roles.

“We have people with recent experience at pharmaceutical companies who are applying for this job,” she said.

I wish I’d had the presence of mind and the confidence to say, “I don’t understand why you called me in and wasted our (“our” of course meaning “my”) time if you didn’t think I had the experience you needed.” Instead, I looked at her, unable to think of anything to say beyond, “I can do the job.”

She then said she could submit my resume to the company that was hiring, if I wanted, but she didn’t think it would get very far. Let’s get this debacle over with so I can go find a place to cry, I was thinking. But on hitting the street a few minutes later, I felt not sadness but anger.

What was that all about? It made no sense to me. Someone on LinkedIn suggested that the agency had brought me in to fill a quota, to protect themselves against potential charges of age discrimination. That made sense. I don’t feel very old; I didn’t think I was already at an age where I had to worry about that. But I am turning forty-eight on June 12, so I guess I am at that age.

I had no other bites for a while. There were times when I told myself that maybe I deserved to be treated that way. I’d go through the litany of my past: If I’d gone to a better college, if I’d gotten better grades, if I’d been more aggressive as a reporter when I was younger … and the worst one – if I were smarter — I’d be in some high-level job right now.

Writing about it on LinkedIn helped, and I was gratified to see the number of responses and the number of people who had gone through similar experiences. The incident also forced me to take another look at my resume and find places to tweak it, to better highlight some of the things I had accomplished.

There are days where I tell myself I will never work full-time again, that it’s going to be freelance from here on in (luckily I have a freelance job right now and I’m surviving). There are editing jobs out there, yet so many seem to require skills I don’t have — I’m not a content manager or a search-engine optimization expert. But I imagine that I’ll probably, eventually, get a job. I’ll be overworked and underpaid (we are talking about publishing). If I’m lucky, I’ll get a little respect.

(c) 2011 by Jan Arzooman