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Interview Advice

Interview Advice

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Verity Hawson is Associate Director at Inspired Selection. Her background is in ELT publishing and she currently manages all the Educational Publishing jobs.

Q1 How should I prepare for an interview?

There’s no such thing as too much preparation! To start your preparation I would suggest researching 3 key things: 1. the company, 2. the sector, and 3. the job.

  1. The company: find out as much as you can about the company, their vision, values and strategic priorities; familiarize yourself with their products/services in order to be able to demonstrate you have done your research at interview.
  2. The sector: look at who their main competitors are; latest industry trends, developments, opportunities and threats. Check the news for any recent goings-on
  3. The job: use the job description as a guide to understand the responsibilities of the role, and have an example prepared for each; study the key competencies required and think when you’ve had to use those skills yourself, whether professionally or otherwise.
Q2 What should I do if I don't know the answer to a question?

If you don’t know the answer to a question in an interview, don’t panic and most importantly, stay calm! This is where the preparation comes in. Be prepared to not be able to answer every question. Don’t be afraid to tell them you aren’t able to answer and buy yourself some time, e.g. "That's a very interesting question, can I take some time to consider it and get back to you later?" Or, you might say, “That’s a tricky one. Can I think about it, and come back to it at the end of our conversation?".

Whatever you do, don’t just wing it, be open and honest, it shows integrity and your personality traits.

Q3 How can I improve my general knowledge of publishing before the interview?

General knowledge of publishing can be improved by research. Either looking online, reading books or speaking with people to gain insight into the way publishing works and latest industry trends. It all varies depending on the sector however. Dig deep to understand the specific area you are looking to pursue, e.g. Education, Trade, STM, Professional or Academic. Get a feel for how the sector has developed.

Attending networking events taking place in the run up to an interview will help, and speaking with people, asking intelligent questions about what they do in their role and how they fit in with the larger organisation. Ttapping into your own network will certainly improve your knowledge. If the opportunity arises, visiting book fairs will give you a feel for the types of publishers out there. There are also some fab publishing courses worth exploring.

Q4 How long does an interview tend to last?

An interview tends to last anything from 30 minutes – 1 hour for a first interview, to 45 minutes – 2 hours for a second interview, depending on the format. E.g. An initial telephone interview will last roughly 30-45 minutes max.

Whereas a 2nd interview that takes the format of an assessment centre, e.g. a task, activity, then interview can last up to 2 hours. Ask the person arranging the interview how long you should expect it to last so you can plan and prepare accordingly.

Q5 Which roles in publishing involve working with lots of people?

Publishing is very social, and requires different post holders to liaise on a daily basis with various colleagues. If you are a people person though and like playing on your strengths in this area, then Sales is certainly an area to consider.

Sales, where interacting with people internally and externally (with the customer) is key to building strong working relationships and achieving success. Other roles where this applies might include: Publicity, PR, Customer Service, and such like.

Q6 What methods can I use to keep myself calm?

Remaining calm is important to deliver strong answers and perform well. Ask for a cup of water when seated at interview, this way if you need to buy yourself time to think about an answer to a tricky question you can take a sip and collect your thoughts. Also, don’t have too much caffeine before, sometimes this can make you feel jittery. If you do feel like you’re getting flustered, take a deep breath and if necessary ask the interviewer to repeat the question to give yourself time to compose yourself

Q7 Do I need to bring anything with me to my interview?

Depending on the role it will be useful to bring along samples of your work, e.g. a Design portfolio, Marketing collateral etc. Other essentials would include a pen and notebook in order to take notes. Also, make sure to bring anything you might need a spare of, e.g. an extra pair of tights in case you get a ladder (for the girls out there!). Most importantly: bring a SMILE. Showing enthusiasm for the job should never be underrated.

Q8 Would you advise that I arrive early for my interview?

Arriving early is good as long as it’s no more than 5-10 minutes early, and personally, I wouldn’t advise announcing your arrival or reporting to reception earlier than 5 minutes before the scheduled time as the interviewer may feel pressured to come meet you then rather than wait until the correct time. If you do arrive at the interview far in advance go to a nearby café, have a decaf drink and fill the time by going over some of your prep notes.

Q9 What should I wear to my interview?

Always better to be overdressed than underdressed I say. Look professional whatever your attire, you don’t need to be suited and booted but wear something that will feel both comfortable in and smart. Dressing smart for an interview gives a good first impression and shows that you are taking the interview seriously. If you are unsure and want to ask the person arranging the interview about the dress-code, do so.

Q10 Are interviews for the publishing industry different to any that I have experienced before?

No. An interview in any industry is a great opportunity for a company to explore your fit for a role, and vice versa. It’s just as much for you to find out more about whether this job is in line with your career aspirations. For any role you interview, have prepared some intelligent questions to ask at the end. This demonstrates your interest in the role and enthusiasm to work for this company in particular.

Q11 If you could give one piece of advice for someone about to attend an interview for an entry level publishing job, what would it be?

Just one? That’s tricky! I’d say, do your research and thorough preparation (see Q1 from earlier) - there’s no such thing as too much prep! Always, always show enthusiasm for the role and the company. A good nights’ sleep the night before also helps energy levels! (That was 3, oops!) You can find lots of useful hints and tips on interviewing here.

Work in Publishing Week (19th-23rd November 2018) is a week long campaign to celebrate careers in publishing.