Mark Simon takes on the knightly challenge between the Job Inquisitor and the Job Searcher, in this months Mind Your Business.
Are you thinking of looking for a new job? Does the idea of facing the job inquisition scare you into staying chained to your current desk? By the order of Sir Mark Simon (and signed by Maria Borbon and Francisco de la Rosa) the job inquisition has hereby been abolished. You never need fear the torture of interviewing again.
Lets break the interview tribunal into three parts, preparation, interview and follow-up.
To make the most of every interview, you need to understand the company who will be interviewing you. Dont get axed out of consideration because you were too lazy to do a little research.
Heres a quick checklist of questions to help you prepare for your interview:
What does the company do and what do they sell?
What is their market?
Who do they cater to?
What style of dress do they expect?
Are they formal or informal?
What are the job openings and titles they have available?
What are the duties and requirements of those jobs?
- How do you/ can you fulfill their needs?
Answering these questions does not have to be difficult. It can be as simple as just asking the person who set up your interview. Or you can ask someone who does or did work there. The company may have a website which will tell you most of what you need to know.
Many people are nervous about the interview process. The more prepared you are, the less nervous you are likely to be. After you do your research, prepare at least three questions to ask during your interview. This will let them know you are passionate about working for them and youve invested time and effort into this process.
Practice. If youre not accustomed to being interviewed, have someone who is used to hiring people do a practice interview with you. To make the most of your practice videotape the session with the camera looking directly at you. When you watch a replay of the tape, pay attention to your body language, fidgeting and eye contact, as well as to your answers.
Know what to bring to the interview. It is always best to bring at least three extra copies of your résumé. Dont assume they will have a copy with them. From your research, the job title on your résumé should match the position they have available. You also never know if you will have multiple interviews during one trip.
When I interviewed to work on Spielbergs series, seaQuest DSV, I had three interviews in 15 minutes and walked out with a job. Be prepared with samples and résumés to make your presentations and close the deal.
Creatives should always carry samples with them. Writers should have relevant writing samples, artists, animators and designers should have portfolios, demo reels and tear sheets. All samples should be relevant to the job you are interviewing for. Dont bring drawings of naked swordswomen to land a job animating on Blues Clues. (Dont laugh. This happens.)
Many creatives dont think about having leave-behinds, or one-sheets. Put together single sheets with examples of your work and your contact information. Unlike a large portfolio, these can be left with each person you meet to help them remember who you are and what you do. It also shows your ability to prepare.
Before you leave for your interview, make sure you eat well. You dont want to be hungry, hung-over or have low blood sugar during an interview. Give yourself every opportunity to succeed.
Know how to get to their offices. You dont want to be late for your interview. You may even want to test-drive it once so you dont get lost and know how long the drive takes.
Dress the part. People at many companies do not wear suits, dresses or chain mail. Creative and entertainment companies are usually casual in their dress. Casual, by the way, does not mean sleeveless, dirty t-shirts with political slogans or cursing on them.
If you show up for a designer job in a suit and tie, it may show your naiveté in the industry. However, if you show up for a bank job wearing a Hawaiian shirt unbuttoned to your navel and flip-flops, you will not be taken seriously as a candidate.
When I was art directing films and television series, I had very long hair and a goatee. After a few years of living in Florida, I got tired of my neck sweating from the long hair. One day I cut my hair short, which made me look more business-like and less like an artist. Within a month, I noticed my bookings were declining. I let my hair grow back out and the bookings increased again. Clients have preconceived notions of how people should look and those notions can work for you or against you.
Make sure to show up on time. If you show up late, that tells the employer how little you care about them. If you are held up for reasons out of your control, call your contact as soon as possible before your interview time and update them on your expected arrival time. Be respectful of their time.
As you arrive for your interview, give yourself enough time to use the restroom. You want to be comfortable during the interview.
As you enter the building and are waiting for your appointment, take this opportunity to look for commonalities you may have with the company and your contact. Look for commonalities as you enter the interviewers private office as well.
Do you have hobbies in common?
Do they have kids the same age as yours?
Are you both sports fans?
Do they have toys all over their office?
Do they have vacation photos of a location youve been to?
- Have they won awards you are familiar with?
Things you have in common with interviewers gives you opportunities to relate to the person on a personal level. You are both more likely to be at ease in an interview if you can connect on a personal level.
Personal items in peoples offices also give you clues into their personality. Toys and a playful décor tells you they are informal and likely have a good sense of humor. A clean office devoid of personal objects may mean the person is straight business, or recently moved into that office.
Dont make the mistake of thinking that your interview starts only when you sit down with the interviewing Friar. Your interview actually starts as you enter the castle.
You never know who the people are who you meet on the drawbridge or in the elevator. You dont want to accidentally say the wrong thing or make a bad impression with someone who has say over your possible future in the monarchy of that business.
Never underestimate the power of an assistant. After every interview, an interviewer is likely to ask their assistant what they thought of the applicant. Any snide comments of yours within earshot of an assistant will likely burn your chances of being offered a job.
When you meet the inquisitor, give them a nice firm handshake. Weak handshakes denote a weak person. Be confident. If you dont believe in yourself, no one else will.
Make sure you look them in the eye during the interview and smile. Try not to fidget. Everyone gets nervous, but try to conceal it. Chewing your nails, twisting your hair, bouncing in the seat, tapping with your hand and other nervous ticks are distracting in an interview.
Pay attention to your body language. If you videotaped yourself during a practice interview, now is the time to use what you learned. Slouching shows you may be lazy and not interested in doing an outstanding job. Dont cross your arms in front of you. That demonstrates you are not open to suggestion and may be obstinate. Leaning forward a bit shows interest and energy on your part.
If you noticed any commonalities you may have with the company or your inquisitor on the way in, mention them. Try to have a personal connection with them, but keep the tone professional.
Compliments are always nice, but make them sincere. Insincere comments will work against you.
Dont be afraid to show your passion for what you do and how excited you may be for the opportunity to work with them. Many people make the mistake of hiding their enthusiasm. I would rather hire an enthusiastic person.
When I was in college, I wrote a paper on an animation studio located in Dallas. I contacted the owner of the studio and asked if I could interview him. He agreed and offered to give me a tour of his studio. During the tour, I found out that he had created a show I watched growing up. I let my excitement show and enthusiastically asked him a number of questions as we walked his studio. I saw a large rotoscoping machine (this was back in the mid-80s) in the corner of one room and ran over to it, exclaiming how cool it was. He was so impressed with my energy and enthusiasm that he offered me a job while I was interviewing HIM.
Be sure to remember to ask the questions you wrote during the preparation. However, let them ask their questions first and wait for the appropriate time to ask yours. The inquisitor will often ask you if you have any questions.
It is fine to carry with you a notepad if you want to jot down notes, however, make sure you pay more attention to the inquisitor than the paper. It would be a good idea to notate certain questions that you feel you can respond to in more detail on your follow-up, as well as remembering what they seemed to like about you.
You may also want to ask them what they are looking for. Respond to their comments with your own applicable attributes.
Make sure you listen to what they are saying. Know when to be quiet. You never know what you may learn as they speak.
Immediately after you leave the inquisition, take note for yourself how it went, commonalities you shared, what they asked, what you think went well and what you think you may need to emphasize in your follow-up letter. It is very easy to forget details as time passes.
Follow up immediately with a professionally written letter or e-mail. Make sure all your correspondence is professional. E-mail should not be an informal medium when dealing with employers. Your note should be short and direct. Touch on things you feel they liked about you. Sell yourself by emphasizing your excitement of working with them and mention any of your attributes, which may not be obvious on your résumé or from your interview.
Understand that most people are overworked these days and it may take them a while to get back to you. Feel free to give them a call after a week or two, but dont make a pest of yourself and be very polite about it. I have seen people lose potential jobs because their impatience and attitude were disrespectful.
This may seem like a lot of work for an interview, but if you do it right, it may be your only interview as you get offered a job.
While it may seem difficult, try to enjoy the process. The more relaxed you are, the better you will do. It helps to realize that most interviewers will not put you through a difficult inquisition. They want you to do well. You are not bothering them. Their job is to find the right person. Your job is to prove you are the right person.
Mark Simon an award-winning animation producer, storyboard artist and lecturer who is also the author of books for artists, such as Facial Expressions: A Visual Reference for Artists, Producing Independent 2D Character Animation, Storyboards: Motion In Art and Your Resume Sucks!. His books may be found and purchased online along with custom résumés and free industry forms and podcasts at . He may be reached at MarkSimonBooks@yahoo.com.