Monday, May 12, 2014

Preparing for an interview

I recently participated in a panel discussion at my Alma Mater to talk about life in the fashion industry. A student mentioned she had an upcoming interview. She asked me how she could stand out as a candidate. My answer: research. You’ve heard it from me before, but it is worth repeating. Research, research, research.

First, what do you know about the company vs what do you think you know about the company? Many interviewees assume they know about a company from what they see in stores and also from what they heard from friends. What you see and hear is usually about the present and past. What this doesn’t tell you is where the company wants to go. How can you find out this information?  Read recent articles about the company. If you can’t find any articles, 10k filings or earning reports are great sources of information. While they may be somewhat boring at times, the read and preparation is often worth it. An interviewee who says “I read in your 10k filing that you are planning to expand your women’s business. Your women’s line is high quality with great colors, but I think increasing the assortment to include sweaters and knits could really capture additional market share in the women’s space.” will stand apart from many candidates who will say “your women’s line looks great. I love the dress collection from this season.” Having the knowledge is important, but as you can see from the above statements, you also need to use your critical thinking skills to help you stand apart.

Secondly, who are you interviewing with? Don’t be shy to ask the recruiter for a list of names. Have you Googled them? Have you checked them out on LinkedIn? It is always smart to know who your audience is. With today’s technology, it is easy to find out about people. Not only does it help you to understand how you can direct the conversation, but it can also help you not stick your foot in your mouth about a prior company your interviewer may have worked at in the past.

Believe it or not, hardly any candidates do this level of research. I have had candidates interview for a job in the retail division of the corporate office who ask me how many stores we have. This is one of the easiest things to find out had they cared enough about the interview to do the research. I immediately cross them off the list of potentials. If they don’t take the time to research for the interview, they are not the type of employee I’m looking for.

How can you better prepare for an upcoming interview? What research have you already done? What else can you do to stand out as a candidate?

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