I recently interviewed for a Men’s Fashion and Lifestyle writer position with luxury retailer Harrods. As of writing this article, I’ve heard nothing about the success (or otherwise) of the interview.
So, while the proverbial cards are still on the table, and while the experience is still fresh in my mind, let’s have a look back at the interview process and its contents.
It’s helped me to think about what took place and – if you’re working in fashion and/or retail or are simply about to interview for any role that you REALLY WANT – I hope it will help you too.
What follows are some preliminaries, a rundown of the questions they asked (and how I answered them), and some insights into what I figured out during and after the ride.
I wasn’t 100% on the day. I’d had an overnight headache (possibly stress-related. I wonder why!) and a lack of exercise over the weekend. This affected my overall performance because I’m usually sharp with my answers, and I felt a little tired in situ.
But tiredness also slowed me down so that I didn’t overthink things or get agitated in advance, which frequently leads me to speak too quickly.
The interview itself was via MS Teams and involved the hiring manager (and Head of Women’s Fashion) and the Head of Men’s Fashion at Harrods.
I was on time. They were two minutes late. Then they appeared in front me on screen and it was game on.
The Gig Economy Mindset is a Must
Firstly, and importantly, it’s vital to stress that we’re living in a gig economy world. Anyone interviewing with multinationals or big-label brands should remember that these organizations have a lot of people passing through their respective doors.
Most of those people have talent and dedication. Some don’t. And brands like Harrods, which still operate, at least in part, institutionally (i.e., like a big old company) are open to the kind of thinking that freelancers can bring.
A freelancer is always open to new ways of working, has a more commercial eye on current opportunities and trends as well as being a specialist in their field. And they’re hungry.
I write this as encouragement. If you’re looking to get hired by a major brand or label, then the experience you’ve gained in your struggle for minor recognition and incremental gains can be a real strength come interview time.
And you’re interviewing them too.
The mindset regarding interviews with big brands is frequently something akin to us being the little squirt (male or female) who wants to marry the icon. Fair enough, they’re the legend.
But we should temper this belief with the equally valid truth that the icon is aging and not as in touch with what happening on the street as the independent squirt. For this reason, big firms love raw talent, even if it stutters and forgets its lines.
In the ‘warm up’ phase of the interview, I was encouraged to talk about something I enjoy doing aside from work. In my answer, I went leftfield in mentioning that I manage my son’s basketball team. Here I was interviewing for a fashion writing role and I’m chatting about overtime and dunking contests. Was I out of my mind?
In retrospect, I should’ve mentioned that I write for fun into the early hours of every weekday, but my actual answer demonstrated organizational ability, a commitment to health and fitness, family values, and a degree of Gen A street cred. It also led to a later question about fashion and the streetwear brand Amiri.
Remember – only a fraction of the interview demands that you answer questions accurately. A lot of the information that you provide is simply proof that you can think on your feet and bring the conversation around to the kind of positive values and skills that brands are hungry to hire you for.
The next two questions were generic and related to how I deal with pressure and change, and how I go the extra mile. I tried to incorporate examples from my writing work here. I did OK.
Interestingly, these are the types of questions that ALL employers will ask. Basically, how you deal with difficulty in various guises, and how you can relate it to the role you apply for.
So, a word from the (not so) wise – For any job interview prep, think about a work-based struggle you’ve encountered and what you did to overcome it. Practice the narrative from a couple of different angles – a change you had to deal with, a problem you had to solve, a failure you had to absorb. You will be asked these kinds of questions and they are important.
Next was how I communicate with seniors and how I deal with the need to correct work. I didn’t deal with these questions well because …
Well, because I was getting over that initial shot of adrenaline and was starting to think, really?
These are the kind of questions they’re asking me! An aspiring fashion writer! I’ve been asked these kinds of questions when I’ve interviewed for teaching roles.
And thinking like that was a mistake. That pride, that belief that my aspirational status set me above pay grade questions was an illusion.
As I said, all organizations want to know the same stuff – are you going to come here and play ball, and what’s going to happen when we criticize your work?
Only towards the end did I have to deal with questions about my fashion interests and my writing.
So 80% of the interview was standard stuff that – shockingly – I could’ve prepared better for had I read any one of a thousand job interview-type books or websites.
Afterward, I felt the whole experience could’ve gone better, but I also looked at it from that freelancer’s position – it’s vital to have the experience of talking to big brands about, essentially, paying me money to do a job.
Whether they do or not is important but moving out of the interview and hoping like crazy that I’ll get a “yes” is (partly) beside the point.
I’m good at what I do. I deserve the role. If it’s a no, I’ll return to bat another time (with better answers). If it’s a yes, then maybe interviews are a breeze