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Former Vogue Editor: The 9 mistakes most people make in a job interview.

Former editor in chief of Vogue Australia Kirstie Clements shares her advice on how to work magic in a job interview.

During my time as editor in chief of Vogue Australia, I conducted countless interviews with applicants eager to snare their dream job.

The prospect of working at a high fashion magazine was the holy grail for so many, we were constantly inundated with enquiries. The deputy editor Leigh Ann had the task of culling the enormous amounts of CVs that arrived each week, just to get them to a manageable pile.

“I finally realised what it is that annoys me” she said, placing a couple of applications on my desk that she had actually deemed possibilities. “They all mention what Vogue could do for them – indulge their passion for fashion, magazines, travel. They hardly ever mention what skills they could bring to Vogue.

Related content: Missed out on a new job recently? This is probably why.

In my new book, Impressive How to Have A Stylish Career (MUP) I tackle the subject of how to ace a job interview, gleaning advice from more than thirty colleagues and professionals who are all top of their game in the fashion and media industries. Here’s my top list of what not to do.

Kirstie Clements

1). Don’t be underprepared.

Take the time to learn about the company you are asking to join, what their business is and does, what campaigns etc they are currently producing, what awards/wins they have had. They will be impressed that you took the time and did the research.

2) Don’t apply for one position actually wanting another one.

Ambition is natural and important , but an employer doesn’t want to know about your fashion styling capabilities if the job they want filling is clerical. Do the job you are supposed to do, and raise your ambitions later. Much later. After you have aced the first role.

Related content: The one colour you shouldn’t wear to a job interview. (And the colour you should.)

3) Don’t be late.

No one cares about the bus schedules, the traffic, the alarm that didn’t go off. Be 15 minutes early. And never, ever, walk in late with a takeaway coffee in your hand.

(I’ve never recovered from that one).

4) Don’t overdress, or underdress.

There seems to be an assumption that if you are going for a job in fashion you have to dress like the latest street style star, or in head to toe expensive labels. It’s preferable to just wear something simple and tailored, with some great shoes, or one piece of statement jewellery, and let your personality be the centerpiece. Most employers cite grooming as the first thing they notice, meaning they zero in on dirty hair, or chipped nails. And don’t wear fakes – a fantastic Zara tote is better than a faux Vuitton.

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We all remember this infamous scene from ‘The Devil Wears Prada’.

5) Don’t aim to be the boss, NOW.

Many employers I interviewed were naturally wary if the candidate made it plain that they were in a hurry to be the boss, or were felt they were too qualified to do entry level tasks, like packing a box. Some of the best executives I know are still prepared to do the menial work whenever needed.

6) Don’t talk money first.

It’s important to make sure that the job is paying market rate, but making your salary the priority in the very first interview can go against you. That is not to say you should underestimate your worth – once you agree on a starting salary you may not see a pay rise for a long time, excepting a CPI increase, so you must settle on what is fair.

Also, in my experience, women don’t negotiate as hard as men, even if they have the credentials. But if it is an entry level job, and they are taking a chance on you, you have to be realistic. Try to do some research on what that role is currently paying elsewhere and put yourself in that range. Don’t believe that everyone is out there getting $2500 for an instagram post – they’re not.

Want more? Try: The job interview lie that one in three women tell.

7) Don’t make fashion the only passion.

Oftentimes when I interviewed candidates they would talk only about their love of fashion, and reel off a list of current and obvious designer names . Often that just equated to a love of shopping. I would suggest that it is better to be interested in much, much more – film, art, theatre, costume, history, literature, pop culture, music. Then you arrive at fashion.

8) Don’t worry about nerves.

Being a little bit nervous is lovely. It means that you truly care about the interview, and the role you are applying for. No employer is going to put a strike against you for that. Don’t run yourself down, but neither do you have to do a hard sell. Confidence will come naturally as you blossom in the role. Make sure you have a firm handshake, ask questions, make eye contact and be present.

9) Don’t forget to follow up.

Even if you are unsuccessful in your interview, always follow up with an email, and/or a thank you note, to acknowledge that the employer has spent time with you. You never know – the person they have appointed to the role may not work out, and you just may be the next person they go to. Manners are remembered.

Impressive: How to have a stylish career by Kirstie Clements is published by MUP, RRP $45 You can purchase the book here. 

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