The New York Post has an essay by Cosmopolitan.com editor Amy Odell detailing her interview for a fashion writer position with Anna Wintour at Vogue. Amy details how nervous she was, what she wore to the interview and the questions she wishes she’d answered differently. Ultimately, she wasn’t offered the job. “If they had hired me, I would have done it well, I’m sure of that, but it would have been an enormous struggle, and I’d have gone on Valium just deciding what to wear every day.” It’s an excerpt from her new book, Tales from the Back Row, about working in fashion while feeling like an outsider.
I can certainly relate to the bungling of interview questions and feeling clueless when it comes to the fashion world. More job seekers might feel at ease if it were more common for people (other than anonymous Glassdoor reviewers) to write about their job interview fails. Of course, one can’t be too careful when blogging about work-related issues, which is probably why most people don’t. However, it is possible to share the ups and downs of interviewing without naming the company specifically or burning professional bridges. With that in mind, here is my own big fancy fashion magazine interview fail.
After I graduated from college, I reached out to some New York City-based alumni from my university for help as I searched for my first job. Since I like fashion and loved writing for my college newspaper, I decided to pursue a career in fashion magazines. As luck would have it, one of the alums from my school worked for a well-known fashion magazine and was kind enough to set me up with an interview for two entry-level openings. Aside from spending the previous summer working as an intern at a law firm (and deciding it wasn’t for me), I didn’t have much real-world work experience. So, naturally, one of the first questions I asked the alum when we met in the reception area was if working at the magazine was “like The Devil Wears Prada.” I can’t think about it without cringing, especially because even if her answer had been yes, it would not have kept me from taking the job.
I met with two different editors; one was on the fashion side and one was an editorial assistant. I gathered that they were trying to gauge if I would be better suited to work as a fashion editor or writer. The editorial assistant who interviewed me seemed exhausted. She was quitting to go to graduate school and interviewing potential replacements. She told me that the job involved long hours, grunt work, no opportunity for advancement and no time for a social life, but I didn’t care. I said that sounded great. I was 22 years old and unemployed; I couldn’t care less what kind of job demands I had to meet.
I don’t remember many details about my meeting with the fashion editor. She was impeccably well dressed, but she explained that when she started at the magazine, she didn’t know much about fashion: “I was like, ‘Narcisco who?'”
“RODRIGUEZ!” I all but shouted, nearly hurtling out of my seat like the next contestant on The Price is Right.
The next day, my interviewer informed me the magazine had decided to go with another candidate. That isn’t to say that I wouldn’t have done the fashion or editorial assistant jobs well if I had gotten an offer. Thankfully, I accepted a job at a different company the same day, though I have often wondered where I might be today had my interview gone differently.
Now that several years have passed, I’ve realized that there is a danger in wanting a job too much, on placing so much importance on a single interview, even if you are perfectly qualified for the position. It’s unnerving, at least for me, to know how close I am to having a job I want, even with so many factors in play that are out of my control. I’ve been on many job interviews since the big fancy fashion magazine, and I’ve been nervous, and talked too much, or not enough, but I haven’t had an outburst of a designer’s last name since.