The Fashion Magpie Byta Cup

Weekend Vibes, Edition No. 105: Interviewing Dos and Don’ts.

My Latest Snag: The Byta Cup.

This past week was a blur — the whole house was sick again and mini had a bad fever for two days that led to an emergency visit to the pediatrician. It was not my finest moment, but when the nurse took her vitals and mini was screaming and clinging to my neck, tears slid down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed and exhausted. And is there anything worse than seeing your baby uncomfortable or scared or in pain?! As I was scrolling through Instagram in search of reprieve once she was down for the night, I saw the snap above of Eva Chen and ordered a pink Byta cup on the spot. I needed a pick me up and this one gets great reviews for holding either hot or cold beverages. Cheers to a new week! Separately, I wish I could have impulse-bought her shoes, too. CHIC!

You’re Sooooo Popular: Les Polka Dot Flats.

The most popular items on the blog this week:

+Polka dotted flats! ($125!)

+My dream dress for summer. How chic with simple brown leather sandals? Everyone loved this similar style as well.

+The most epic wedding shoes.

+An ultra-flattering dress for summer. (Around $100!)

+Boring, but good: the best floss.

+This was a thrill ride of a read, but I have to say — I took great issue with the bizarre ending. Will need to unpack at some point in the future, but WTH?!

+Team oxford comma!

+A really great travel facewash.

#Turbothot: Interviewing Faux Pas.

I have interviewed dozens and dozens of job applicants over the course of my career. (Maybe hundreds even? Just thinking back on the business I founded with my husband, we probably interviewed fifty candidates for various roles, and that’s not counting my previous posts, where recruitment was also high on my priority list as a leader in two small, fast-growing organizations.) Hiring is a black magic as far as I’m concerned. You can put as many safeguards as you’d like into the process — but without seeing someone interact, on a daily basis, over an extended period of time, under varying conditions of stress and movement, with the rest of your team, it’s exceptionally difficult to know how well someone will work out. And vice versa: you can be drinking the kool-aid as an applicant and then find out that the company and its team are nothing like what you were promised. Still, I’ve had occasion to spend a lot of time thinking about interviewing on both sides of the table and have come to find certain consistencies among applicants who have worked out particularly well. I recently had a reader ask for some tips on interviewing for a new position and I thought I’d open up the floor to my smart magpies — what are some do’s and don’ts? Below, I’ll share my own two cents though I am far from an expert:

+Show up early and respond promptly to all correspondence. Such a simple, straight-forward no-brainer in my opinion but I was shocked at how many interviewees missed this critical respect-showing step. I had one interviewee breeze in twenty minutes late with a coffee in hand? For all I know, the interviewee may have been over the moon about the position, but showing up late or not responding to an inquiry in a timely manner telegraphed a lack of interest. Sometimes I think this is a generational thing, where old-school office etiquette simply isn’t considered important?

+Do not badmouth former employers or colleagues. The sad truth is that most people quit bad bosses rather than bad jobs. (Think about it — I would say the number one reason I’ve moved from job to job has been related to culture/management rather than anything else. If you’re with a team or boss you love, you will stick around.) But don’t use the job interview as a space to vent frustrations. It gives off a negative vibe and comes off as holier-than-thou. I say this having made the error myself and then cringed in retrospect. If you are asked point-blank about your working relationship with a former boss, I would frankly advise that you devise a polite way to courteously sidestep the question: “I’d outgrown the role” or “there were culture issues at the organization at the time” or something that expresses dissatisfaction with the role but not with specific people. (Also — having been on the other side of the table, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the interviewee would spend her time complaining about me as a boss to everyone around her!)

+Send a thank you email or — better yet — a hand-written note after an interview. This can and should be ultra-brief; you don’t need to wax poetic about the hiring manager or the position. I usually thanked the person for their time and candor, re-stated my interest in the position, citing something specific that sparked my interest about the role; and then concluded with: “I believe we would be a great fit for one another and look forward to continuing the conversation.” The art of the hand-written note is not lost! I used to write notes to sales prospects and investors by hand, too. It builds goodwill and communicates care, poise, and follow-through.

+Read up on the company and arrive with questions. Most recruiters will ask whether interviewees have any questions. I always felt that interviewees that seemed to have spent time researching the company and had thoughtful questions prepared were much more attractive. Whether or not it was true, it showed they’d taken the time to do their homework and were evaluating the business carefully. I had many interns in particular who arrived without fully grasping what the business or role was — always a turn-off. You should be able to pithily explain what the business does in one sentence when you walk through the door. I say this because I was asked this question and I in turn asked it of potential hires: “If you were asked, what’s the elevator pitch for our business?”

+Similarly, rehearse a personal “elevator pitch.” (If you’re not familiar with the phrase, start-ups routinely rehearse their “elevator pitches” — i.e., what they might say to a potential investor if sharing an elevator for sixty seconds. Compress everything into the briefest, catchiest of explanations so that people remember what you do easily and so that you are showcasing your key points quickly and readily.) You should also have a personal elevator pitch: “I am a creative, “full-stack” product geek. I’ve worked on everything from QA to designing mock-ups using InDesign to managing stories in product development software that the engineers use.” Or whatever. Use the appropriate level of jargon for the person you’re interviewing with. You don’t want to throw a lot of argot around if you’re speaking to the head of HR, but if you’re interfacing with the head of product, you should carefully trot out the appropriate terms of art to show you know your stuff. Rehearse your personal pitch. You’d be surprised at how often interviewers will ask: “So, I’ve seen your resume, but why don’t you walk me through it?” (UGH DAGGER) or “So, we’ve chatted a bit, but why don’t you give me the highlight reel?” (Honestly, those generic questions reflect poorly on the interviewer!)

+Arrive with a “yes, and” attitude. One of the trainings I ran with a lot of my teams anchored upon the “yes, and” mantra from improv comedy. Improv comedians learn early on that, when on stage, you should always receive someone’s contribution with an enthusiastic “yes, and!” The idea is that someone might say: “My tooth just fell out” and if you say “Yes, and — so did mine! We better get to the dentist!”, you are building a narrative and moving things forward. If you respond with: “No it didn’t,” you’re killing the momentum and canning their creativity. I found that some of my own interviews involved crazy questions, activities, and even simulations. I always greeted these steps enthusiastically, even when it meant that I one day spent a full afternoon talking about the ins and outs of product design with a consultant who didn’t even work at the organization in question. Yep, I’m here and I’m ready! I said, shrugging off my initial skepticism.

+Take a deep breath and trust yourself. I would often give myself a weird kind of pep talk before heading into an interview: “You are just talking to another human being right now. They need you as much as you need them. This is just a conversation and you are a great candidate. Be yourself!”

+Dress up. Others may disagree, but it doesn’t matter whether you’re applying for the most casual of start-ups in San Francisco — dress up. I always wore a dress and heels to interviews.

What would you add to this list?!

#Shopaholic: Velvet Loafers.

+Loving these velvet smoking loafers in the moss green.

+In love (!!!) with this dress in the floral or plaid prints. The sleeves! The smocking!

+Heads up: Tory Burch is running an insane sale. I’ve got my eyes on this D&G-esque dress and these perfect pointed-toe flats, but you should know that two of my absolute favorite pairs of shoes — these pearled mules and these bow-topped flats — are on RIDICULOUS SALE.

+Intrigued by this well-reviewed concealer

+Ordered these toddler training cups (with lids!) for mini. (Read reviews!)

+This sparkling water maker is one of the chicest appliances I’ve ever seen.

+Cute toddler bedding for a preppy bedroom.

+Love these monogrammed gift tags.

16 Comments

  1. I’m sorry to hear about the doctor’s visit… I, too, find that they have been becoming increasingly difficult as my baby gets older and more aware of what’s going on but not quite understanding what’s being done to her and why. Sniff.

    I have and love those TB navy pointed toe bow flats! They make me feel a touch more dressed up even if I’m in jeans and a sweater. True to size in my experience!

    Love the interview tips, particularly the “yes, and” attitude…as well as all the recommendations from the commenters! I’d also add: know who you’ll be interviewing with, and do some research about their work. It may also be a panel interview, so when the interview is being scheduled I ask the hiring manager who all will be present so I can look up their recent projects, research, publications, etc. in an effort to find common ground, and to begin reflecting on what I might bring to the work.

    Also, I think it’s important to not be so discouraged (easier said than done!) if things don’t work out, as sometimes one might be a fit for the organization but not the specific position. But if you left a positive impression, they might remember you when something else comes up, and if nothing else it could at least mean an expanded network.

    I agree with dressing the part, but also don’t wear anything brand new unless you’ve at least tried it on for a few hours at home to check if you’ll be comfortable, and especially to ensure that there are no potential wardrobe malfunctions like gaping buttons, etc.

    I’m also a believer in thank you notes, and yes to handwritten ones!

    1. These are FANTASTIC additions. Love especially the tip on getting to know the interviewer by doing a little recon on his/her role and background (often there are brief bios on company websites, or LinkedIn). You’re right — it can really help build common ground and easy rapport. Super smart!

      And, you’re so right about trying not to get discouraged when things don’t pan out. It’s easier said than done but fit is SO important.

      xx

  2. Love these tips so much! As an interviewer, I have to admit I will almost always open with a pretty generic “tell me about yourself” or something along those lines, and then use that as a springboard to other questions. Culture fit is HUGE for us, and especially in a first interview, it honestly doesn’t really matter WHAT I ask them, I just want to get them talking to get a feel for who they are!

    1. Hi Em – That’s a totally fair point. It’s more getting someone to begin to speak openly/authentically about herself than anything else. xoxo

  3. You covered everything I would have said re: interviewing — love the tip about thank-yous in particular. Springboarding off of what Gina said in the comments, I would say to do both: send an email within a few hours of the interview (i.e. by night on your interview day, really) and drop a handwritten note in the mail ASAP. I think the handwritten note speaks volumes in this digital day & age, but as Gina mentioned, sometimes interviewers are moving so quickly that they are looking for a response via email first. I would also say to dress maybe even a bit more conservatively than you normally would — this has never failed me in my career!

    That scene at the pediatrician’s sounds like no fun at all…hope mini is feeling better this weekend! xo

    1. Such a good point! Hadn’t thought about the lag in between interview/receiving the hand-written note. Probably best to cover all bases and do both!

      Totally agree on dressing more conservatively than usual, too. Better safe than sorry. This is also why I tend to overdress in general in life!

      xx

  4. I love that concealer! I do have mixed feelings about the built in applicator (usually great and saves me another brush or dirty finger, but can be hard to tell how much is coming thru and I wonder how much gets absorbed and wasted.) overall though I love how it works on my skin so I’ll be replacing it when I’m out.

    My interview add: in addition to reading up on the company and the role and having questions prepared, be prepared to answer why the industry, why the role, why the role at this company specifically. In my industry (as with most others) there are plenty of other companies within the industry, and I’ve been asked many times “why here?” Better yet, build that “why” into your elevator pitch as a fluid part of your story and a crucial part of your next chapter.

    1. Hi Amy! Interesting note on the applicator. Sometimes these products are over-engineered in terms of packaging and it drives me crazy. This was especially true of Dior’s micellar water — at $44, it should be able to brush my teeth and make my bed for me, too, given that drugstore brand micellar waters are pretty much identical and cost literally 1/10th of the price. But all I found was that the mechanism to get the water out of the bottle always led to waste! It was maddening! I digress. But thanks for the note on concealer!

      Love these additions, too — “why the industry, why the role, why the role AT THIS COMPANY SPECIFICALLY.” Super important. Mr. Magpie was just saying that he’s been interviewing for a lot of open roles on his team himself in the last few weeks and he tends to ask some variation of: “What brings you here today? Specifically here, to this office out of all the similar roles you could be looking at?” Compelling.

      xxx

  5. Great interview tips! I would agree that speed is the most important component of follow up- if a thank you note doesn’t come within 24 hours I’m honestly skeptical of a candidate’s interest in the role and almost hold it against them, even if the note that arrives days later is great. To that end I would say if you do handwritten, drop it off later that day or the next morning- by the time it arrives via mail, they may have moved on! I am also always impressed by candidates who mention a component of our conversation to show they’ve been thinking about it since we met. If they share a particular thought that resonated with them or an idea that they had later, it shows me both how they think and how motivated they are to get the role, and stands out much more than the generic “I enjoyed meeting you” variety.

    1. This is SO smart and I hadn’t thought of the time component as carefully in today’s now-now-now world. Love the idea of hand-delivering! And also love the idea of specifically addressing a part of the conversation, even a reference to an off-handed/polite chat about something personal can be interesting and show engagement and thoughtfulnesses.

      xx

  6. As always, great interview advice. You covered that nicely.
    I love the TB Clara how flat, but the bows look like they drag on the floor in the video, which would make them look dirty and sloppy. Do you have that issue?
    Question: what happened to your carousel? I loved it and now it’s gone. Please bring it back.
    Happy weekend! (I don’t like Sundays, because I can’t get my daily fix of you!) 😉

    1. Thanks, Cynthia!

      On the TBs — I’ve gotten this question a lot! So, I have found that the ribbon is pretty stiff and that the ends stay “extended” and don’t, like, flap under the bottom of the shoe as you walk in them. BUT I will be honest and note that my taupe/camel pair have begun to show some signs of dirt/wear. I’ve been pretty meticulous about wiping the ribbons off when I get home. It’s a bit annoying but I guess it comes down to when/wear you might be wearing them. I tend to wear these when I’m going to an inside event with girlfriends rather than traipsing around town running errands so it hasn’t bugged me. But I totally get the reservation and want to be up front that these will get dirty quickly if you wear them out and about quite a bit. (Or maybe go with the black and it won’t matter?!)

      Finally, thanks for writing in on the carousel! I know a lot of you loved this feature. It’s an added step in getting a post out and I’ve been behind and so I’ve trimmed it for now in favor of getting my posts out but thanks for letting me know. I hear you!!! xoxox

  7. Great tips. When job-seeking, I also like to remind myself that not only are they interviewing you to see if you’re a good fit for the place, you are also kind of interviewing them to see if the place is a good fit for you. To that end, my favorite question to ask is “what would you say is the most challenging aspect of this role?” (said in an upbeat and positive tone, to telegraph that you are excited by the idea of new challenges!) Judging by the reaction I’ve gotten, it’s not a super common question, but I think it can be very revealing.

    1. Ooh, this is a good one! I think it also shows that you’ll be contemplating that challenge as you prepare for the role, should you land it — it demonstrates a measure of proactivity and strategic thinking that are super appealing.

      xxx

  8. Tips are spot on. Such great advice. I would only add…leave your phone behind. I’ve had candidates show up with phone in hand and not muted.

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