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Interview tips for fashion designers

Graduate careers

1. Know the brand, retailer or supplier...

Make sure you get to a store! Whether it is one of the accounts the supplier works with, a concession, stockist or retailer make sure you get in store look at and touch the product. Your portfolio really needs to be spot on and relevant to the brand/supplier/retailer you are interviewing with.

For example, if you are interviewing at a dress supplier to New Look, your handwriting/portfolio needs to reflect this. Send examples of your portfolio with your CV as JPEGs or PDFs. It’s vitally important to tailor your application, as generic CVs and portfolios won’t cut it. Believe it or not, lack of research is the number one gripe that employers have about jobseekers they interview!

2. Know your portfolio back to front

Your portfolio needs to speak for itself to an extent but be confident talking through it. Most recent work at the front and running front to back. Trends first, then shapes & colour pallets, CADs and specs. You'll need to confidently talk through current key trends and you shouldn't have any work in your portfolio that is more than a year old, especially at entry level.

3. Take pride in your work

The company aren’t hiring your portfolio, they’re hiring you for your ability to produce fantastic work, so sell yourself and your skills.

It’s easy, especially for less experienced designers, to start a presentation with “this is only…” if you’re nervous, but when you’ve spent weeks on a piece of work, you should be proud of it and you’ll be doing yourself a disservice if you play down your work.

4. To lead or to follow?

Also be prepared for the fact that every interviewer will approach the interview differently. Interviews tend to be fairly informal when it comes to fashion design so make sure you do take charge and talk passionately about your designs. When in the interview take your lead from the interviewer’s body language as much as what they ask you.

5. Speak out!

If your interviewer doesn’t mention a particular part of your portfolio that you’re proud of, or doesn’t ask enough about your great career experience, mention it yourself! This isn’t a time to be polite and wait to be asked about your achievements – if you feel you’ve done some great work which is relevant to the company then make sure you tell them about it or they will never know!

6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Remember that if you get the job, you’ll be spending every working day there and it would be best to learn as much about the environment and as early as possible! We advise people to take in a notebook with questions to show you are really prepared.

Whilst you should have already researched the brand and its ethos, this is a chance to get insider information. Ask your interviewer why this vacancy has come up, what the lines of progression are, how long they have been in the job and what their approach to design is. Whilst it is unlikely that their answers will dissuade you from accepting any job offer, it’s a good chance to find out more about what you’re getting into. Also make sure you tell the interviewer that you are interested in the role if you are. It's amazing how many people don't do this!

7. Added extras

Design teams will be looking for someone who can add something new, or fill a gap in their business but not at the expense of your core skills. So if you have a particular specialism, mention these at the end in a way that the interviewer feels you can really add value to the business in the future.

They may well also ask you about how well you handle conflict. The creative industries are famously a hotbed of emotion, tight deadlines and strong personalities so the interviewer will want to know how you would react in a high stress situation. Have an answer prepared detailing a time where you turned a potentially negative situation into a positive one.

Related content: Getting ahead in design

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