The informational interview

They say the economy is improving but, in publishing, it is still very difficult to get a job, especially at the entry level.  We are fortunate enough to have very little turnover in our staff  at DGLM so most of the interviews I do are “informational” – I am asked by friends or colleagues to speak to young college graduates about our business and advise them on how best to get an entry level job.

Last week I had just such an interview and it struck me afterward just how badly prepared the person I spoke with was.  So, even though this might not seem relevant to writers, I thought I’d share those things I deem important in interviews of all kinds.

1)      Dress appropriately.  Appearance matters, no matter what people say, and so wearing inappropriate clothes or outfits should be off limits.

2)      Research the company you are going to be interviewing at.  Know the kinds of books they represent or publish and be able to discuss a couple of them if at all possible.  In the same vein, try to research the person who will be interviewing you so that you are knowledgeable about their interests and achievements.

3)      Look the person with whom you are meeting in the eye.  There is nothing more distracting to me than someone who is talking to me and looking everywhere but at me.

4)      Express interest in whatever company you are interviewing at and in the job you are searching for.

5)      Ask appropriate questions both because you really want to know the answers and to show how interested you are.

6)      Finally, and this is most important, write a thank you note, preferably in long hand and mail it right after your interview.

As I said, this blog post is probably not appropriate for writers, but frankly, as I look over the above list, I think an author interviewing a new agent or meeting with a prospective publisher should definitely observe all of these rules as well.

Whether you are searching for a job, an agent, or a publisher, first impressions are most important and following the rules I have outlined here, I think, will serve you well.

4 Responses to The informational interview

  1. Joelle says:

    I think the thank you note is so important! I learned that from Dear Abby when I was in high school and have been doing them ever since (for everything from dinner to parties to school visits to bookstores to workshop coordinators to gifts). When I met my husband, he was a writer of thank you notes, too! People often comment on them as unusual and old fashioned, but they make an impression and are good manners.

    When I used to audition, which is a kind of interview, I always took a card, envelope and stamp along and as soon as I was done, I’d go to a cafe and write out one to whoever I auditioned for and sent it on my way home. It worked, too. People felt appreciated that I took the time and I even got hired a year later once.

    This reminds me that I owe someone one, so off I go!

  2. Kevin A. Lewis says:

    I think it’s always important to show a bit of class by not only putting on a good front window display, as it were, but also acknowledging that someone’s time is valuable and taking the time to talk to you isn’t something that happens all that easily. Jobwise,I’m long past that now, thank you God, but as a writer one has to realize that 95% of all queries go unread and that actual read-requests are special occasions. If somebody takes the trouble to read one’s stuff they rate a diplomatic oration of thanks for their trouble regardless of the outcome, and since we’re on the subject, somebody on my end was agonizing about what to do about critical observations in a turndown. My thought is that if you get, say half a dozen reads in the course of 6 or 8 months and they all have the same critical comments, you need to fix it, but if they’re all more than politely complementary but all over the map about why they’re turning you down stick to your format like grim death. And DON’T do what a a few bat-witted writers I’ve met do and send them a flame-mail calling them a bunch Candy Crush addicts, & etc. Remember New York’s a small town and these people talk to each other, cowboys…

  3. Katie Newingham says:


    So this means I shouldn’t wear my combat boots on my next interview, right?

    I think I’ve chosen the right profession. Hopefully soon I’ll land an agent and confirm my suspensions that my “interesting” wardrobe belongs behind a keyboard.

  4. Katie Newingham says:

    Spite thee, autocorrect!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

Please type the characters of this captcha image in the input box

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>