‘Publishing is extremely competitive.’ ‘Getting into the industry is tough and can take some time.’ ‘Don’t give up, the right job is just around the corner.’ We hear these phrases all the time. And they are true. Publishers receive hundreds of applications, especially for entry-level roles. Even with HR teams helping and support hiring managers through the process, those numbers are very high. But let’s say you made it through. You receive an email saying they’d like to interview you. You get excited, start thinking about how you are going to present yourself, what questions are you going to ask them, what you’re going to wear… Then you realise that it’s a digital interview. Not a Skype interview, just a digital one. PRH has started this process a while ago. I did two of these interviews and both times, despite being pretty horrified by my performance, I managed to get through to the next stage. So I thought I’d share a little more about these different types of interviews in case is helpful to someone.
How does a digital interview work?
The main difference between a digital interview and a Skype interview is that there won’t be anyone on the other side of the camera. It will be all done through software, I used one called HireVue. You will receive a link and once you access it, you’ll have the chance to run a couple of trial questions. Please always do that. It will give you a chance to warm up and to check that your camera, microphone and background/lighting all work well. You can take the digital interview in your own time and wherever you like (just make sure you have a strong internet connection and no background noise if at all possible). The ones I’ve done didn’t last more than 30 minutes, but bear in mind that once you go ahead and start you won’t be able to pause. You will see a screen with your face (which you can cover if you prefer) and a question will pop up. You will have 30 sec to read the question and once these are up, you will have 3 minutes to answer. Although you don’t have to take the whole 3 minutes, I would recommend you to try and stick to that time to make sure you answer the question as comprehensively as possible, as you would in a face to face interview. Once all the questions are answered, a recording of your interview will be sent to the hiring manager.
How do you prepare for a digital interview?
In the same way you would for a telephone or a face-to-face interview. It’s very important to not skip this step. I have shared some interview tips here, but one thing I would add is to try and practice talking to a camera. If you are not confident talking to a camera, give it a go before even using the practice questions on HireVue. I remember having to think about my posture and keeping my hands from flying around too much (I’m Italian after all…). It was also useful to make sure my voice was clear and that I was able to look straight into the camera to give the interviewer the idea that I was talking directly to them. When I did this, I immediately realised that the fact I was concentrating on all the above meant I was really tense and looked very serious. So I tried to relax a bit and added that to my list of things to remember. It’s uncomfortable but please rest assured that the people watching this know that and appreciate all your efforts.
What type of questions can you expect?
The quick answer is any type. However, to help you prepare, think about any questions directly related to the job you are applying for. For examples, some of the questions I had in my digital interview for my entry-level role at PRH a few years ago were: ‘Tell us a little bit about your prior relevant experience’, there was a question around excel functions and one that threw me completely which was ‘What is your favourite PRH book?’. Looking at it now, it was clear that the hiring manager was trying to test my knowledge and understanding of the role with the first one and my essential skills with the second one, whereas the last was about understanding my knowledge of the list (I was told afterwards that many candidates mistakenly mentioned other publishers’ books – please don’t do that!). The questions for my current job were a mixture of competency-based questions and behavioural ones. I think they wanted to test my knowledge but also to understand my work ethic and approach.
What if you panic?
I’ve been there. In the last question mentioned above, I did. My mind went blank. In the 30 sec that I had to think about my answer, I even tried to reach for my phone to google a title, but the time is not enough so don’t even bother. I knew I need to say something, this was actually my last interview before my flight home to Italy (for good, as I didn’ have any savings left). It was my last shot and the stakes were pretty high. So I said something. The first title that came up in my head that was for sure a PRH title. Had I read it? Nope. Was it in my TBR? Nope. But was I going to look like a scared goldfish and blew my chance to get into the biggest trade publisher in the world? You guessed it: no! Now, the role I was applying for was to become an international sales operations assistant across the whole list, which made it easier to pick a random title. It wasn’t in editorial, marketing nor publicity within a specific division. So I guess I’ve managed to get away with it, but my point is, try to say something. What is the worse that can happen after all?
I hope this is helpful, but if anyone has any questions on this or interviews in general, do let me know.
Good luck and remember – you’ve got this!!!
*This article was written before lockdown in the UK*