By Cheryl Kees Clendenon
Getting any job can be tough, but in the home furnishings/design field most of us look for some sort of experience. Specific skills are important, but we are willing to teach someone with the right mindset and personality. However, you must be able to tell us how your existing experience can help US. Just as our focus is on solving our client’s problems, you should be focused on how you can help us solve ours.
PSA before we dig in: Please do not send unprofessional photos of your home with the faux finishes you created in the bathroom and word signs above the bed; the friend’s home you decorated for Christmas with burlap and a hot glue gun; a wedding reception you designed with mason jars and vintage spoon mobiles, or anything you would not put on the internet in a professional portfolio. Please and thank you.
I am kidding. Mostly.
Writing a resume
Please, please send a cover letter (especially when the ad requests one, for love of all things beautiful). We rarely look at a resume without a cover letter. We ask for it, and if you cannot follow directions then why would we think you would when hired?
Write your resume with an emphasis on the skills that will translate to the new position. Do not fabricate, but you can surely translate the skills you used to manage a busy dentist’s office to handling projects in a design firm or managing customers or tasks. Absolutely. The key is to be sure you actually relate your skills to the job that you are interviewing to get.
At the interview
Show up on time to any interviews. It is ok to dress creatively but IMO I would cover any loud or super obvious tattoos. Come on, I’m being real here —if you have a full sleeve, you probably are not going to want to show it off to Mr. and Mrs. Gottrocks client right off the bat. Tattoos and piercing are part of mainstream society now but be cognizant where you are and what type of clientele the firm or shop attracts. And please, no chewing gum. Get rid of it before the interview.
Have something to say. Ask us good questions!
Be engaging in the interview please — we want personality, and this is key. You would be surprised how many people come in and have nothing to say. On the phone too — some never make it past this stage because they do not have a single thing to talk about it. We are in sales, folks, like it or not, and you must be able to converse.
How do you think your skills translate? Think ahead on this
Talk about how YOUR SKILLS can be used to do the tasks and assignments in this job description. We genuinely want to hear this and it can make the difference between getting the job or not. Write it out before the interview. Best advice I can give.
Have references. We check them, so no tomfoolery
Bring references and send letters via email but please make them germane. Again, think how you can help solve our problems.
Research us but do not show up unannounced
I find many we interview do this, but mostly to see if they want to work for us, not for research into how we work or how they can translate their skills to our firm. You cannot seem too eager — unless you show up or call unannounced. We are busy and do not like calls or drop-ins until we can schedule time to focus on the conversation!
Be energetic and friendly
No need for jumping jacks, but put on a friendly face, as this industry is super small, folks — do not underestimate who knows whom.
Drink some coffee or something because we are looking for energy (most employers are). If you are not a super-outgoing person, you need to fake it until you feel comfortable. This is a social field; no need for craziness but you need to have a smattering of social skills.
Be realistic about pay
This means knowing what you are worth with your skills and in your market for the job being offered.
Do not expect to make millions right off the bat. Know the typical wages for the area in which you live and for what you are wanting to do. If you are making good money now and want to switch careers, be prepared to take two steps back in order to take one step forward.
It’s shocking how many do not do this.
We had a nice woman apply a few weeks ago and she seemed very interested but did not follow up at all. Major bummer. This will lose you the job with us (and I bet with many.) And no excuse to not send an email, for Pete’s sake!! If you want to stand out, send a note. If you want to be a super star, send a little clever something or another that reinforces your skills or personality or energy. Design is a creative business. Be creative!
HAT monthly columnist Cheryl Kees Clendenon owns In Detail Interiors, the full-service design-based retail showroom in Pensacola, Fla. She also consults with other small businesses and interior designers via the Damn Good Designer program. [email protected]