How to prepare for your interview

published  12th February 2024   I STARTING OUT, 


Getting invited to an interview often causes a mixture of excitement and anxiety.


You are one step closer to landing your (first) job in the art department, but you might also be unsure of what to expect and how to behave. The following points will help you to avoid some of the common pitfalls so you can focus on acing your interview.

1. Arrive early

… way too early if you have to.


Your interview will probably take place in a location where you’ve never been before. Check the required travel time and then multiply that by 1,5 or 2 depending on where you need to go and the time of day. Travel times in London will usually increase from the initial estimate of your app. If it’s peak commute time, it can take up to twice the time to get to your interview as initially estimated.


You don’t want to arrive to your interview late or out of breath because you’ve been braking personal records on the way to the production office. Being late almost instantly disqualifies you for the job. In my experience there is zero tolerance for being late in the film industry. They might still conduct the interview with you, but you won’t get the job. 


If you arrive way too early, you can always grab a coffee at a coffee shop nearby and go through your notes. Just make sure you figure out where exactly you need to go and where the entrance to the building is before you sit down. Sometimes that’s trickier than you might think, especially with office buildings in central London and you don’t want to be lost in the maze of a backyard under time pressure. 


If it’s a rather remote location and you can’t find anywhere to pass the time until your interview, either walk around or ask the receptionist/ assistant/ coordinator (whoever will greet you at the door) if you can wait for your interview inside. Explain that you arrived too early because you weren’t sure about the commute time. Waiting for your interview inside will usually be possible and is significantly better than being late. 


If your interview takes places in one of the studios, make sure to carefully read and follow the instruction email you will receive in advance of your interview, so that you bring all the required documents and park in the right place. You will need to go through some kind of registration at the main gate to receive your visitor pass. Plan in some time for this procedure, especially if your interview should take place on a Monday morning. This is usually the time when all new starters for that week will be waiting at the main entrance to get their pass and that can slow  the process down significantly. 

2. Dress the part

It’s very difficult to define what that means for the art department.


If it comes to personal style I believe the art department is one of the most tolerant and individuality-embracing places there is.

As a rule of thumb: Dress the way you would show up to work if you get hired.


You should feel comfortable in whatever you decide to wear. Your outfit shouldn’t be a costume because that will affect the way you behave and how you are perceived.Wear clothes and shoes that would let you do the job you’re applying for. And that also means being practical about what you wear. Just ask yourself: Would you be able to do a location survey in these shoes or clothes?



That said, there is  no harm in dressing up a little and looking presentable.

3. Bring your portfolio and CV

If you are interviewing for the art department, it is assumed that you will bring a hard copy of your portfolio with you.


That’s also the case if you shared your portfolio in your application for the job.


The portfolio will provide a nice structure for your interview so make sure it’s up to date and in good condition. The selection of the work you show should be tailored to the position you are applying for and the form of presentation can tell your interviewer a lot about you as a person.


It’s not a must, but it’s useful to have a printed copy of your CV as well.


Sometimes your interviewer will have it at hand and sometimes they won’t. If they have to go back to their computer and search for it, it can interrupt the natural flow of your conversation. Having a hard copy ready and ideally positioned somewhere in view next to your portfolio will make things easier. 

4. Find out who you are talking to

You will usually know the name of the person who will be interviewing you. Do a little bit of research. Look at their and – if existing – their website.


You don’t need to reference any of your findings in your interview or tell them that you’re a big fan of their work, but it might give you a better feeling of who you are talking too.


After all, they know a little bit about you based on your CV and portfolio so it’s just fair that you know a little bit about them. It might help with the nervousness as well. 

5. Prepare the most common questions

In one form or another you will be asked to introduce yourself during the interview.


It will probably will be in the less formal ‘tell me a little bit about yourself’, ‘what’s your background’ and ‘what have you been up to lately’ kind of way.


If you tend to get nervous in interviews, it can be difficult to answer these simple questions, even if you’re usually a very well spoken and articulate person.


To avoid that from happening or at least improve your chances prepare the answers and practice them beforehand, word by word if you have to. There is no shame in it and it will make you appear more confident. 


After this initial round of questions you and your interviewer will usually look through your portfolio.


There are two main ways in how you can approach that phase:


You can either guide your interviewer through the portfolio by talking about it or you can let them view it and elaborate on questions they might have.


It’s best to leave the decision of how this part of the interview is done to the interviewing person.


If they ask you to walk them through your portfolio, do it. If they prefer to have a look first, let them do it. The questions will come.


Either way, be ready to talk about what is shown in your portfolio. What project was this for? What does the drawing show? What was difficult/ fun/ exciting/ new about it? If you are showing drawings, be prepared to answer how long it took to create them, what software or techniques you used in the process and how they might link to a bigger set build.


At the end of the interview you’ll probably be given a timeline and next steps, something along the lines of ‘We’re meeting with candidates this week. You should hear from us, beginning of next week.’


This is usually the moment where you will be given the opportunity to ask questions. Please do so, if you’ll be asking for relevant and timely information and not just to show that you prepared the interview and to suggest interest.


Don’t waste everyone’s time by contemplating the future of the particular franchise you are applying to or by quoting industry gossip.


This is also not the moment to discuss rates or start dates. This should wait until people have expressed interest in hiring you. 

6. Watch your interviewer

The core goal of an interview is to get the job you are interviewing for.


But it can also be used to help you optimise your portfolio for the next application.


When your interviewer is flicking through your work, pay attention to where they tend to linger a little longer and what pages of your portfolio tend to get passed over with little interest.


Which drawings or pages trigger the most questions and lead to an exchange about the process? These are the drawings that need to go to the very beginning of your portfolio and you need more of that type.


Having said that, not all responses will be based on the complexity of the drawing or the relevance for the job. For a long time the last page of my portfolio used to show a photo  of a model of a white carousel that I made for one of my projects at uni. It was only of limited relevance to the jobs I was applying for – if at all it showed some model making skills – but 7 times out of 10 it would elicit a smile, an emotional response. One of my interviewers later told me that it helped her remember and distinguish me from the other applicants.


This little anecdote doesn’t mean that you should put a photo of a white carousel at the end of your portfolio, but if you have something that you particularly like or that is unusual, it might be worth to throw it in at the end.


More important though is that you watch your counterpart and analyse their responses. You will never get a more immediate feedback on your portfolio than during an interview. Use it!

7. Follow up

As mentioned before, you will probably be given a timeframe as to when you can expect a decision on your application. I

f you’ve been told that you your interviewer will be in touch beginning of next week, there is no use in getting in touch earlier. It might even be harmful and annoy people. If you haven’t heard back until the middle of the next week though, you can follow up on the decision process.

Always be polite and friendly when doing so. Even if it turns out, that people forgot to contact you, there is nothing to be gained by voicing your disappointment or anger. 

If you get a negative outcome, it’s worth asking if your interviewer might be willing to give you some feedback on the reasons for their decisions.

Explain that you are just starting out and willing to learn and their feedback is one of the very few opportunities for you to improve.

Asking this question and taking in the answer is never easy and it takes courage. It’s important to understand that getting honest feedback – especially if it turns out to be negative – is a privilege and a sign of respect. It shows that the other person is willing to have a difficult conversation in order to help you improve. It would be so much easier for them to answer your request for feedback with a polite standard phrase.

So if – and this rarely ever happens – you get some honest feedback, even if it happens to be negative, try to write it down the very moment you hear it and say thank you. 

Writing it down will help you remember the exact words. Negative feedback tends to make us very emotional and that affects the way we remember things.

You might want to review the feedback you have been given after you stepped away from it for a while and cleared your thoughts.

Once you had the chance to process the emotional response, you might be able to see it clearer. Having a written record will help with that step of the process.

8. How to deal with rejection and disappointment

You won’t get every job you interview for.


Chances are you won’t get most of the jobs you apply for – especially in the beginning.


Dealing with this rejection and the connected disappointment can be very hard. In fact, it is hard, always.


Rejection is something humans don’t do well in general. There are probably a thousand books and blog post written about how to deal with this particular aspect of the job search – and life for that matter – so I will only share my personal top 3 here and leave the rest to the experts.


Firstly, try to remind yourself that this is just part of the game. If you decide to apply for a job, you accept the fact that you might not get it. The only alternative is not to try.


Secondly, try to use every interview and every application to learn and improve so that even if you don’t walk away with a job, you can walk away with an insight about how to do better the next time.


And the third one, and that something you can only know in hindsight (that’s why I’m telling you now), it will get easier.


There is a weird anomaly in the grade of difficulty compared to the position in your journey. It is disproportionately harder in the beginning. With every step you take, with every interview you get, with every connection you make the game will change to your advantage.


That might be only of limited consolation in the very moment when things are not working out for you, but it might help you to know that it will get better. 

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