How not to get hired at a fashion magazine: 10 mistakes that could be killing your chances
Finding a job, any job, is tough, but particularly so in fashion media—a small, competitive world where people tend to hang onto their positions for dear life. But there are ways to make sure your cover letter and resume get placed in the “Yes” pile—at least long enough to get you in the door for an interview.
Here are 10 turn-offs from actual cover letters and resumes that I have seen in my 6+ years as editor-in-chief of FASHION.
Don’t say “It’s my dream to work in fashion”
I get that working at a fashion magazine is a dream for many. But telling me that in your cover letter makes you sound like a tween. Even for an entry level position, I, like many others, am looking for mature person who can handle lots of responsibility, stay calm under pressure and be a team player. Focus on the skills and experience that are relevant to the position. If it’s your dream to work in fashion, you should be able to provide some related experience even if it’s a part-time retail job, contributing to a blog or working on a school fashion show.
Don’t insult the brand you are applying to
If I ask you to critique our magazine, website and social media channels in an interview, that’s one thing. I have already established you as a potential candidate and am looking for fresh ideas you can bring to the table. But trashing our brand in your cover letter—outlining improvements you would like to make, for example—is not going to make me want to hire you. It might indicate that you don’t understand our positioning in the market. I would also worry about whether you would be disrespectful to me and the rest of our team.
Don’t tell me you will solve all my problems
Opening your cover letter with, “You can stop searching right now because I am your new x,” is a sure first step toward the trash bin. All it does is paint you as an arrogant know-it-all. “Hire me and you won’t be sorry” is a recurring theme, whether it is in those exact words or expressed in a more subtle way. Telling me you are so special you have never found a task you couldn’t master is another red flag—everyone has strengths and weaknesses and if you can’t admit the latter, that’s a problem.
Don’t claim to have interviewed Lady Gaga or Beyonce if all you did was put quotes from a beauty company handout into a blog post or story. This will probably come up in your job interview and you will have to admit you didn’t have a face-to-face sit down with the star. For that reason alone I would write someone off as untruthful and untrustworthy. And don’t bother declaring that you got “rave reviews” for your work with celebrities or interview subjects unless you can show proof to back this up.
This would seem pretty obvious but misleading claims often show up on resumes and cover letters. Don’t declare that you “worked with Kim Kardashian” when you all you did was ambush her for a selfie at a personal appearance. Don’t write that you were the founder of a very successful indie magazine that was distributed in Canada, the US and the UK if I am not going to be able to find any trace of it ever having existed. Leaving a couple of copies of your short-lived vanity project in airport lounges doesn’t count as distribution of a very successful indie magazine. Just say you published an indie magazine for a while. That’s enough to pique my interest. Any major claims will be investigated to determine just how real they are.
“It’s all about me, me, me”
While the cover letter should provide a sketch of who you are and where you are in your career, it should also make a case for why you are a good fit for the role. Put yourself in my shoes. I need to know that you are on a relevant path and that the position I am trying to fill would be the next logical step.
I once received a cover letter from someone who works at a city magazine but really wants a job in fashion. She wrote, “I want my career to be in fashion journalism and although (x magazine) has provided me with skills and knowledge, only a fashion-focused publication can take me in the direction I want to go.” But this isn’t only about you and what you want.
Don’t be vague
Many resumes that cross my desk include experience writing fashion stories. But this doesn’t tell me what kind of fashion stories. Designer profiles? Business and retail news? Short trend items? Long essays? If you are applying for a job that includes fashion writing, be explicit about what kind of writing you have done. And I once received a resume from someone who described herself as an editor/journalist/stylist/producer/MC/host/broadcaster/media personality/style expert. I was left with the impression that she was a “jack of all trades, master of none.”
Be careful what you link to
If you provide links to material you have written, make sure they are relevant to the brand you are applying for. Ripping into someone on your blog and calling them a “douche bag” (yes, this was a link on a resume) sets off alarm bells that you might not be a good fit for the FASHION brand. If you follow us, you will know we don’t call people douche bags.
Basic. Basic. Basic. But you would be shocked how often it happens. And I am not talking about tricky or obscure terms. Someone applying for a copy-editing job misspelled a designer name in her cover letter. That’s a major fail, as is screwing up the editor-in-chief’s name. Have someone skilled proofread your resume, cover letter AND email introduction. Any written material you submit needs to be perfect.
Don’t assume I know you
There are thousands of blogs out there and only so many hours in a day, so I apologize if I am not familiar with yours. Starting your cover letter with “I am sure you know a bit about me from my blog (insert name here)” is a hint you might not have a realistic idea of how a magazine works or what the editor-in-chief does.