I’ve just had an interview with Curtis Brown books for their books internship, and thought I’d write a bit about it, mainly because I was struggling to find blog posts about other peoples experience, whilst I was prepping for the interview and thought that this can help someone else in the future.
So, the application process for this internship was a little different to most, as I didn’t just send off my CV and a cover letter, but Curtis Brown also has a separate application form for the internship, which was referred to throughout the interview. The in’s and out’s of the initial application process will be another blog post, as there’s a lot to talk about there, but I figured I’d write about the interview while it’s still fresh in my mind!
The building itself was super easy to find and was just a short walk from Piccadilly Circus station. When I went in, everyone was super lovely, from the people at the reception desks to (the person I assume was the current intern), who offered me tea, coffee, water etc. while I waited for my interviewers to come grab me.
I can’t remember all of the questions asked, but I’ve listed the ones I can:
- Tell us about yourself
- What do you know about us (the company)?
- How do you stay organised?
- What’s a recent book you’ve liked?
- What did you like about it?
- What’s a recent book you’ve disliked?
- What did you not like about it?
- What books that have been written by our authors have you enjoyed?
- How are you with doing lots of admin?
- How did you manage fundraising for Kilimanjaro and everything else? (this one was very me and my CV specific)
- Do you have any questions for us?
I’m not going to give the details of all my own answers- mainly because I don’t want what I’ve said to affect how you would naturally answer them yourself! But, there were a few questions where I’d like to share my answers with you.
What’s a recent book you’ve liked? What did you like about it?
I said I was currently reading Crazy Rich Asians (because, well, I am) and that I liked how the humour was done in an elegant manner because it’s mainly satire. I also dropped in that I hadn’t seen the movie yet, so no spoilers! Which got a little laugh in there. I had the book with me, because I was reading it on the train journey over, but it’s always handy to carry the book you’re reading into the interview with you, in case there’s a situation where you end up whipping it out. Stay tuned for a review, because I will most definitely be writing about CRA soon!
What’s a recent book you’ve disliked and what didn’t you like about it?
Now, the answer to this one may have blown the interview for me… because I said Sally Rooney’s Normal People. At the time, I was only about 50 pages into the book and had been picking it up and putting it down, as I tend to read multiple books at the same time. However, when I mentioned Sally Rooney, the two interviewers had looked like I had just told them I had murdered their loved ones and that they were next! Apparently Sally Rooney is hailed a saint in that office and I had insulted her… however I did mention I wasn’t that far into it and was told I did have to keep reading to appreciate it, which I currently am. So, hopefully my opinions change on the book very soon as I will be posting a review of it on this blog soon. I did also mention that I tend to read like 8 books at once, and one of the interviewers commented on how that’s actually something that would come in handy for the job, so maybe I’ve redeemed myself somehow? Who knows? But as for what I didn’t like about it – you’ll have to read the review when it comes out (teehee!)
What books that have been written by our authors have you enjoyed?
Yeahhhhh, I went blank on this one. Despite having stalked the company website for the past few days and actually OWNING SOME OF THE TITLES. I LITERALLY WENT BLANK. Gaaah! Potentially this brain fart could also be a reason why I potentially tanked the interview, which is super annoying because I had literally been reading Winnie the Pooh the previous night, as I always do when I’m having trouble sleeping!
I did talk about Margaret Atwood and how I studied Handmaid’s Tale in sixth form, which led onto a conversation about the TV show. Then they asked ‘what else?’ and that’s when everything went blank.The important thing to remember, if you find yourself in a similar situation, just let it happen and move on. Having your mind go blank happens to the best of us and it’s just something you can’t let your mind dwindle on. You’re still a great little egg and you’re only human, so try not to worry.
How are you with doing lots of admin?
Okay, so when ever someone asks you this question in interviews do NOT say ‘Well, I’m not scared of printers’ unless the vibe in the room can allow you to get away with it- I got away with it. But also mentioned that I don’t mind doing admin work, as long as I’m told how to do it and how the person asking me to do it shows me how they like things done. So, add some humour to your answers, and give yourself the chance to show off your dazzling personality, but also actually answer the question so interviewers know you are going to be competent with the job.
When it comes to interviews, just remember the most important thing is to be yourself and answer things honestly. When I was asked what I had been up to recently, I literally just said I had been job hunting and had recently created my own book blog. My interviewers totally understood that job hunting in itself is a full time job and then asked me a bit about my blog. If you guys are reading this – hello!
But seriously, don’t go around making things up on your CV, in your cover letter or in your interviews, because you may end up having to keep up a charade of yourself in order to not be caught in a web of lies, and that’s just unnecessary stress for you.
When it comes to asking the interviewers questions, make sure you do! Show your interest in them and the company by asking them at least 2-3 questions. One of my go-to q’s is always a super simple: ‘When can I expect to hear from you next?’ It works in any situation and it’s probably something that you’re going to want to know anyway.
Make sure your other questions indicate your interest in the type of people you will be working with and the job itself (if the inevitable in-depth description doesn’t cover everything you wanted to know). Remember that the purpose of an interview isn’t just so the employer can see if you fit the bill for the job, but is also is an opportunity for you to see the potential work space and to get a feel for the type of people you’ll be working alongside. The office had – and I’m not even exaggerating here – a room full of baked goods, due to an office bake off competition they host annually. Don’t be afraid to ask your employers what they particularly like and dislike about their jobs, or fire back some of the interview questions at them: what’s a book they’ve read recently that they’ve enjoyed? Being able to bond with potential co-workers about their favourite books is important to me, especially when working in the literary world!
Asking your interviewers questions is really just for you, so just ask about what you’re genuinely interested in in regards to the job, even if it is only about the logistics of daily travel to the office. Ask something to illustrate your interest!
Now for the fun bit! What do you wear?
So… I turned up in a high neck navy blue dress, with tights and a black tailored blazer and flat ballet pumps. Although this outfit was super smart, I felt so out of place and too over dressed for this particular office environment. I had actually done some research on what to wear to an interview in a publishing house, but Curtis Brown is a literary agency, and I couldn’t find much on how casual the environment was, and it’s always best to dress up than down. As for accessories, I just went for some simple stud earrings and a delicate necklace, nothing too outlandish.
But if you do end up having the chance to interview for Curtis Brown books, I suggest toning things down a teeny tiny smidge – I reckon my dress would’ve been fine without the blazer, but don’t turn up in ripped jeans and converse, of course. Keep things smart casual, like clean black jeans and a nice blouse, for example.
My last tip here would be to dress appropriately for the weather, it sounds obvious but if you’ve spent the night before prepping the perfect outfit, only to get rained on without a hood en route to the interview, you’re going to turn up sporting the oh-so-chic drowned rat look. You don’t want to be sat there shivering because you didn’t dress up warm enough and likewise you don’t want to be sweating buckets because you wore too many layers.
Top Interview Tips:
- Dress comfortably
- Be honest
- Be yourself
- Do your research on the company
Dealing with Rejection
Just remember that if you don’t get the job this time, everything is an experience you can build upon and learn from. It may not even be that the interviewers don’t particularly like you, it just may be that someone else was simply a bit more suited to the job than you. But don’t worry, keep going. You’re amazing and you’ve got this!
One last thing- be sure to email your interviewers afterwards to say thank you for giving you the chance to interview, because that’s just good manners.
Good luck on your ventures into the publishing world, and hopefully I’ll also see you there soon. Please feel free to add any additional tips in the comments and I hope this has helped!
[gifs and images not mine- all credit goes to their creators]