Interviewing tips for pattern makers
I was talking on the phone to someone yesterday -a new graduate- and giving her some job hunting tips. It occurred to me that somebody else at some point might be interested in what those tips might be so I thought I’d write it down. These tips apply to someone who is interested in getting a pattern making or related technical support job. Those of you who interview pattern makers may also find this useful.
The traditional strategy of sending out resumes with cover letters and copies of your sketches is just dandy. Really. But that’s a presentation you’re taught to do in school. As you may have figured out already, the industry is just a tad quirky. I recommend a different tack which is to just show up.
- Show up and ask for an application. Do not ask if they have any openings. You don’t need an appointment to get an application.
- If you can, stay there and fill it out; they’ll usually give you table space to do it. This is most highly recommended. You want to be seen. Things are very informal in factories. The front desk may not know there’s an opening but somebody walking by just may.
- Bring a copy of your resume and attach that. Attach a copy of your transcript. It doesn’t matter if you graduated or not. They’ll want to see the applicable classes you took as well as your grade point average. It doesn’t matter if you went to school over 20 years ago and never had an industry job before. Pattern makers with natural ability are in short supply.
- Bring a product sample and the pattern that goes with it. There is no crime in asking for an application while holding samples slung over your shoulder. Rather, it will be intriguing. Most people are sufficiently curious that they’ll want to see them which will necessarily involve an interview.
- Your pattern should be on oak tag. It should be marked correctly. Don’t write on it the way they (usually) teach you in school. It should be marked and color coded according to the production pattern guidelines you’ll find on pp.176-180 of the Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing. It should be clean, neat and pretty. Neatness counts.
- If you’re applying at a company that makes coats (or whatever) and you’ve never made a coat (or whatever), don’t worry. Bring whatever type of pattern and prototype that represents your best work. If you have made a coat (or whatever) but it doesn’t represent your best work, bring two; the coat (or whatever) and your best work.
- If you don’t have a pattern and sewn sample that represents your quality of work, make up a set.
- If your best work is a piece you actually use or have worn, so much the better. It doesn’t have to be new. Personally, I prefer to review the design and construction quality of an item that has withstood the rigors of usage. If used, the item should be clean and pressed.
- Your sample and pattern set need not be in a specific stock size or “medium”. There is nothing inappropriate about bringing something you made for yourself.
- Under no circumstances should you bring work that belongs to another designer or a past client (unless they never paid for it, in that case it’s your property) unless you have their permission to use it for demonstration purposes.
Sketches are another useful tool in getting a job since there’s a limit to the number of garments and patterns you can cart around. Accordingly, you should be keeping a notebook (portfolio) of technical sketches that represent your work history. You should not leave any sketches, nor should these be attached to your resume or application.
- Technical sketches are better than fashion sketches. Although prettier, the latter can be ambiguous.
- You should only bring sketches of items for which you have made the patterns!
- If the sketches do not belong to you, get permission to show them. If the sketches are not recent (a year or two old) no one will think you’re unethical if you didn’t get permission to show them.
- If the sketches are recent (technical sketches are always dated) and you don’t have permission, you most likely won’t be hired. Contrary to popular perception, using new sketches won’t score you any points with your next employer -even if your last job was with their biggest competitor! If you’re unethical towards a past employer, a new employer will assume you’d be just as dishonorable towards them. So, if you worked for their competitor, show older sketches, not new ones.
- If your past employer or client has gone out of business, I’d say the sketches would be safe to use (unless it’s an engineered or patented product). Ditto for sketches of patterns you’ve made that you weren’t paid for.
Using this strategy, most people will get an interview as soon as they’ve finished filling out the application. If they don’t have any openings, ask if they know of another company who does. Then repeat the process at the other company using the name of your referral.