The first time I was judged for craftsmanship (in college) I was terrified out of my mind. The three stern-faced people turned the spotlight on me and I just stood like a deer in the headlights. I was convinced that I wouldn’t do that to myself again. Then I started interviewing for jobs and realized it was pretty much the same thing. Except the people wanted to talk about my professional skills instead of my cosplay abilities.
But my real epiphany came when I got on the other side of the table and started interviewing new college grads for positions at my company. It gave me a whole new perspective that, quite frankly, liberated me from my judging fears. Here are my top 5 revelations:
#1 It’s not the Spanish Inquisition
The core of a job interview is for the company to assess if you have the skills necessary to perform the job and if you are a good fit for the company. It’s also a chance for you, the interviewee, to see if the company is a good fit for you. Although it will feel like the employers are grilling you and inspecting every little detail, no one is there to attack you. No one is trying to belittle your life choices and your experience. They just want to see if you’re a good match.
Cosplay judging is a bit more one-sided, just because that’s what judging is, but the principles are the same: the judges are not there to heckle, attack, criticize, or make fun of the effort that you’ve made. It goes without saying that if you entered a craftsmanship contest, then you put effort into assembling your costume and the judges recognize that. They are just trying to determine what work went into making the costume, the techniques you used, and the reasoning behind decisions that you made in a fair and objective manner.
So if you’re afraid of being put down – don’t be, because it’s not going to happen.
#2 WYSIWYG and anything visible fair game
WYSIWYG stands for What You See Is What You Get and that is exactly what happens here – the person(s) on the other side of the table are allow to question and discuss anything that you present them with. The only information that the employers get is a resume and the judges get reference pictures (maybe), which isn’t a lot to go on. So you can bet that if it’s on the piece of paper, they will ask about it.
For example, if you list that you know certain languages, have certain skills, worked on projects – make sure that you can speak about them with confidence, even if that means reviewing that information before you go into the interview.
The same goes for cosplay judging – all they see are the reference pictures and your costume. Make sure that you can speak confidently about any element that you created, that’s shown in the reference picture.
The other side of this is that is something isn’t obvious, you may need to take the initiative to work it into the conversation. Do extra volunteer work that you couldn’t squeeze onto your resume? Did you go the extra mile and make authentic undergarments for your costume? The employers/judges might miss out on some of your amazing work if you don’t bring it up yourself.
#3 Honesty is important
If you think that you can get away with misrepresenting the effort that you have put into a costume – think again. You have multiple senpai sitting across from you. They have years of experience under their belts and they will be able to spot if you’re lying about the creation of your costume. Even if you end up getting away with it once or twice, it will catch up to you and you’ll run the risk of being blacklisted.
Job interviews are no different – the questions they ask will test your chops and it will be painfully obvious if you can’t put your skills where your mouth is. You can fake your resume, have someone else do your pre-interview questions/phone calls, but when you get there in-person, that’s it.
Don’t waste everyone’s time. Be honest about the work that you’ve done and everyone comes out happier.
#4 Preparation is the key to success
Now, I don’t mean that if you prepare then you’re going to land an award/job. Good preparation is a prerequisite for even keeping yourself in the running. Make sure to do research before you enter the fray.
Look into the company – what is the company culture? What are of business are they in? What does the description of the job you are applying to tell you? Make sure your mind is in the zone for this particular job. This is especially important if you are applying for similar jobs at the same time – you don’t want to mix them up!
You also don’t want to go into cosplay judging blind. Find out what you can about the contest ahead of time – what are the rules? Are there restrictions on size/costume design origin? Does a certain amount of your contest need to be made from scratch? What is the judging process like? Are you going to be onstage in front of people or are you in a room with the judges?
This also means DO YOUR HOMEWORK! If you’re asked to provide a portfolio/code or writing sample (for a job) or if you’re asked to provide reference pictures (for cosplay), make sure you do this! These resources are an important reference point for the employers/judges and if you don’t have them ready, it will get rough.
#5 Body language will say more about you than you know
This is actually the No. 1 thing that I took away from my experience while interviewing. You always want to have an open, but confident demeanor: make eye contact, keep your posture strong, have a strong handshake, be polite. The one piece of body language that had been a habit of mine was crossing my arms. I made an effort to stop doing that because crossing your arms will make you look defensive, which is never a good attitude to exude in either judging or a job interview.
For judging, you don’t necessarily need to practice your handshake, but you will want to practice your stance for while you’re in judging. How you stand will change how your costume sits on you. You don’t need to go as far as posing, but just think about how the character would stand so that your costume is shown in the best possible light.
To close out, it’s always a good idea to thank the judges/employers for their time.
In a sense, you are selling yourself to the judges or the employers. You want to be confident about who you are and what you’ve done. Don’t undersell yourself with shoddy body language!