Tailors, Dressmakers, and Custom Sewers Interview Questions
32 Questions and Answers by Ryan Brown
Updated August 21st, 2018
Question 1 of 32
Tell me about a time when you failed to meet a delivery deadline. How did you try to improve the situation?
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If you have never failed to meet a deadline, explain how you're able to do so. For instance, show the systems you have in place to keep track of time and the pace of your work.
If you have failed a deadline, explain the situation, including why you ended up behind schedule. Tell the outcome and any steps you took to reduce the likelihood of future repeats of this mistake.
"I had a suit that was overdue by one week. The reason was because the cutter had a sudden family emergency, and the person who took over was new. This disrupted the flow of my work. I worked a few hours extra each day until the suit was finished. I told the boss that we need to make sure we have backups in place, like keeping a list of freelance tailors who we can outsource the work to in emergencies."
How many years of experience do you have with tailoring or sewing?
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This is a simple question with a simple answer. Answer honestly and directly. Try to infuse passion into your answer.
"I have 2 years experience in professional tailoring. Beforehand, I learned from my Dad who was a professional tailor for 30 years. I knew for most of my life this was a profession that I wanted to enter and am very excited about getting that opportunity with your company."
Have you ever made a sewing mistake you could not correct? How did you handle the situation?
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Everyone makes mistakes. How you bounce back is what's important. Employers want someone who is honest and holds themselves accountable. Show your integrity in your response. Take responsibility, and also show your initiative by showing how you took steps to try to prevent future mistakes of the same type. If there are any improvements that came from your mistake, mention it as well.
"When I was starting out, I once cut besom pockets instead of patch pockets for a suit jacket. I told my boss what I did wrong. He wasn't happy, of course. I told him what went wrong: I was working too quickly and misread the order form. I asked him for more training on the order form. A few weeks later, we changed the order form to be more clear based on my recommendations."
How would you handle a situation where you have altered a person's same suit three times, but still, the customer insists it does not fit right?
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Explain your thought process clearly by outlining your troubleshooting process.
"I would have to look into whether this is a physical issue or a psychological one. If the feeling is physical, then the solution is different than if it's psychological. It's either a problem with the fit or the design, and I need to ask the client specific questions to see which one it is. Either way, three alterations is too much. I would apologize for the inconvenience and work with him to come to an agreement that satisfies him. At the end of the day, his satisfaction with the solution is all that matters."
This is a broad question. While the most obvious answer is that you need a job, the interviewer wants to see that you took the time to do research about the company and can fit into the organization and it's mission.
In your response, highlight any commonalities that you share with the company. This can include anything from shared social connections, the company values, and professional knowledge.
"I'm really interested in working here because I really like the styles that you create. I also read that you focus on weddings, and I love to be a part of those lifelong memories. The bride is going to look at her wedding pictures five, ten years from now, and she'll be looking at the dress that we made for her, and I really cherish that."
6. You hemmed a garment for a customer and it's too short by contemporary fashion standards. How do you handle the situation? Be as concrete in your answer as possible. This gives the interviewer confidence in your ability to handle these situations. You want to demonstrate that you will be sensitive to a customer's opinion and interested in keeping that customer satisfied with your work. Here is an answer example: "I'd ask her how she felt about the length. If she thinks it's okay, I'll ask her what the dress is for. If it's for work, I'd gently caution her that it might be too short for the office. I might also ask her the situations she plans on wearing it, then ask her what her other dresses are like. That way I have a better gauge of what she'd be comfortable with."7. What makes a good tailor? And a bad one? Please give examples. Be sure to know standard technical and objective standards for creating garments. Acceptable standards of time and cost may be variable from one company to the next—mention these if appropriate. You can move the conversation to demonstrate your values. Beware of focusing on the negative. Mention it, but point out the upsides. Here is an answer example: "A bad tailor makes whatever it is that he's used to making for everyone else. A good tailor makes the customer happy and self-assured. You have to make the garments as quickly as you can without making mistakes. David Brown in downtown produces poorly fitting suits, but he does have good prices. Duskers uptown is good because they provide good fitting suits and great customer service at a reasonable price."8. A first-time customer tries on a custom garment and expresses delight. However, you see that there are fit issues. What do you do? Demonstrate your integrity and professionalism by s Here is an answer example: "I'd be very happy, of course. And I wouldn't express anything negative out loud to the customer. She doesn't need to know the specifics of everything, only that it can be made better. So I present that the garment's color and drape looks wonderful on her, and I silently note all the problems with the fit. Then I'll tell her that this garment will be even better once I'm done with it."9. Tell me about a time when you were very proud of what you made. Why were you proud? Choose a very special accomplishment that you think would be difficult for others to replicate. Consider the timing, and how your skills were uniquely positioned to benefit someone. Do your best to connect a positive outcome with the reasoning behind the positive reaction you had to it. Here is an answer example: "I had made this dress for a woman and she was so happy with it that she posted it on Facebook on Instagram, and over a hundred people liked the dress!
It was really special because I was really in the zone when I met with her and designed it. I noticed that she was wearing a cream colored sweater, and she had sapphire earrings. I noticed the same color combination in a few of her happiest photos. So I created a dress inspired by those colors. It really showed my attention to detail, and it was so exciting to delight someone that way!"10. Tell me about a time when you overcame a problem to finish a garment. This question affords you a chance to showcase the most relevant quality that the employer is looking for in you.
During the interview, you should be on the lookout for key qualities that they're looking. You'll have to use your own judgment to choose which quality is best. Whichever quality you choose, the message you want to get across is that there's no problem that you can't overcome. Where there's a will, there's a way. In developing your response, explain the situation, tell the tasks you completed to overcome the problem, and end with the result.
Some qualities that you may want to consider highlighting include: teamwork, a strong work ethic, or creativity. Here is an answer example: "I was making my very first shirt. Just my luck, we were behind on a deadline and we needed to finish the shirt to be ready the next morning. The seams were puckering and I just didn't know how to handle it. The shirtmaker I worked under had to stay home that day, so I was by myself. So I did all the work that I could do and left that shirt alone. When the day was over, I went over to the shirtmaker's house and asked him for help. He taught me how to fix the puckering by setting the needle thread tension properly. I went back to the shop even though we were closed and I finished the sewing the shirt in time for the next morning."11. A customer is asking you to make alterations that would be extremely time-consuming, and you have six other garments to work on, all with varying complexity. What do you do? Be sure to show that you always set the customer's needs as the most urgent priority. Illustrate very clearly what your thinking process is, and do your best to arrive at a compromise. Showing flexibility and sound judgment would be good here. Remember, when it comes to situational roleplaying questions, it's usually acceptable to fill in details on your own if you need to. Alternatively, you can ask for more details about the situation. Finally, you want to end with an action that shows that you have the company's interest in mind. Here is an answer example: "I would ask her when she needs it by. If she needs it quickly, I'll see if those other garments can be delayed by checking the due date and seeing if there are things I can do faster or out of order. If there isn't a way for me to meet the deadline, I'll tell the customer and explain exactly why. Then I'll try to negotiate a more reasonable deadline so that we can secure her as a customer."12. Have you ever had a customer compliment you? What did he or she say? You can be complimented on any number of things. It may be the quality of your work, the speed at which you work, your consistency, or anything else. Choose the attribute that you think is most valuable to the company in this particular role. For example, working quickly may be more important for an alterations tailor; being empathetic would be more important for a fitter; and being creative would be more important for a designer.
Identify the most important attribute that fits both the company and the role you're applying for. Then think of a time when you exceeded a customer's expectations in that area.
Example answer. "A customer told me that I work extremely fast. He needed the lining in his trousers remade. I told him to come back in three days, and he told me that everyone else took a week. Because of that, he came to me for all of his tailoring needs." Here is an answer example: "A customer told me that I work extremely fast. He needed the lining in his trousers remade. I told him to come back in three days, and he told me that everyone else took a week. Because of that, he came to me for all of his tailoring needs."13. What are some of the ways you keep up with fashion trends? Be prepared to talk about trends that you see in fashion magazines. To bolster your professionalism, you can even mention clients' requests and interests. With all answers, try to connect it to a concrete example with a business purpose. Here is an answer example: "I keep an eye on Bridal Magazine and when I see different dresses that share a certain quality, I clip out the picture or find it online. I keep these to show my clients what's in and what's out. Sometimes they don't know what they want until they see it. It's my job to help them find it."14. There's a thread in a buttonhole that is the wrong color, but it would be very hard for anyone to notice. What do you do? Show your integrity and sound professional judgment. Speak on the cost to the business in terms of time and money. Here is an answer example: "I insist on producing a perfect garment every time. However, I'd take into account the time it would take to correct the buttonhole and also the cost. If there's enough time, and there's no negative impact on the business, I'll correct it. That way nobody can ever come back and say that I didn't do right by them."15. You just finished a garment and realized that you made an irreversible mistake; the garment needs to be completely remade and cannot be altered. What do you do? It's important that your response show that you take responsibility and are willing and able to learn from your mistakes. You'll win over the interviewer if you show humility and a proactive approach to the situation.
Example Answer: "Before taking this mistake to my boss, I'd look very carefully at what I did wrong. I'd ask myself, is there any way to save this? What could I have done differently to avoid this? At what stage could I still have saved the garment?
Then I would take the garment to my boss and apologize for wasting time and money. I'd suggest that we try to sell it as an irregular or put it in a sample sale." Here is an answer example: "Before taking this mistake to my boss, I'd look very carefully at what I did wrong. I'd ask myself, is there any way to save this? What could I have done differently to avoid this? At what stage could I still have saved the garment?
Then I would take the garment to my boss and apologize for wasting time and money. I'd suggest that we try to sell it as an irregular or put it in a sample sale."16. A prospective customer is making very specialized requests. Your boss is eager to take on the customer, but you're not confident that you can do a good job on that garment. What do you do? Demonstrate your confidence in your professional ability and frame your natural response to this scenario in a positive way. It's perfectly fine to be nervous. What's important is to overcome the challenge. A good answer will show how you'll do so with concrete steps. Here is an answer example: "Of course we should try to take on new customers, that's good for the business in terms of money. But I'll ask my boss if this is the kind of garment that we want to start making, because usually if it's something this unique, this person will start referring us more customers with the same kind of requests. It may be more of a headache for us in the long run. I'm fine with making new things, and I love to do it, but the boss needs to understand the impacts on the business.
If the boss has heard what I have to say and decides to move forward with this client, then I'll have to make sure my boss has the right expectations. It's something that we haven't done before, so we need to set realistic expectations of when the garment will be done. It may require special fabrics or thread that we might not usually have, and it will take me a little longer to get comfortable with these new materials.
Of course, at the end of the day, I love to make new garments, it's exciting and helps me grow. I see it as a chance to learn something new and a way to add value to the company."17. What do you enjoy the most about being a tailor/dressmaker? You want to show your passion here. If possible, choose one specific aspect of the job that you enjoy the most. Here is an answer example: "I love making beautiful, living, breathing pieces of art that are seen in the world on a daily basis. I am literally helping shape what society looks like. My favorite task is the final step, when you sew everything together and it all comes together into the final stage: you get to see the finished product, the fruit of your labor."18. What did you dislike about the last company that you worked for? Always put a positive spin on all of your answers. Don't get too detailed about the things that you didn't like. But do be honest and focus on one aspect of the company or the job that you didn't enjoy. Relatively neutral and relatable answers typically involve 'boring' tasks, such as administrative duties. Try not to mention any kind of task that would be unique and essential to your position, such as sewing or cutting cloth; taking issue with such tasks would indicate that, in the long term, you won't enjoy the job. Here is an answer example: "I really didn't like the way that the administrative work was done because it was all on paper and it wasn't computerized. Instead of letting it bother me, I learned to get all of it done as soon as it came on my desk, so that way I can just focus on doing the things I did like for the rest of the time. It's like eating your veggies first so that you can get to the dessert faster."19. Your company just took an order for a highly customized dress for a wedding, and the deadline is much closer than you're accustomed to. How do you feel? How do you handle this situation? Be honest about your emotional reaction and mitigate any negative impacts it may have by explaining your thought process and steps that you take to manage your emotional reaction. It's important to give a detailed enough reply to show how you would solve the problem as well. Here is an answer example: "I'd be a little bit nervous and annoyed because most of the time my bosses have backed me up and set realistic deadlines. I'd look into the project and see if there's anything that we can do to speed things up, even if it's not something we usually do. For example, can we ask the fabric supplier to give us a rush order? Can we hire some extra outside help just for this one dress? Then I'd do my very best, I'd work late if I have to. And I'd make sure to talk to my boss afterwards and negotiate a better understanding of her expectations of what's possible."20. Do you see yourself more as an artist or an engineer? Why? There are different needs. They may be looking for creative talent, someone to develop a new look. Or they may be looking for someone who is happy to continue creating garments according to an established style. In either case, it helps to show that you can be a little bit of the other. For instance, if the role is to continue making garments in the established style, you can mention that you're always happy to contribute to developing something new. Here is an answer example: "I'm more of an engineer. I'm very precise and I enjoy working according to a system. Sometimes I can be a bit of an artist as well: I like to see if there's something new to add to the design, maybe something I saw in a magazine, for example."21. Do you cut and make the entire suit, or do you work with a team? Give a direct concise answer. Here is an answer example: "I have 2 years of experience cutting and sewing trousers, and 1 year with waistcoats. I aim to be able to make an entire suit within 5 years' time. In the meantime, I do work with a team of other cutters."22. How do you handle very demanding customers who firmly believe that they know what's best? The particulars will depend on the company culture. Some companies have very well-defined signature styles and do not deviate from them while other companies are happy to experiment. If a company is concerned with this question, it may indicate that they have many demanding customers.
Demonstrate your customer service ability by highlighting your patience and willingness to follow company guidelines. Show that you're a team player by indicating that you'll reach out to others for help if needed. Here is an answer example: "I'd compliment the client on having such a strong vision and thank them for their diligence. You need to accept the client for who he is and agree with him: it's never useful to openly disagree. Then I would ask the client why they came to us specifically and not another tailoring house. If he tells me that there is something unique about our style, I'll remind him that we specialize in this particular style and that he came to us for a specific reason. If he insists and his mind cannot be changed, then I'll defer to my superior and let my superior make the decision."23. What factors do you consider when making alterations that the customer requests? Using technical language to answer this question is acceptable and even desirable because you want to demonstrate your technical expertise. Attention to detail is important here. However, don't throw in jargon just for the sake of it.
Example Answer: "I would take into consideration what the client wants first and foremost. How does she want to appear? If he is short, does he want to appear tall? If she is slender, does she want to appear curvy? For example, if a man is short, and he wishes to appear tall, I would hem his trousers with a slight break." Here is an answer example: "I would take into consideration what the client wants first and foremost. How does she want to appear? If he is short, does he want to appear tall? If she is slender, does she want to appear curvy? For example, if a man is short, and he wishes to appear tall, I would hem his trousers with a slight break."24. Tell me about a time when a customer offended you and how you handled it. Your ability to manage your emotions is a reflection on your professionalism. Giving concrete examples of your stress management techniques will give your prospective employer a measure of comfort about whether you'll be able to keep calm and work well in spite of your emotions. Here is an answer example: "One time, a woman told me that she hated the dress I made for her. She complained about the neckline and the fit around the waist. She was yelling at me and telling me that I made her look like a cow and how I sewed like a child. I was very offended, I'll be honest. I'd made more than 50 dresses at that point and nobody had ever spoken to me like that. I was very upset and wanted to tell her to get out of the shop.
Instead, I excused myself, pretending to have to take a phone call. I took a few deep breaths and talked to a colleague for a few moments. I told myself that this woman deserves my respect just like everyone else, that maybe there is something going on in her life that is causing this stress for her and that she didn't mean to take it out on me.
I went back out to see her and listened to her feedback very carefully. I made sure she felt heard and understood. I was still stressed, so at the end of the day I went out for a run, treated myself to some chocolate, and asked my husband for a shoulder rub."25. How do you handle a situation where a customer requests a style that you usually don't use? Being adaptable and diplomatic are two desirable traits in any position. While the most appropriate answer will differ from company to company, showing your thought process is the main concern.
Demonstrate your listening ability and adaptability by indicating that you'll ask the right questions. Instead of saying, 'We don't do that style here,' you can highlight your customer service ability by saying something more encouraging. You want to strike a balance between pleasing the customer to secure his business and pleasing the business by reducing disruptions to normal operations. Here is an answer example: "I will ask the customer if he has considered our house style, which we are especially known for. I'll ask him where he saw that style and what he likes about it. I'll see if we can accommodate as much of the style as possible without making too many changes to our process."26. How do you deal with a situation where you're asked to handle a new cloth that you never used before? Do show that you're adaptable. Demonstrate your thinking process. Be complete and show that you're taking the business' interests into account.
Example Answer: "I'll ask for a good sized sample of the cloth and ask the mill for the technical specifications. I'll need to touch and handle the cloth with my own hands so that I know how it'll drape on the body. If it's appropriate for the garment, I'll move forward with it. Otherwise, I'll explain why it isn't good for this use, and how it'll affect the customer." Here is an answer example: "I'll ask for a good sized sample of the cloth and ask the mill for the technical specifications. I'll need to touch and handle the cloth with my own hands so that I know how it'll drape on the body. If it's appropriate for the garment, I'll move forward with it. Otherwise, I'll explain why it isn't good for this use, and how it'll affect the customer."27. What are some techniques you use to reduce wasted time? Wasted fabric? Note the word 'waste'. This question is focused on efficiency. You'll want to give concrete steps that you've taken to do work faster while maintaining a certain acceptable standard of quality. Avoid talking about shortcuts that involve the reduction of quality. Though they may be used in the industry, and may even be acceptable, it's better to use this opportunity to promote your work ethic and/or creativity. Here is an answer example: "Any time I have to wait for something—maybe it's cloth, or thread, or a piece of equipment—I look for ways to keep myself busy. Even if I can't work on one particular piece, there's definitely another piece that I can continue working on."28. How would you handle a situation in which one of your garments needs alteration, and your superior recommends a tailoring technique that you don't believe would be effective? The most appropriate answer will depend on your level of experience in relation to your superior.
If the person you report to is a master tailor, he may be expecting you to do as you're told. In which case, you would add that you would find an appropriate time to speak with your superior to learn why that technique is used in that situation. This demonstrates your coachability and willingness to get along with others.
If the person you report to is the business owner and is mostly in charge of running the business, she may be expecting to defer to your experience. In this case, you would do well to demonstrate your diplomacy and patience.
Example Answer: "I would tell Mr Allen that there's an alternative method and explain the benefits of using that method. Of course, at the end of the day, he's the boss. I'll use whatever method he decides should be used, so long as we're on the same page about the expected outcome." Here is an answer example: "I would tell Mr Allen that there's an alternative method and explain the benefits of using that method. Of course, at the end of the day, he's the boss. I'll use whatever method he decides should be used, so long as we're on the same page about the expected outcome."29. How do you handle stressful situations? We all behave differently under stress. Be honest about how you react, and also be prepared to give details about how you mitigate the negative impact of your reactions. This is a chance to turn a negative into a positive. Here is an answer example: "When things get stressful at work, I tend to get nervous and fidgety. So I just remind myself to take short breaks periodically. I set a timer and, when it rings, I stand up, take deep breaths, and stretch. I also keep a little notepad next to me to remind me of what I was working on just before the break, so that I can make sure I don't make mistakes or overlook something important."30. Give me an example of how you have an eye for detail. As a tailor, dressmaker, or custom sewer, there is a lot of work that may go unnoticed to the untrained eye. Paying attention to the tiniest details is an indicator of the quality of work you'll be able to produce.
Give a concrete example that demonstrates your attention to detail. Structure the story to give the situation and problem, then build up the difficulty of the solution, and end with the impact of your attention to detail. If you can talk about a situation where your attention to detail somehow benefitted the business directly, that would be best. Here is an answer example: "A client came to us one time and gave us what looked like two identical suit jackets that we had made for him. They were both two-button navy suits with notch lapels, patch pockets, side vents, and both were solid in color and pattern. He wanted to return jacket A.
After poring over all the details, I asked him why he liked jacket B better. He said that it made him look slimmer. I drilled deeper and discovered that he felt that jacket A had a wider midsection.
I took several measurements and saw that the dimensions were the same. And that's how I came to measure the width of the patch pockets. One of them was a quarter inch wider and a quarter inch shorter. Such a tiny detail created a big impression. Since it was a patch pocket we easily made a new one for him and saved us money by preventing a full return."31. How long do you see yourself being a tailor? It's important to be honest and expressive. Explain why you see it that way. Give brief points about your past, present, and future. Here is an answer example: "I love sewing garments, so I really see myself being a tailor for as long as my fingers still work. Ever since I was a child, I had a fascination with all the different ways a dress could be styled. That's why I went to school for it. And now that I have a solid foundation of knowledge, I want to continue to learn and grow in this profession."32. Why are you the best candidate for us? Look back on your experiences. What makes you unique? Try your best to highlight something that's special to you that's also relevant to the position. Remember that the most important part is to convey the benefit of your unique combination of traits. Here is an answer example: "There are a lot of hardworking tailors. I'm one of them. But what separates me from the rest of them is the fact that I truly love this profession. To me, I love making cloth come to life. And that means that my enthusiasm will spread—from me to you, to my coworkers, and all the way to your customers. And your customers will be yours for life."
Author of Tailors, Dressmakers, and Custom Sewers Answers and Questions
Ryan Brown, is the creator of MockQuestions. He has over ten years experience creating interview questions. His website has helped over 10 million job seekers in their interview preparation.
First written on: 09/15/2010 Last modified on: 08/21/2018
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