So you’ve been applying for graphic design jobs and you got the interview!
Congratulations— obtaining an interview is a great first step! However, nailing it takes just as much work. As a student applying to KEEN Creative for my first design job, this is definitely something I wish I knew more about when I first started the job search. I wasn’t necessarily the perfect interviewee, but there were definitely some key steps I took that helped me get hired. Below are some tips to give you an advantage during the interviewing process!
Dressing for Success
This tip is relevant to every type of interview, and I’m sure you’ve already seen it in every “How to Get a Job” article out there. But trust me, it’s important to put some thought into it! Due to the “Halo Effect” — a psychological tendency that affects our initial impressions of people — one positive attribute (such as a person’s appearance) compels others to feel that he/she is more competent in other unrelated areas.
The way you dress is also an opportunity to be professional, while showing off who you are through your own natural style. Although you don’t want to be too outrageous in your fashion choices, I think it’s important to feel comfortable and show a touch of what makes you unique— most employers will want to hire someone who is confident and stands out. Another thing that I often do is wear the brand colours of the company I am interviewing for. It may not be actually effective, but I think that it subconsciously creates a sense of homophily (a tendency to feel a greater sense of belonging with others) when you match corporate culture.
Research the Company
I can’t stress this enough. If you don’t know anything about the company you are applying to, you will not get hired. Doing a bit of research is really very easy and important. For example you can:
- Follow their social media to get a sense of their corporate culture
- Learn about the company’s history and their core values
- Know specific examples of projects they have worked on and their clients
Know Your Interviewer
This isn’t always possible, but most creative companies have photos and detailed descriptions of their team members. Do a quick online search before your interview! A little bit of background information can help you to connect more with your interviewers, and to recognize them when you meet them. If nothing else, some extra familiarity might lessen some of your nervousness.
Print Your Portfolio, Know Your Work
Going into my interview, I wasn’t sure whether I should have my portfolio printed or display it digitally. I decided to physically have it printed and discovered that I had made the right choice. Having a physical portfolio allows for your interviewers to flip through if need be and demonstrates a sense of preparedness. It also eliminates the possibility of technology failure. Make sure that you also bring some of your process work along. Not all interviewers will want to see it, but it’s good to have in the event that it’s needed.
During your interview, when you are actually presenting your portfolio, you need to be able to concisely articulate your work. Practice being able to describe your process, the speculations of your projects, and the rationale for your choices. This is something I wish I had done better — it’s important to sound confident in your work and your decisions.
Acknowledge Your Weakness
There are limitations to your abilities — it is important to acknowledge this. Being open about your abilities will help your prospective employer understand your background and how the company might have to tailor your training and overall experience to suit you. Make sure the weakness is a quality you can improve on, and if applicable, demonstrate ways you’ve already taken action to work on it. This honesty also ensures that you don’t come across as being overconfident, demonstrates a sense of self-awareness, and it will help you to talk about your strengths with more conviction.
Don’t Try and Be Someone You’re Not
If you feel like you’re putting in a lot of effort to give the illusion of being a good fit, the position probably isn’t right for you anyways. Remember that you are going to want to immerse yourself in a workplace environment that you enjoy. Also, don’t be afraid to let some of your quirks shine through! I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to showcase your eccentricities, but don’t try to hide them either — they are ultimately what makes you unique and might help you to shine brighter than other candidates.
Use Your Resources
You have a wealth of resources to utilize for more ideas on how to have a successful interview, including your design friends, former instructors, and the internet. Don’t hesitate to ask people for their own tips, and don’t forget to use your own intuition.