Last Friday I posted a position for a Graphic Designer for our company. My duties as Web Designer/Developer/Graphic Designer/Print Department/IT Support proved ineffective and we had to make a change. First day back in the office and I’m trying to replace half of myself.
What was fascinating to me was being on this side of the interview process.
First off where I am working now is an amazing place to be, if you know… having a job is your thing. I love it, and some lucky contestants will be thrilled they applied. But if you are a young graphic designer looking for a job let me give you some tips on how to get your foot in the door.
Read the Requirements
After the first 5 responders to my job posting, I changed “Must have Portfolio” to “Must have Online Portfolio”. After 20 applicants I would shelve the message if I couldn’t find a link in their resume. I felt like a saint for going that far. A link to your work should be in your cover letter.
With as many responses as I received my process turned into this:
- Open the email, skim the cover letter for the link to the website. If there was no link in the cover letter, I would open the resume but only to look for a link.
- If there was no link provided, I would archive the email, if there was a link, I would look at their site. Also, it didn’t matter what the website was. Deviant Art, Flickr, Dropbox; I wasn’t picky. I really only wanted to see some work, I did not care about the package or presentation. I was looking for a Graphic Designer and not a Web Designer. One of my top picks had a site made from Squarespace and a few others had Wix.com and WordPress.com. You can do this, folks!
- If I didn’t think the work was good enough I archived it, if it had potential I put a star next to it in Gmail. That was only 6% of the people. Throughout the day I would scan their email, look at their portfolio, and think about questions to ask.
- If you weren’t filtered out by all that, I called you for an interview.
- If the interview went well I sent you a test. Move some stuff around in InDesign. Make a four-page ad into a one-page ad, without losing important information. I also gave them no real direction. A real-world scenario.
Also, make sure your website has examples of the job you are applying for. It doesn’t have to be in the same industry or anything but if the job is print for retail, don’t just have your character animation and some photography.
Some of the portfolios that I saw were good, but everything looked the same. I assume you could have only worked with one company or similar companies that want all the same style, but do yourself a favor and make some side projects that show variety. If most of your artwork looks heavy metal, throw in some 80’s hip hop. Show me you haven’t put yourself in a box.
Put up Pieces with Polish
Some of the things I loved seeing in a portfolio was someone that created branding guidelines for a company (or a fake company) and made artwork and logos based on that. The color palette, font selection, logos in use… all these things say to me, “I value branding and your brand is safe with me.”
Also to see the thought process of someone’s work. Hand-drawn logo, treatments that didn’t work to the finished product. I felt like I was able to see into the artist’s mind and feel something about them. Magical.
Now to the funny part.
At night I would go home and say to my wife, “I had my interview with that girl/guy today”.
“You interviewed them.” she would say.
She wasn’t there, she didn’t know.
I was so nervous. Nervous for them, wondering if they were going to ask me questions that I didn’t have the answer to. Trying so hard to not drive away these talented people from our little company.
The guy I interviewed today actually reassured me that I was doing a good job conducting the interview.
After the interview, I got with a few coworkers and we joked about how really it is just soul-sucking work. “Don’t worry, we will get it all, leaving just a dried-up husk. In the end, all the things you had hoped to do creatively will be pushed aside by tight deadlines.”
“Well, do you want the job or not?”