5 Interview Tips Every Graphic Designer Starting Out Should Know

Soon there will be many young designers ready to graduate from design school and join the rest of us working stiffs in the “real world”. Before pounding the pavement to find your first design position it’s important to keep in mind that graphic designers are creative, business professionals. And as business professionals it’s always prudent to practice good judgment when interviewing for a position. Below are a few tips to help guide you through your interview process as you embark upon your career and pursue the job of your dreams.

Dress like you actually want the job. Wear a suit. Yes, you read right – a suit. It would be a rarity if you were overdressed for an interview. You’re a professional. And the individual interviewing you is also a professional. It’s said over and over because it’s true. You only have one chance to make a good first impression. Even if you somehow know in advance the studio, agency or company has a casual dress code – don’t dress casually. Think of it this way. Chances are slim that the agency you’re interviewing with pitches to clients for new accounts in casual work attire.

Don’t show up too early or worse, late. When it comes to interviews there’s no such thing as, “I got lost coming here.” or “I was running a little late this morning.” Showing up late is obviously inconsiderate but showing up too early can be just as annoying to your potential employer. The person interviewing you is busy. They don’t want to be kept waiting and they also don’t want the phone call that you’re down in the lobby a half hour before they expected you. Ten, possibly fifteen minutes early is acceptable. If you arrive too early wait in your car for a while or take a walk around the block.

Carry a professional portfolio case. No one wants to eat filet mignon off a garbage can lid. And no one is thinking about the design awards you’ve won if the pages are falling out of your ripped portfolio case. Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself. Make the investment and purchase a quality portfolio case. Remember also, there’s a difference between fine art portfolio cases and graphic design cases. You’re not carrying around 18” x 24” drawings of nude models. Common sizes for design cases are 11” x 14” and 11” x17”. Keep the focus on your work.

Keep your website up-to-date. If your website isn’t up-to-date and professional looking leave it off your resume. And quite honestly, this is 2010; you should have a website on your resume. Keep your website professional looking. Visit agency websites if you need ideas or those of well-respected designers in the field. Any advertising agency or studio worth their weight in salt has a site that’s easy to navigate with a focus on their work. The things you won’t find on their sites are dead links or pages that are under construction. It’s also good practice to use a professional web address. A safe bet is to use your name, bobjones.com. But if by some chance your name is taken, use your last name with the word “design” after it, jonesdesign.com. It would be different if you were starting a new agency or design studio and your web address was the same as your business name. But as an individual designer think about how the web address will look on your resume – slamminflyingdesigns.com doesn’t sound very professional. Don’t confuse creativity with foolishness. Again, keep the focus on your work.

Dude, don’t call me dude. Believe it or not, this has happened. No matter how comfortable you feel on an interview, or how casual a studio, agency or company appear to be, remembering you’re still on an interview is extremely important. Address the interviewer in a respectful manner. Some people might insist you address them by their first name, but never, under any circumstances, call anyone, dude on an interview. Unfortunately I’ve interviewed many young designers that have called me dude but I’ve also had the pleasure of interviewing someone who kept dropping the f-bomb – no kidding.

And one bonus tip:

Have something professional to leave behind. You should leave something behind other than your resume for someone to remember you. At the very least leave a business card with the interviewer. These days you can get about five hundred business cards printed up for a small fee. Your business cards should be creative, well-designed (of course) and professional. Don’t give yourself ridiculous titles on your business card such as, Jones Design, Bob Jones, CEO, or Jones Design, Bob Jones, President. If you were the President or CEO of your own studio, agency or company you wouldn’t be interviewing for a staff job at another business. There’s nothing shameful about the titles, “Graphic Designer” or “Art Director”.

The main thing to remember is to always be professional. Present yourself not only as a creative individual but also as a business person. Studios, agencies and companies are looking for individuals who can work with and present to clients. You might not start out doing so but as your career advances so will your responsibilities. Creative Directors and Art Directors are “customer facing” individuals in many businesses. These are some of the things to consider when starting out on a career as a designer.

Do you have any interview stories you’d like to share as either the interviewer or the person having been interviewed?

Article and Illustration by LOU SIMEONE


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