This post continues from Becoming a Graphic Designer #1: How to get an interview.
So you’ve only gone and got yourself an interview at a creative agency. Congratulations! You’ve taken a huge step towards your first Graphic Design job, but don’t rest on your laurels now. Prepare yourself thoroughly and give the interviewers the best impression you can when you arrive with your portfolio in-hand, leaving them with no option but to employ you.
Here’s a quick guide to ease you through the process. Some of the pointers may be blatantly obvious but others may not have crossed your mind, so have a quick read through to make sure you’re as well prepared as possible:
(1.) Research the company. The most important thing you should do before going to your interview is find out as much as you can about the place. This knowledge will enable you to answer questions more effectively, tailor your portfolio accordingly and stop you from asking questions that they believe you should already know the answer to.
(2.) Call them beforehand. Ring to confirm your interview and ask a question or two about the agency – everyone loves talking about themselves, and you’ll be in the interviewers’ minds before you even arrive.
(3.) Dress smartly. Most of the time you won’t be told what to wear. In these cases, dress smartly. It’s better to be too smart than to be underdressed! Remember, these people probably don’t know you, so how you look in the interview is how you will be remembered.
(4.) Arrive early, but not too early. Arrive early enough to show that you’re punctual, but not so early that it inconveniences your interviewer. Arriving five minutes early is spot on.
(5.) Shake hands and don’t forget to smile. It’s just common courtesy. The interviewer will expect you to be nervous, but don’t forget to smile!
(6.) Tailor your portfolio. Edit your portfolio to fit the agency’s disciplines and it will do half the work for you. If the design company is a multidisciplinary agency, make sure you show a good mix of projects. If they specialise in branding, make sure at least 50% of your portfolio is branding. You should have five projects in your portfolio – place your best project last and your second best project first.
(7.) Present your work professionally. The format that you choose to exhibit your work in is almost as important as the work itself – paying to get your work printed on high-quality paper at a printers rather than on multipurpose paper from your A4 inkjet makes all the difference. Also, use a leather-bound portfolio or something similar to show off your work – this shows that you take pride in your work and gives the impression of quality before you’ve even opened it. Leather-bound portfolios can be expensive, but you should consider it a worthwhile investment, especially if you get the job!
(8.) Have confidence in your work. Your work is not rubbish, so don’t tell your interviewers that it is. If you don’t have confidence in your work, they won’t either.
(9.) Ask questions. At the end of your interview, you’ll be asked if you have any questions that you’d like to put to the interviewers. Have a couple lined up ready to ask, as this shows that you’re interested in the company. You can always write the questions down if you need to – the interview isn’t a memory test!
(10.) Leave a calling card. Offer your business card after the interview, or you could even leave a copy of your portfolio for them to keep. Having your work permanently in the studio’s library is a great way to be remembered. And the more imaginative the format, the better – for example, a portfolio book, calendar or a 3D object of some kind.
If you don’t get a call offering you the job straight away, don’t just give up. If you don’t hear anything for a week afterwards, give the design agency a follow-up call (and don’t be offended if they’ve forgotten you – agencies see a lot of people – it’s up to you to stay on their radar, without becoming a pest). Take on board people’s criticism of your work – remember this is not personal criticism. If you’re given negative criticism, try to ask why they don’t like it and how it could be improved. Make use of the invaluable industry opinion on your work, but don’t lose confidence in it. Go away and improve your portfolio as best you can, and you’ll be even better-prepared for your next interview.
Ultimately, you have to be happy with what you are touting around, and if someone likes your work, don’t let them slip through the net. Get back in touch to send or show them work updates. Aim high and try and get to see your dream design agencies, if only to get valuable portfolio input, but remember it’s a numbers game as with getting an interview, so be persistent and don’t give up!
We hope you have an awesome interview, and good luck!