PREPARATION:

  1. Dress appropriately. Some shops are very laid back and wear jeans and flip flops to work. Some agencies wear business casual 4 days a week. Hopefully, you’re researching the place you’re interviewing, already, so you’ll be able to get a good feel for the personality of the company. Either place you go to interview, dressing nicely or being overdressed won’t look bad… but the opposite just might. So don’t risk it.
  2. Know who you’re talking to and what they do. This is pretty much a no brainer. Knowing who you are talking to and the kind of work they do is very important. Firstly, the pacing of their portfolio online, is a good model for what they might be looking for (and how you might want to pace your portfolio / presentation). Know the clients they’ve worked on. Know the pieces they might be proudest of. Have questions you might have about their experiences / work / clients ready. This shows the interviewer that you’re interested, first of all, and that you possess the valued skill of preparedness.

INTERVIEW FIRSTS:

  1. Be on time. 10 minutes early is good. 1 minute late is bad. Like super bad. They might be late. You should not.
  2. Give a firm handshake. It’s really the first impression. I don’t mean to give your interviewer a crushing grip. But make sure it’s not limp. Limp is kind of gross, and it’s not what you want remembered after the interview.
  3. Give them your resume in the beginning. Sweet, they know you’re prepared. Great. Also, they can take notes about you on this. (Let’s be true to ourselves here. They are sizing you up.)
  4. Remember you are potential. Remember that you’re not looking for a Senior Designer position. You should know that, and the interviewer is definitely not interviewing you to fill that spot. They’re looking at your book closely, yes. But its as much in the presentation, your speaking and your personality as it is the work.
  5. Be absolutely ready to give a dog and pony. I like to have people walk me through their book, and I will comment after they’re done. This shows me that they can present, are comfortable speaking, and will be able to sell me on their ideas, if perhaps they’re invited to join the team. The way you show your portfolio is a clue to how you’re going to interact with your CD or design lead in the future. So prep for the interview by knowing the same stuff you’d need to know when selling the idea. Even if its a student project. But keep it brief. It could be as simple as: This is a logo for client name. They do service description for audience. We wanted to emphasize key point, key point and key point and you can see that here and here with this visual solution, visual and tagline.
  6. Make it a short and succinct dog and pony. Remember, the interviewer does have other work to do… so show your good stuff. Show your potential. And preparation will help you present everything succinctly without long awkward silences / drawn out explanations bc you’re making it up on the spot. If a concept is good, you shouldn’t need a long drawn out explanation.
  7. Don’t mumble.
  8. Like your work. Don’t hate on yourself. Be enthusiastic about your work. Don’t point out the things that don’t work. Most likely, the interviewer can see that. The interviewer can overlook that if the rest works, the concept is strong, and if you still hold lots of shiny potential. But they don’t want to work with a downer, or someone that doesn’t seem to like what they’re about to get themselves into.
  9. Be ready to answer questions. This comes with preparedness. Know about your work. And anything you present – including non design related jobs on your resume. Have answers for anything you put in front of them.
  10. Ask questions. Ask for feedback. Take notes. Have questions ready. It shows genuine interest and preparation. Take notes. It shows genuine interest, can help you improve your book, and it gives you something to do with your hands instead of nervously fidget.
  11. Know thyself. Be real. But not fake. Really, don’t be a car salesman. Don’t blank out when an interviewer asks you an off-the-wall question to gauge your personality (like, “what’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve done?”). Don’t be fake or try to sell something that you’re not (bc if you do get the job, you’ll have to fess up or play that role).
  12. Be nice. Be nice – because (a) it’s the golden rule, and (b) the design network can be pretty small. So if you’re well liked, but not the right fit, you might very well be recommended or passed along in the grapevine when another CD/hirer is looking. And no one wants to work with a jerk, even if their portfolio is really great. Because most likely, there’s an equally great portfolio out there with a nice guy holding it.
  13. Don’t badmouth. That’s just a general rule to live by – but especially in an interview capacity. Even if the interviewer might agree with you, who is to say you won’t turn and say the same thing about him. If it’s evidenced that you’ll air dirty laundry in one place, it’s probably a pattern. And again, the design network can be pretty small.

THE END:

  1. Say thank you very much, and again, give them a firm handshake. Make sure to say thanks for the time they took. Whether you could feel non-hiring vibes or not, you’ve made a good contact that could be a very good resource for input, leads in the future. And again, leave with a firm handshake. It’s the last impression you’ll have on them.
  2. Follow up. Thank you cards are great. Not necessary, but a really nice touch. But something—an email, a note, sending chocolates to the whole office—is a good way to stay on the radar and to let them know you appreciate their time. But a good rule is one follow up during the week after, and then just wait. Go about your life. Hopes are you’ll get a call back.
  3. Keep putting yourself out there. Keep practicing your skills and getting input from anywhere you can. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll improve your presentation skills and grow your network, and the best possibility is you get an offer.

Image via New York Public Library Digital Gallery. Image ID: 3998052