You've recently graduated design school with a slew of knowledge and ideas and you're ready to make an imprint on the world! You've built an arsenal of creative and technical skills along with a wicked portfolio that showcases just how awesome you are. So now it's time to take to the streets and look for your dream job or if you're going the entrepreneurial route, your first client.
We'll outline everything we've learned from our clients as well as our own journey on how to successfully land your first dream design job as a recent graduate. Let's dive in to what you'll need to prep before your interview, how to score major points during your interview, and what you can do to help seal the deal after your interview.
Before Your Interview
Do Your Homework
There's nothing worse than a candidate that doesn't know anything about the company they're trying to get a job with. Do your homework, and lots of it. Know the history of the company, who the owner or the CEO is, recent successes or projects they've completed, specifics about their products and services, as well as some background information on the HR Manager or person interviewing you.
Most of this information is readily available online and can be accessed with a bit of digging. This will also help you understand your role and how you can help, allowing you to fluently present your case about why you're the absolute best candidate for the position.
Look the Part
Appearances are everything. This includes your own demeanor as well as how your work is presented. There will be dozens if not hundreds of other candidates vying for that same position so you'll need to be a cut above the rest and stand out.
We've built Klo Portfolios around this specific concept. Creating a beautiful custom portfolio book that is an extension of your personality and unique style will be an automatic icebreaker. It'll show your prospective employer or client that you're meticulous about presentation and are willing to go above and beyond what's required. It demonstrates know how in the printing process as well give your audience a change to connect with your work on a physical level. There's power in the tangible and having them flip through your portfolio book and its pages will allow for a more visceral connection.
Your portfolio book in all its glory will stand out from the barrage of ipads and off the shelf portfolios that everyone else will have.
Tailor Your Portfolio
The best part about a physical screwpost portfolio book is that you can easily add and remove pages to tailor your presentation so that you're showing the most relevant pieces of your work. If you're seeing a client or employer who is interested in someone with strong typography skills along side illustrations then whip out all the stops and show them what you're made of! This is why doing your homework will be important since it'll give you a good idea of the aesthetic their brand lives in and what design goals they want to reach by hiring you.
The 40 Page Rule
Based on the tens of thousands of portfolio books we've created for our clients, we find that a large majority of them adhere to having about 40 pages of work. Of course this will differ depending on the type of designer you are (for example, interior designers tend to have heftier bodies of work due to detailed renderings and floor plans).
You don't need to cram anything and everything you've ever created. Great portfolios tell a story about you, your process, and showcase your top shelf work. Knowing that our dwindling attention spans now beat out goldfish, it's important to keep the viewer engaged with quality work rather than a larger quantity of work that's diluted.
Remember that there's no right or wrong number of pages so if you have less than this amount, as long as it's your best work and you can comfortably talk about your creative process and weave an interesting story about how it came about then bob's your uncle!
Ask the Critics
Once you've assembled your portfolio book with your best work, ask a trusted friend or a design instructor or mentor to review it and provide you with honest feedback. You've spent so much time prepping your work that it may be tough to step away from it and ascertain flaws because you're attached to what you've created. A fresh eye will be able to point out things you've missed or provide valuable insight on how to improve your portfolio and presentation.
During Your Interview
Master Your Manners
Show up a few minutes early so you're not running in there looking frazzled with sweat dripping down your forehead. Greet everyone you see with a sincere smile and an optimistic attitude. Air on the side of dressing nicely and stay away from heavy perfumes or lotions.
Do your best not to fidget or flail your arms around during your interview. If you're interviewing with more than one person, make eye contact with everyone rather than only the person that's asking you questions. The decision maker may be the one that's quietly sitting there evaluating your candidacy.
Be Inquisitive and Ask Questions
As humans we love to talk about ourselves and this is no different in a job interview except you'll want to turn the tables around and get the employer or client talking about themselves. Listen wholeheartedly and engage them with questions. Learn more about their story of how they got started and what drives them. What characteristics are they looking for in filling this design position? The better you can engage them, the higher your chances of connecting and leaving a positive impression.
Let them Lead
Once you've settled in and taken out your rad custom portfolio book, it's time to hand it over and allow the viewer to have the experience of opening and flipping through your pages. Let them view at their own pace and be patient if they take longer to view each piece and ask questions.
After Your Interview
A Hand Written Touch
I'm going to dispel a nugget of awesomeness that has worked like a charm for me during my job hunting days. After an interview, especially for a position I really wanted, I'd write a quick hand written thank you note summarizing why I felt I was the perfect person for the position.
You can incorporate this with a branded leave-behind that will cement in the mind of the employer or client your vying for that you have a level of emotional intelligence above the average person. Time is valuable and expressing thanks for the time they took to meet with you as well as summarizing why you're their best bet will bump you forward in their minds. Attention to details and a genuine hand written note will do you wonders.
Ask for Feedback
You went in to your interview prepared, confident, and stood out from the rest with an exceptional presentation. Congratulations! Whether you get the job or not, you're a step closer to understanding the process and even more important, what you're looking for in a position. If you got the job then you must celebrate with your friends and loved ones and prepare for your new exciting career!
If you didn't get the job this time, it's worth sending a quick email to the interviewer to ask for feedback. This will give you an honest look at how others interpreted your presentation along with useful suggestions on how you can improve.
Remember that you're not going to be a fit for every interview you go for and the company may not be a fit for you. Sometimes you'll know this within the first few minutes of your interview and that's ok. It's important to think of it as a training exercise for future interviews because you can really learn a lot about what works and what doesn't.
Equipped with an exceptional physical portfolio book, a strong story of who you are as a designer and what you can offer, and your magnificent personality, there's no doubt you'll land that stellar design job you're after. It's only a matter of time.