Charted courses and completed missions from the high seas.

How to Get a Design or Advertising Job Part 1

January 15th, 2014

As a new designer, chances are you didn’t get a lot of experience in school on how to apply for, interview and follow up on a job. It can be a daunting task, but there are a few things that you can do right to put yourself ahead of the game. 

This list of advice may seem basic, but in our experience, only a handful of designers are aware of how to follow through with this steps. So, here’s our secret equation that may not get you the job, but can definitely leave a lasting impression that will get you seriously considered as a hire.

How-To Properly Apply for Jobs

1.  Find out who at the firm is responsible for the hiring.
You can achieve this in one of two ways: go to the Contact Us page of their website and look under the section about job inquiries, if it’s not there, pick up the phone and ask the secretary who you should address your cover letter and e-mail to. Personalizing your e-mail and cover letter is important, because it shows that you took the time to look at the agency’s site and didn’t apply blindly.

2. Write a cover letter in addition to your e-mail.
They probably don’t teach this in school anymore and you may think it is outdated, but it isn’t. A cover letter isn’t the intro in your e-mail. It should match the styling and design of your resume and be 2-3 short paragraphs in length. A cover letter is important, because it shows the agency that you respect them enough to apply professionally.

A good cover letter should tell the firm what position you are applying for. Also, it should give the firm an idea of who you are (without bragging about yourself) and what you enjoy doing. Then share 1 – 2 comments that you like about their company and why you think that you would be a good fit there.

3. A resume is not an infographic.
I cannot stress this enough. It has been a recent trend to receive resumes as infographics, but this isn’t a good trend. Instead, you should present a creative, yet classic layout with attention to your typography. For examples of well-designed resumes check out this Pinterest board that we’ve assembled. If you do make an infographic, be careful and be elegant.

4. Follow up with a hand-written note.
In following up, most designers send an e-mail inquiring about the status of their application. Typically they do not receive a response back. Instead consider a hand-written note of inquiry to cut through the clutter of e-mail red tape. It can be simple and understated, but most likely it will be seen by the firm as a very classy move.

Preparing for the Interview

1. Research the firm before you apply. 
You need to be able to speak with them about their work and how you would be a good fit with their process, culture and design aesthetic, etc. They already know this, otherwise they wouldn’t be interviewing you, but you need to do your homework.

2. Show up 5 minutes early and don’t wear jeans.
In today’s world we’re all really casual, especially in creative industries. Out of respect for the person’s time that is interviewing you, don’t be late, and don’t dress down. You don’t have to wear a 3-piece suit, but pants/slacks and a button down shirt will be appropriate.

3. Bring your portfolio, 2 – 4 printed copies of your resume, and a notepad.
This sounds like a no brainer right? Most people we’ve interviewed over the years don’t ever bring all three of these things at once to the interview, and a handful of designers don’t bring their portfolio. You need to do everything in your power to be professional, prepared and respect the agency that is interviewing you.

4. Show 3 – 6 pieces in your portfolio – no more.
You will probably have 30 – 45 minutes for the first interview which means the employer will look at only some of your work. Select your best work and show only that at the interview.

5. Be prepared for your portfolio to be critiqued and be willing to have the humility to follow through with their instruction.
Some creative directors will critique your portfolio as they review it. They are doing this to see how well you respond to constructive criticism. Are you open to art direction? Do you have an ego? Will you modify your work and then send it back to them in order to show that you are teachable, even if there is a possibility that they won’t hire you? Historically, many firms have made hires based specifically on this action alone.