How to Get a Graphic Design Job

2 Minute Read

As a new designer, chances are you didn’t get much 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 competition.

The creative director, owner, or senior designer will spend about 30 seconds reviewing your portfolio before deciding to invest more time or look at another candidate. Focusing on the quality and diversity of your work is of the upmost importance. 

 

1. Your portfolio should match the quality, style, and aesthetic of the studios where you want to work.

The more you already have a similar look and feel to your work, the less they have to train you and the more valuable and impactful you will be as a team member. 

For example, if your preferred design style is like Stefan Sagmeister’s, you most likely won’t get interviewed by a firm specializing in corporate, buttoned-up identities. Sure, they may vary styles a bit between designers on their team, but almost everyone on the team will design in a similar style to the firm. 

 

2. Craft a cover letter in addition to your email.

A cover letter isn’t the intro in your e-mail. It should match the styling and design of your resume and be 2-4 short paragraphs long. A cover letter is essential because it shows the agency that you respect them enough to apply professionally and personalize a letter to them. 

A good cover letter should tell the firm what position you are applying for. It should give them an idea of who you are (without bragging about yourself) and what you enjoy doing. Then, share 1 – 2 personalized comments or compliments about their company and why you would be a good fit there. Help them see you as a fellow, future co-worker. 

 

3. A résumé is an opportunity to show off your typography skills.

I cannot stress this enough. We’ve had designers with years of experience apply for senior-level positions and have a resume designed in Microsoft Office or Google Docs using 4 – 6 different fonts in one document and overly tracked out in a non-ironic way. A résumé is an opportunity to show us how subtle you are with typography, how you track and consider leading and pair your fonts. It’s the start of a conversation and impression of your attention to detail in your work. For examples of well-designed resumes check out this Pinterest board that we’ve assembled. Keep it simple, clean and beautiful.

 

4. Consider leaving your politics out of your portfolio.

A favorite project among new designers or students is to do a few political projects that represent and align with your worldview and impact you want to have as a designer. That’s great, but if you’re applying to a studio or company that appears to be apolitical with their work (you don’t see politics in their portfolio) – this usually means they keep politics out of the office and conversations with clients. They will be looking to hire talented professionals who are open to working with clients from all political backgrounds and worldviews.

 

How to Get a Job as a Graphic Designer

Preparing for the Interview

 

Research the firm before your interview. 

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.

Show up on time or five minutes early, and dress professional.


This can be simple like a button down top and nice pair of pants, business casual. You can wear your jeans and graphic tees once you start. 

 

Bring copies of your résumé, and a notepad.

Copies of your resume show that you think ahead. A notepad lets them know you have humility and are eager to learn and receive feedback.

 

New designers: Show 5 –  8 projects
Experienced designers: Show 10 – 15 projects 

Show off your best work in your portfolio that represents you as a designer and the kind of work you want to continue to do.

 

Be prepared for your portfolio to be critiqued and 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.

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