How to Get a Job as a Graphic Designer Part One

3 Minute Read

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 competition.

Hiring professionals only spend about 7 seconds looking at your portfolio before they decide to spend more time on you. Focusing on the quality and diversity of your work, is of upmost importance. 

How to Get a Job as a Graphic Designer


1. Your portfolio should be similar in quality, style and aesthetic to the places you want to work.   

Studios are looking for designers that already have similar styles and design sensibilities to their firm, or better than their firm. The more you already have their look and feel, 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, you most likely won’t get interviewed by a firm that specializing is corporate identities. Sure, they may vary styles a bit between designers on their team, but mostly everyone is on a similar wavelength style wise.


2. Write a cover letter in addition to your e-mail.

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. It should give them 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 trend for the past 13 years to receive resumes as infographics, but this isn’t a good trend. Instead, you should present your resume in a classic layout with attention to your typography. For examples of well-designed resumes check out this Pinterest board that we’ve assembled.


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. They will most likely hold onto it and remember you for future positions if you’re not a good fit for the one they have open. They will also share your info with other firms who are hiring. 

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 and dress professionally.


Bring your portfolio (if you have a lot of print work in your portfolio), copies of your resume, and a notepad.

Most people we’ve interviewed over the years don’t bring any of these things. If you have already have a print portfolio prepared, it’s always best to view final print pieces in person. 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.


Young designers: Show 5 –  8 pieces in your portfolio
Experienced designers: Show 10 – 15 pieces

Select your best work and show only that at the first interview. It shows you are aware of the time you’ll have to meet and that you know how to edit yourself.


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.

Additional Reads:

We’re hiring: Design >>
How to get a job at a design agency part two >>

Additional Reading
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