How to prepare for your first design interview

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Choose relevant projects to show

Don’t overload your portfolio with every piece of work you have ever done. Be strategic and selective – only include your best and most relevant projects.

Research what sort of work the company does and the type of clients that they have. Do you have any work in your portfolio that fits within their creative sectors? If so, include it, but make sure it is up to scratch and executed to the best of your ability. If you’re not confident or proud of it, don’t include it.

Remember – you want to show the interviewer that you can easily fit into their company and have an understanding of some of the software or subject matter that they deal with on a day-to-day basis. Make it easy for them to hire you!

Think about format

Context is key. If you are interviewing for a digital or animation agency for example, then presenting on a laptop will show your designs in the context they are built for and show your interviewer that you have considered important factors such as size, speed, flow, user experience and communication delivery.

If you are interviewing for a publisher, packaging agency or print based agency, then a printed format portfolio with some mock-ups of your finished pieces would be best.

Remember – let your work breath. Don’t be tempted to cram everything onto one page and treat your portfolio as a design project in its own right. It is a chance to show off your layout, organisation and communication skills.

Practice makes perfect

After 13 years in the industry, I still get a little nervous when presenting to a new client for the first time. One thing I can say though, is that it does get easier the more you do it, and if you practice presenting your portfolio of work before the big day, the flow of it will become second nature. This will allow you to relax and focus more on the task at hand, rather than your nerves.

Reading through your portfolio presentation in your head a few times is a good way to check if the flow feels right. Once you are happy with this, why not try conducting a mock interview with your housemate, friend, or a family member to see if they understand your process and execution for each project? They might be able to point out any areas where you could improve your explanation or identify any mistakes you may have missed.

It’s a great way to make sure everything is as polished as possible and if you are still feeling nervous, just imagine their familiar face by your side as you present to your real interviewer.

Dress smart casual

You will be hard pushed to find a designer who wears a suit these days – unless they work in a very corporate company. Again – do your research, but 9 times out of 10 something smart/casual that you feel comfortable in is always best. The clothes you wear are another insight into your personality.

Be honest, be yourself. 

Be Prepared

Take the added stress of rushing to an unfamiliar destination by arriving a little bit early. Find the address and then go and relax in a nearby café to get everything ready for your interview.

If you are presenting on a laptop or electronic device, make sure it is fully charged and always bring a charger as a back-up in case the battery lets you down. It is also a good idea to turn off any alerts, pings, or notification banners from popping up on your screen mid-presentation as this will only distract you and the interviewer and could cause some embarrassment if any text is on display!

If you have a bit of downtime before your interview starts, why not open any relevant windows so they are ready to go as soon as the interview starts.

Remember – you might only have a ten-minute slot of someone’s time. You don’t want to spend half of that waiting for applications to open!

After the interview

After the interview, follow up with an email thanking the interviewer and confirm your available dates.

If you don’t hear anything after a week, just follow up with a short email reminder. Don’t take it to heart – most of the time things have just got busy in the studio and it’s slipped the interviewer’s mind to get back to you. Sending a friendly reminder and requesting feedback will not be seen as a negative and will just give them a prod to get back to you ASAP.

If you still don’t hear back or find out that you have not been successful, follow the agency on social media to keep up to date with what they are doing and start researching your next agency.

Remember – Timing is everything so don’t stand still. Learn a new skill in the downtime and keep networking and connecting with professionals and agencies online. More often than not, it’s who you know, not what you know, that gets your foot in the door. 

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