So you’re a designer, let’s say a web designer, and you want to get a job with a sweet company somewhere. How do you do this? Hopefully some tips I’ve picked up along the way can help. Let’s skip all of the typical, boring stuff (be early, firm handshake, eye contact, references, business cards, etc.) and get right to the point.
First and foremost, you definitely need to know how to make designs pop! That was a joke, don’t ever say that unless you want to be the next big laugh at the office water cooler. It’s acceptable when clients say that but industry professionals know better.
Be confident and be classy
Employers look for quality talent. They want designers who are respectable and are proud of the work they produce. Be sure to maintain a confident demeanor without crossing the cocky line. To be confident in the first place, make sure you are applying for jobs at places you know you can run with the pack, hold your own so to speak. Don’t apply for a Senior Designer position at Apple.com if you’re just beginning your career. At the same time, don’t sell yourself short. Don’t apply for some hole-in-the-wall agency that produces whatever a client wants and doesn’t take any pride in their work.
ConfidenceThe best quality meter I have when doing any kind of design is looking at the finished product and knowing that I want my work to be seen, I want it shown off. If I don’t feel this way, I know it’s not good enough. Adopt this mentality and you’ll see much success.
Be a Designer
You’re a designer, make sure they know it. Being part of a visually creative field has its benefits, especially since most people judge a book by it’s cover. You should be able to take advantage of this if you’re good at what you do. One of the biggest ways to impress people as a designer, other than having an all-star portfolio, is to have consistent branding. Having visual styles and elements consistent throughout your resume, portfolio, business cards, etc. is great but should be obvious already. Try for that little extra touch. For instance, my brand is my name with my favorite tie and an Indiana Jones style fedora resting on it. I actually own this tie and wear it wherever I’m going to be presenting my brand, including my thoughtbot interview back in June. Giving the company hints to remember you by is always a great addition to a good interview. Think about when they look at your website in the future and see that tie, they’ll likely remember you wearing it in person and put a name/brand/face together. Obviously a tie or any other piece of apparel might not work for everyone, but you should be creative enough to think of that little extra touch, you’re a designer!
Don’t go to an interview in formal business attire unless you know it’s a very corporate job with very corporate styles. I know this is contradictory to the whole, “wear a tie and dress nice, son” interviewing mentality, but did your mom ever apply for a designer position? My guess is no but if she did, she wasn’t dressed like a lawyer. My suggestion is to wear what you’re comfortable in (but keep the pajamas on the bedroom floor). I know I said I wore a tie to my interview, but that’s because I’m actually comfortable in a tie, paired with some pretty casual clothes.
Dressing DownWe recently interviewed a potential designer who came dressed down. I remember them because of this and then remembered their portfolio and personality. They were very comfortable around us and great for the position.
Make Them Want You
Let me wrap this up with maybe the most important tactic of all. Make them want you. I have to admit my mother taught me this, and it’s one of the best tidbits of knowledge she has passed on to me. If you want the job, make them feel like the position would be inadequately filled unless it was filled by you. Do this modestly without crossing the cocky line.
The best advice I can give on how to do this is to be personable and to be proud of your work. Answer questions calmly but assertively. Don’t be afraid to ask questions yourself, a company is going to be much more interested in you if you are excited about them. On top of all of this, don’t be fake. Everything you say should be sincere, there’s a lot to be said for integrity. If this job isn’t right for you, and you aren’t excited about it, you shouldn’t be applying here!
Places to find jobs
Hopefully some of my ideas about getting a job as a web designer have helped you, or at least interested you a little. It just so happens that thoughtbot is also hiring an additional web designer, so bring your A game. Other than us, here are a few of my preferred places to find full time or freelance work. (I’m 2 for 2 on Authentic Jobs)