It’s a terrifying milestone most of us inevitably reach. With a pat on the shoulder and diploma in hand, it is time to take the world by storm. However the next day you roll out of bed around noon, slot into your sweatpants and shape your new late-morning ritual (mine was a microwave pizza and the beginning of a Netflix marathon). Keep your head up!
Just like me, during some point in your life you will most likely be unemployed with limited work experience. I had a BA in Concept Development and 6 months experience as a Digital Designer at a web development agency. On July 1st I was hired as a Digital Designer by Twins Solutions, a full service agency.
In total I was offered 7 job interviews, 5 of them came within quick succession, after making influential adjustments to my portfolio and job application. Below is a summary of what I believe were the most important steps in landing a job interview for Digital Designer role.
Have patience and spend time wisely
At this stage of your career it’s possible it will take time for the right opportunity to present itself (I was rather selective and took my time). Don’t panic, this can be a blessing in disguise. Ask yourself: ‘what do I need to learn or improve to offer an employer more value? Keep your ideal job role in mind. My approach was to only take on freelance work that offered fell into these categories and offered value beyond monetary gain. If there were none available I created my own projects.
I learnt responsive HTML and CSS from online resources, designed my first brand identity and explored different styles of Web and App design. I was fortunate enough to have the time to diverse and produce my best work. These projects went on to be the center piece of my online portfolio.
As a designer you are in the unique position to validate your cover letter and CV without recommendations from a previous employer’s or client’s. Your portfolio is a visual representation of how your education and experience’s have been understood and applied. Make sure to add descriptions to your work and explain your concepts in a way that is coherent with your job application.
There was an instant improvement in responses after publishing an online portfolio.
The majority of portfolios Twins Solutions received were PDF files containing screen dumps of work, providing little context. The file type still has close ties to print and offers limited interaction, in a confined environment. I cannot stress enough, the value of having an online portfolio. As a bare minimum a Behance profile allows you to present each piece of work in a manner that expresses an understanding and a love for what you do in an online setting. Here is a great example
There is unquestionably added value in creating your own portfolio website from the ground up, allowing you to demonstrate a broader skill-set. Not only will it serve as a reference piece, it will strengthen your personal brand and help you standout.
Your site can also serve as a medium for the things you were unable to fit into your cover letter (which is generally restricted to an A4 page). For example, I felt it was important to describe my design process. Since my job application is going to lead the reader to my portfolio to view my work, I deliberately positioned my design process early in the sites flow to increase the chance that visitors would read it. Remember, your portfolio is like any other website, set objectives and build for your target audience.
Every document you send is an opportunity to demonstrate your talent for design
During hiring process, Twins Solutions received a high number of cover letters. The majority of them rehashed key criteria from the job advertisement. Not good enough! The fact that you are sending an application in itself is a clear indication that you believe your profile matches their requirements. Instead of simply stating you are a UI designer with HTML & CSS experience, share the story of how and why you learnt your trade. Your experiences are what make you unique. Sharing a detailed account of them helps form the outlines of a persona the reader can relate to and want to sit down with. If you are having difficulty getting your thoughts down on paper, I have always found the 5 W’s (Who?, What?, When?, Where? and Why?) to be a useful tool.
- Have patience, there are jobs out there - it is a question waiting for the right opportunity and being prepared for when it arrives
- Use any extra spare time to learn and strengthen your resumé and portfolio
- Have an online portfolio. This creates an opportunity to demonstrate a broader set of skills and understanding of Digital Design. If you don't have the time, use services such as Behance, SquareSpace and Dunked
- Take advantage of your portfolio to add bonus content you couldn’t fit into your resume. I used it to explain my design process but maybe you enjoy photography as a hobby and have some shots to boast.
- Don’t regurgitate the job advertisement. Tell the story of how you have become the designer you are today.
- Use the 5 Ws to help add context to you story.
Any questions, comments or inputs?
Contact me on twitter @twinssolutions #jobinterview