Dear Job Hunting Designer

by Erin Malone

I know it is a seller’s market right now but I have pulled together a few tips stemming from what I have seen from candidates talking with us. Take these tips as advice to seriously improve your opportunities for finding the right match for your temperament and skillset.

  1. When we ask for a portfolio — a link or a pdf — it means we actually want to see your work.
    For real. You claim to be a designer but just sending a badly formatted resume doesn’t do you any favors if there is no work to go along with it.
    You have one chance to make a first impression.
    If you blow it, we don’t care what school you went to, what your past jobs were, what projects you worked on.
    Follow the instructions. We didn’t write them for our health.
  2. Sketches matter.
    Design is about thinking.
    I don’t care if you are a visual designer, an interaction designer, an information architect or some hybrid — your thinking process shows us how you work through a problem.
    How you think about that problem, the questions you ask to clarify solutions, the sketches you make — whether they be icons, pages designs, user flows — all come together to show us how you approach design and whether or not you might fit in with our crew.
    The end result is nice, but in our field, it is the work of many people and many compromises. It is difficult to show where your work started and ended from a final screenshot of a launched site. Sketches and work material tell us your story.
    If you are in school and your professors advise you to only show final, polished work — fire them. They are doing you a disservice if your journey to the final solution isn’t part of the package.
  3. Tell us a story.
    Point to your website to get us interested. Yes, please have a website with work on it.
    Once you are in our office, talking with us and sharing your approach, don’t just regurgitate your website. We saw that already.
    Tell us a story about a project.
    What were the goals of the client? What were the challenges — for the work, the team, the timing, the end users? All these things show us how you take constraints and create solutions that are successful within these constraints. Tell us about the things that didn’t work.
    Design is messy. It doesn’t always work — too little time, too little money, not enough resources to build the right thing, the best thing. We get it. We are really interested in how you power through despite these things.
  4. Appear Interested.
    We ask candidates what is it about us that is interesting to you. We genuinely want to know why you are talking to us over the other guy down the street.
    Working together is a two way street.
    We don’t want people just phoning it in. We care about the right fit and building a culture that our people want to be a part of. Tell us what you think is interesting about us and how you heard about us. Why did you reach out, what motivates you or excites you about working here? We want you to be as jazzed about the opportunity as we may be about you.

Sincerely, A Hiring Manager looking for some great people to be part of our group.

(originally posted on Medium, February 2014)