The importance of image is not an alien principle to designers – indeed, all those old anecdotes about designers being trendy creatives with pony-tailed hair who never wear suits still abound among the more conservative client companies. But designers are now becoming more aware of their image, not only because pony-tails are now the epitome of naffness, but also because of the increasing competition for jobs in the creative industry today.
The increase in recruitment as design moves on from the stagnation of recession means that how you present yourself in an interview could mark the difference between moving towards your dream job or moving towards the door marked Exit. And even though most designers are aware of the importance of an interview, a large number are unsure of how to present themselves, according to two recruitment consultancies, MacTemps and Major Players.
“As recruitment consultants we see all sides of the interview process,” says Kimberly Kapner, UK managing director at MacTemps. “First impressions, the way people present themselves, how people change once they’re put in an interview situation and common interview faults are all apparent, and it’s amazing how the most promising candidate can fall to pieces under pressure in an interview,” she says.
Fiona Chapman, graphics recruitment consultant at Major Players, says one of the the first steps towards getting a new job is to remember that you are “presenting your personality – and that is one of the most important things in a studio”. She adds that this is most significant at a junior level: “It’s your enthusiasm that will get you in, while at a more senior level your track record and an ability to talk through your portfolio in a relevant and informed way is of more note.”
Both Kapner and Chapman agree that the first five minutes are the most important, whatever level you’re pitching for. “Simple things like making sure you are presentable – which doesn’t necessarily mean wearing a suit, but making sure your nails are clean, for example, is crucial. So is being on time and looking at somebody when you’re talking to them,” Chapman adds.
More subtle signals are also key in the way you are perceived. “Sometimes it’s not only the quality of your portfolio, but the way you choose your work. The relevance it has to the output of the consultancy you want to work in makes a significant difference. Design consultancies are busy and don’t have time to look through reams of work, especially if it’s not relevant to their field,” explains Chapman.
Kapner agrees, saying: “As a designer, attention to detail is of vital importance, so take every opportunity to demonstrate this, from filling in forms in a precise way to having your portfolio in order and logically presented.”
Putting yourself down is high on the list of things NOT to do. “If a piece of work is relevant to the work of the consultancy you’re presenting to, but it’s something you’re not particularly proud of, put it into context and outline the scenario, rather than being defensive about it,” says Chapman.
Recognising the difference between confidence and arrogance is also a moot point. Remembering that the interview is not a confrontational situation, but a two-way process where each participant finds out the characteristics of the other, helps relax both sides and creates an atmosphere where confidence shows through.
All these points smack of common sense. But in the pressure of interview situations and feelings of urgency in getting THAT job, common sense can go to pot. Doing your homework and keeping the simplest things in mind can make the biggest difference.
Next month Practice will check out the consultancy side of recruitment.
Dress professionally: first impressions are made the second you walk through the door.
Arrive ten minutes early: it shows you’re punctual, reliable and interested. It will also give you time to compose yourself.
Body Language: good posture and a firm handshake create an air of authority and confidence. Lean slightly forward and look attentive.
Be prepared: think of answers to possible questions in advance. After each interview, keep a note of questions asked and try to improve the answers you gave.
Know your portfolio: be ready to talk about examples of your work which demonstrate your ability in areas which are key to the creative industry, such as focusing your creativity, working as part of a team and working under pressure to deadlines.
Attention to detail: as a designer this is of vital importance. Take every opportunity to demonstrate this.
Do your research: do you know anything about the company? Who works there, what work has it done, who are its main clients? Find out.
Always ask questions: this is your best chance to show interest and insight and to assess the position for yourself. It is generally better to ask about the company or department than about the specific position.
The follow-up letter: send a brief, polite letter to each interviewer to thank them for their time and to express your continued interest in the position.
Compiled by MacTemps