Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of speaking at the University of Washington to some design students who were, and likely still are, preparing to enter the work world. We talked about a lot of things like resumes, portfolios, networking, and the sweatiest adventure for most of us in our job hunt – the interview. I thought I’d take a few minutes here to share some pro tips for anyone who might be about to embark on that most “butterfly inducing” meeting.
This is exactly what it sounds like – some of the straight forward stuff that is still a big part of the impression that you make on a potential employer. And I’ve seen some of the most senior folks out there still struggle with some of this. Show up on time. Plan ahead and arrive early if you can. If you haven’t been somewhere before or you’re not sure of the parking situation, maybe a dry run is in order. Life (and traffic!) happens, so if something does prevent you from showing up on time, give your interviewer a heads up. Good communication goes a long way. Dress the part. Just because we’re in the creative industry doesn’t mean you show up in your ratty jeans and flip flops, but in most cases it also means you likely don’t need to wear a suit. If you’re not sure what’s appropriate for the organization you’re interviewing with, just ask. If your phone rings, don’t answer it. This one needs no explanation, just don’t do it (and you should probably silence it in the first place).
Be prepared, but not rehearsed
In my opinion, a good interview is a two way street and should feel more like a conversation than a list of disjointed questions. That said, it’s a conversation where both parties need to come away with a lot of information, so be ready to speak to your experience and back that up with examples and real life scenarios demonstrating that experience. The trick here is being prepared to talk about all of that without coming off like you’ve memorized talking points – that tends to feel disingenuous. So practice. Practice in front of a mirror, with a friend, record yourself on your phone – whatever it takes to help you feel comfortable. Designers, writers, and strategists, this includes things like your portfolio and being able to talk through your work.
Know your audience
Here is one of the other biggies. Tailor your experience and conversation to the organization with which you’re interviewing. There’s nothing more disappointing to an employer than an interviewee who hasn’t done their homework and doesn’t understand the type of work they do. No one expects you to know the intricacies of their business – you don’t work there yet – but you better have a good understanding overall of what they do and how what you do will fit in. For example, talking about how much you love advertising and campaign work in an interview with us isn’t likely to go over too well – we’re a brand design and strategy firm.
As I just mentioned, although we expect you’ll have done your research, we don’t expect you to know everything about us when you come in the door. We do expect that you’ll have questions you’d like us to answer, so you can learn more and determine on your end if we’re the right place for you. So have them ready, write them down, and bring the list with you if necessary. We’re ok with that.
It doesn’t have to be fancy, in fact it doesn’t even have to be a snail mail (although that is nice); it could be a thoughtful email. Whatever it is, we love to see a follow up from you. Bonus points if that includes more information on something we discussed, maybe that’s another example of your experience, or maybe it’s a link to an article you just read about something we were discussing. It shows us you are interested, and we like that.
Showing up in all of these ways shows us you are interested. And we like that.