We are currently looking for a middleweight graphic designer to join our team. The process is well underway: we’ve interviewed some promising candidates and hope to fill the position very soon!
The search itself provoked some thought about how people apply for jobs. This Thought is aimed at designers who would like to massively increase their chance of landing the job they want. Our top tips for applying for jobs and getting hired are:
1. Read the requirements thoroughly. We have had people apply for the graphic design position who are not even graphic designers! As a middleweight position, we are asking for experience in the industry so for this position it’s not acceptable, whereas for an intern or junior position, the lack of pertinent experience could be ok.
2. Follow instructions. We always include some kind of instructions in our job description as a basic filter for who can follow instructions and who can’t. You’d be amazed at the percentage of people who fall at the first hurdle – I’d estimate 50-75% depending on the medium. For example when people respond to a LinkedIn job they literally just have to click a button so they’re less likely to follow instructions. Examples of instructions are as simple as ‘Please attach a portfolio PDF or include a link to your online portfolio’ or ‘List three reasons why you want to work with Grain.’
3. Be personal. Whether you are responding to a job ad or cold emailing agencies, try to find a contact name and include the name of the agency you are addressing. The emails that catch our eye are the ones that say something like, ‘I particularly like the work you have done for Devotion, showing how a luxury brand can be built from scratch.’ This tells us that you have taken the time to dig into our company’s website, and a little flattery goes a long way: we like having recognition and a pat on the back too! The absolute worst emails are the ones with all the London design agencies in CC…and after that are the ones with all of us in BCC.
4. Follow up, prepare and follow up again. If you really want the job, put in some extra effort. If it’s a LinkedIn ad response, send an invitation connection as well, or find the company email through our website and email us too. In any case, give us a ring – that will really stand out. Another estimate of ours is that fewer than 1 in 200 applicants bother to pick up the phone and ring. One of our junior designers, Sam Strudwick, originally sent us an email and followed up with a phone call. We didn’t need anybody at the time but asked him to get back in touch 3 months later, which he did, came for an interview and now he’s on his way to Foster + Partners as a graphic designer after being with us for a year and a half.
If you land an interview, be sure to research the company well. Prepare with a few questions relevant to the agency, perhaps about a specific project or client, or a reaction to a blog post or recent news. Then send a follow-up email or even a physical thank-you card (gasp!) afterwards which again will make you stand out that bit more from the others.
5. Send your portfolio. This is one tip that is more specific to creative industries, though any industry will want to see the quality of your work in some shape or form. If we receive no portfolio, or just an ugly CV in Word, it is an immediate ‘no’. If you are cold emailing, either include a link to your online portfolio, or attach a PDF no larger than 10Mb and no longer than 40 pages. Rather than asking, ‘Would you like to see my portfolio?’ just go ahead and send it: one less thing for a busy person receiving your email to do. They can simply look at your portfolio rather than emailing you back asking for it.
Portfolio design and presentation is worth a Thought in itself, though design schools are more likely to help in that area rather than with general job hunting tips.
6. Be constructive. Whether you are looking for your first job after uni, trying to develop your career, or escaping an evil employer, try to be as constructive and positive as possible. We’d rather spend our day at close quarters with a positive rather than negative thinker and it can be hard to discern a moaner from somebody who is really in a bad situation. If you spend most of the interview complaining about your current plight, we may assume that your glass is always half empty. Supposedly complaining about others reflects worse on the complainer than on the ‘complainee’.
Hope this has been helpful and best of luck in your job search!