How to find a job as a designer

Now that we have just hired a new designer at Grain, I was all set to write a post about how to find a job as a graphic designer, when I remembered that I already wrote a Thought about that on the Grain Creative website! Here is an updated version of that Thought.

The hiring process takes time and makes me reflect on the aspiring candidates’ point of view. Here are my top tips on how to stand out from the crowd.

1. Read the requirements thoroughly. We have had people apply for the graphic design position who are not even graphic designers! For this middleweight position, we are looking for breadth and depth of experience in the industry. For an intern or junior, the lack of pertinent experience could be ok.

2. Pay attention to details. We always include some kind of instructions in our job description as a basic filter to find out who pays attention to details and can follow instructions. You’d be amazed at the percentage of people who fall at the first hurdle – I’d estimate 75%. 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. Do your research. 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! Be personal: the absolute worst emails are the ones with all the London design agencies in CC.

In a similar vein, if you land an interview, prepare with a few questions relevant to the agency, or a reaction to a recent blog post. Show your thinking by asking how the agency views their sector like, ‘How do you think the current economy affects luxury branding?’

4. Follow up. If you really want the job, put in some extra effort. After sending your email or letter, give us a ring – that will really stand out since hardly anybody does it. One of our former designers, Sam Strudwick, who is now at Foster + Partners, 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 he ended up working at Grain for a year and a half!

After your interview, send a follow-up email within one day at the most or even a physical thank-you card (gasp!) which will certainly make you stand out 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. We can simply look at your portfolio without having to email you back to ask for it.

6. Be yourself – which is hopefully positive and enthusiastic. Sometimes people talk a lot when they’re nervous, sometimes they get really loud – or they clam up. You will make an impression for better or for worse and we won’t know if that is your usual self or not. We are going to be spending a lot of time together and we want to enjoy our days with a positive and bubbly person, not a moaner or someone who talks our ears off.

We’ve been around long enough to learn to check references. If there is any reason why the reference is your aunt (who is also a former employer) or a colleague instead of employer, do let us know in advance so it’s not a surprise for us on the phone.

Best of luck to you! What are your tips for us to be a good employer? Let me know!

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