How to Prepare for a Graphic Design Interview

The prospect of any job interview can be very intimidating, but there are some basic things you can do to prepare yourself to be successful and to eliminate the anxiety that comes with the process. It’s important to consider how to feel confident when going into an interview since you project this in your mannerisms, your speech, and your overall behavior.

Confidence is a huge selling point, regardless of what type of job you’re applying for. In the case of applying for a graphic design position your ability to understand and to control perception is going to be vital, your job is completely based in this skill. Your ability to confidently market yourself is going to tell them everything they need to know about you, aside from the quality of work that you show in your for portfolio. This is something far too many graphic designers overlook, regardless of age or experience.

Preparation and practice are essential. The art of projecting confidence about yourself and your work is knowing what you’re going to say in any given situation, and being able to speak intelligently to anything that you’re challenged on. You should know the value that you create based on your abilities, experience, and accomplishments. Focus the conversation and your answers around these things, and when necessary take a moment or even take a breath and compose yourself while delivering an appropriate, honest, and measured answer.

Practice the points of your resume

Carefully review your resume, your resume should already focus on your accomplishments rather than merely tasks that you performed in your previous positions. Be prepared and comfortable to speak at length about these scenarios and accomplishments. Do not attempt to script anything, instead practice having conversations with friends, colleagues, or even perfect strangers about these points in your resume.

Try to find ways to naturally segue into these conversations. The more comfortable you become talking about your career without feeling like you’re bragging, the easier it will be for you to project confidence and enthusiasm. Being able to casually market yourself and communicate your value to an employer (or frankly, to anyone) is going to have a positive impact on your career for the long term.

Speaking about your portfolio

As a designer, you need to be able to stand by the quality of your work and the results you produced for your clients. With that in mind, you need to be able to discuss this when necessary. Review each piece in your portfolio and think about what inspired you when working on a particular project.

Think about interesting conversations you’ve had with others or with the client about the work you did, and the process necessary to achieve the ultimate result. While it’s true that your work should speak for itself, don’t underestimate the power of storytelling and creating additional context. Remember, you are trying to position yourself as a good investment. 

Technical skills

In the course of the interview you will be asked about your technical skills and abilities, specifically which software applications you can use and how proficient you are in each of them. When it comes to this topic be sure to answer honestly and concisely. Emphasize how you use each software and what results you produced with them.

For example, if you have a background in print design you may want to indicate that you specifically use Adobe InDesign for print production work, but that you are also familiar with QuarkXPress and have used Adobe Acrobat Pro for reviews and revisions when working with clients. 

This communicates to the interviewer or employer that you have both the necessary software skills and a firm understanding of the process and workflow for print design and production work. If you just say that you can use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, you’re leaving out the context necessary for them to value you appropriately.

Previous employment

When speaking about a previous employer, answer as honestly as you can but also keep things positive. If it all possible, avoid speaking negatively of anyone and try to control your reactions and expressions if a negative topic comes up. Take a moment when necessary to compose yourself and redirect the conversation toward an opportunity to speak about a time when you were able to deliver a positive outcome in a negative situation. This will communicate professionalism and an understanding of the importance of maintaining a good relationship, and the foresight to understand the networking aspects of the industry. You never know who is connected to the person you’re speaking with or the nature of their relationship, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Again be sure to focus on your accomplishments rather than on your duties and your task. You do not need to qualify yourself; your work and the results you’ve produced will take care of that. What you need to do is communicate your value and whether you will fit into the culture of the workplace, based on your personality and your ability to present confidently.

Looking the part and presenting well

As a designer, you already know the importance of presentation, and you can’t afford to neglect this with regard to your own physical appearance. Like any product, your initial opportunity to sell yourself will be based solely on your packaging. Obviously you will want to make sure that you’re well groomed and that you have the appropriate dress for the workplace. However there are more to the optics of presentation then just the simple things. You should be cognitive of how your accessories and tools play into what you are communicating about yourself. This is why many graphic designers use Apple products—to associate themselves with the excellence in design that Apple’s brand conveys to many people. 

While there is no logical correlation between the hardware product brand that designers use and the quality or originality their work, the perception is still there and is one that many designers leverage. With this in mind, you should take the opportunity to use anything you possibly can in the way you present to your advantage. For example, if you have digital assets to present consider presenting on a digital platform, such as a laptop or tablet. Be sure beforehand that you change your desktop background to something appropriate or even advantageous for the interview, rather than what you might enjoy personally.

If you’re presenting websites, be sure that you’re presenting them on either a laptop or on a mobile device and be sure beforehand that you check the websites to make sure that the functioning correctly and that you have an Internet connection to be able to load them. If you have a laptop you should also have a HTML download of the websites so you can present them even if an Internet connection is not available.

If you specialize in print, then aside from your portfolio you should consider bringing some samples of your print work. For example if you designed brochures and business cards for clients, bringing those to your interview and putting them in the interviewer’s hand creates a more memorable experience than simply letting them look at it in your portfolio.

Remember that you’re essentially selling the idea of “you,” so approach this much like you would a client pitch—do the research necessary and be prepared to drive them to your call to action. That call to action obviously being hiring you for the job!

My final advice to you is to remember the three C’s: be casual, be confident, and be consistent. If you keep these points in mind, then you are more likely to make a good impression and demonstrate the value you offer to an employer.

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Posted on: January 16, 2015

Roberto Blake

Roberto Blake is a Graphic Designer helping Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses improve their branding and presentations. Roberto also teaches Graphic Design and Adobe Tutorials through his YouTube channel and community. Roberto's Photoshop artwork has been featured in publications such as Advanced Photoshop and Photoshop Creative Magazine. See robertoblake.com

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