10th November 2017 |
Futureheads: Preparing for a design interview

This was borrowed from our super recruitment partners Futureheads. Hop on over to their blog for the original! Words by Toby Thwaites.

Interviewing for design jobs in London is highly competitive. Sure, a portfolio is a foot through the door, and may even wedge the door open…but none of our clients would hire someone solely on the merits of them being a good designer – no matter how good they are.

The real test for suitability comes in meeting the designer behind the work, and in our experience, a lack of preparation and awareness for what the interview will entail are key reasons designers stumble.

In my experience, the following pointers are worth discussing and while some may seem obvious, the below guide offers a great refresher for anyone seeking a job in design.

1. Make sure you are genuinely committed and interested in the job
I did warn you that this might feel obvious, but it’s a point well-worth getting out in the open.

Whilst you should always feel genuinely committed and interested in a job before submitting an application, things change and if, before an interview, you know in your heart of hearts that you’re no longer interested in the position and nothing can change your mind, then you are best off withdrawing from the process.

Should you decide to withdraw, provide ample notice (not one hour before the interview) and always call your interviewer or recruiter to talk through your decision, rather than firing off an email.

2. Get a steer on the structure of the interview from your recruiter
Too many candidates are given a rather informal, ‘OK, you’ve got an hour booked in at 5.30. Off you go, let us know how it goes,’ kind of send-off.

We like to give as much detail as we can about:

  • Who you are meeting;
  • Who you should ask for when you get there;
  • What you should bring with you;
  • What you should prepare to talk about beforehand;
  • What is likely to happen in the interview.

Most first stage design interviews follow a typical structure, with a significant element focusing portfolio review where you will be asked to walk through your key projects, which leads us to….

3. Always prepare beforehand what projects you’re going to present
In addition to creative talent, designers need above average communication skills; they need to be able to understand the needs of a client and effectively communicate their ideas and vision verbally, visually, and in writing. 

The portfolio and the portfolio review are great opportunities to showcase your range of communication skills, so bear in mind the following points:

  • Don’t let your interview be the first time you’re talking about your work! You wouldn’t deliver a presentation without prior preparation/run throughs, so be sure to get some practice in beforehand.
  • When talking through your work, choose projects that are relevant to the job or project you are interviewing for, and remember that a project could be relevant for several reasons (sector, processes, platform type).
  • Don’t try to talk through everything in your portfolio. There is more value to be thorough on two or three projects than to skim the surface of 10.
  • Make sure you can talk through process. 99% of our clients want to hear the details and thought process behind your work. It’s a very different thing to say, “Here’s a website I designed…ta-dah!” than, “Here’s a website I designed. The brief was x, the problem the client needed solving was y, and these were the different steps I took to get to the end result.”

4. Do your research

Few things are more frustrating as an interviewer than a candidate who turns up for an interview and comes across as not knowing why and what they’re there for, or who hasn’t researched the company.

  • Really read up on the company before an interview. Read articles and news stories about them, and get a feel for their brand and tone by spending time on their website.
  • Note any of their design work you like (and dislike). Identify any work that resonates with you, or that you’re particularly curious about as points of interest to discuss during your interview. It shows you are genuinely interested in them.


Finally, some quick wins…

Take your laptop to showcase your work: How is the interviewer going to make notes if they’re looking at your work on their screen? Also, they might not invert their scroll like you do. Nightmare.

Organise your work: No rifling through sub-folders for a specific PSD/sketch file. Have your work neatly organised into PDF case studies OR all on your website to ensure a smooth presentation.

Be constructive, not negative: Don’t put down the company/people you are currently working with.


And finally….

Remember that this is definitely NOT just a chat, it is an interview. Design is a casual industry, but it’s important to be casual whilst also being professional and prepared! 

What’s the best interview advice you’ve been given? We’d love to hear from you. Come and talk to us about current design opportunities, and if you think others could benefit from this blog, share it!

Discover More