Being a creative means you get to escape a lot of the stuffy corporate stuff that other career paths require, but you still need to know how to ace an interview to land your dream job. Kerry Hugill, Print Lecturer at Friends of Design and owner of successful graphic design studio, Blackkbird, gives us the inside scoop on how to give creative employers exactly what they’re looking for.
“Unless you’re brave enough to go freelance straight out of college, interviews are a fact of life for any creative,” says Kerry. “The good news is that in our industry, we’re a lot less formal about things than, say, the banking world, but that doesn’t mean you can just walk in the door to an interview and wing it.”
She explains that, just like exams, interviews take careful preparation, and recommends following a simple 5-step process to get your game face on!
Step 1: Analyse the position
“There’s no way you can present yourself as a great candidate for a job if you don’t really know what that job is all about,” says Kerry. “That’s why your first step before any interview should always be investigating the role you’re applying for.”
To do this, Kerry suggests carefully reading any job specs that have been supplied. Take note of the skills and experience they’re asking for, and compare these to your own abilities.
“You don’t need to fulfil every single criterion on a job ad to apply for a position,” Kerry points out, “but you do need to be ready to explain any gaps if you’re asked about them. Try to put yourself in the employer’s shoes and understand the type of person they’re looking for. That way, you can highlight your most relevant skills when it’s time for your interview.”
Step 2: Research the employer
Of course, putting yourself in a stranger’s shoes isn’t always the easiest thing to do, which is why Kerry also recommends doing some in-depth investigation into the employer and their company.
“There’s nothing more impressive than an interview candidate who’s really done their research on your business,” she says. “It shows genuine interest and a willingness to be proactive, which are both great assets in an employee.”
She suggests visiting the company’s website and checking out the products and services they offer, as well as their general style of work, their brand identity, and their future prospects.
“Try to compare them to similar companies to find the things that make them unique or special,” she says, “and don’t forget to take a look at their team page if they have one – it’s a great place to find clues on the types of people they like to hire!”
Step 3: Review your experience
If you’re fresh out of college, you may not feel like you have much in the way of relevant experience, but Kerry says employers are interested in all kinds of activities – even if they’re not directly related to your field.
“Any work experience counts, whether it’s an internship, volunteer experience, a part-time waitron job, or designing your cousin’s wedding stationary,” she says. “Class projects, course work and hobbies are also good indications of your abilities and interests. They all go towards giving the employer a better idea of who you are and where you’re coming from.”
Step 4: Practice
Interviews are stressful, and it’s easy to get flustered under the pressure, but Kerry says a little bit of practice can go a long way towards making you feel more confident.
“Try answering potential questions out loud, in front of a mirror,” she suggests. “It’s a good way to get comfortable with how you want to phrase things and practice looking and sounding professional. If you can, get friends or family members to ask you common interview questions and give you pointers on where you can improve.”
Commonly asked interview questions include:
- What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why should I hire you?
- Describe a situation where you used persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
- Tell me about a time you had to take on a leadership role.
You should also be prepared to answer questions on your qualifications, experience and course work, and any tools, skills and software packages that are commonly used in your field.
“Remember: go for quality over quantity when it comes to answers,” says Kerry. “A few strong points are a lot more effective than ten minutes of nervous rambling.”
Step 5: Dress for success
Putting your best foot forward isn’t just about mental preparation: Kerry says the way you dress and act in an interview is also extremely important.
“As a creative, you shouldn’t need to go out and buy a business suit for an interview, but you do need to dress appropriately and behave with respect,” she says. “That means arriving on time – or a little early – and turning off your cell phone. Dress neatly, don’t go overboard on the makeup or perfume, and definitely ditch the gum!
“Most importantly, try to relax and be confident, and remember that interviews go both ways. It’s not only your future employee auditioning you for a new role – you also need to make sure you’ll be happy with them. If you have questions, ask away!”
Catch Kerry at the next Friends of Design open day for more insights and advice on the world of working creatives, or join the tribe and follow us on Facebook for all the freshest news and creative events.