Get on My Good Side

It always seems like we could use another designer at Behavior and so we’re continually interviewing candidates, whether for immediate hire or down-the-road gigs. My partners do it more than I do, but it’s not unusual for me to sit in on a few from time to time. I’ve never been a big fan of interviews, though I admit the formal, almost adversarial constraints are a necessary evil of finding qualified designers to join our team.

Anyway, I’ve compiled a short, non-definitive list of things that have made interviews go well — for me. These are things that can improve the emotional temperature of an interview, i.e. they help a candidate ensure I’ll walk away with a positive impression of his or her wherwithal, presence of mind, and ability to interview, at least. These tips won’t necessarily improve someone’s chances for hire if the work is no good — and we’ve met candidates who have flouted one or more of these tips and still interviewed successfully — but every little bit helps.

  1. First, arrive with something in your hand. Whether it’s a traditional notebook or a laptop computer or an old-school portfolio in a black pleather case, the visual impression you give by carrying a physical object says, “I’m here to do business.”
  2. Read my company’s Web site. If you can drop even some hint that you did a little homework and you know something about the business, it goes a long, long way to proving you’re serious.
  3. Assume that you won’t have access to the Internet. If, like most designers in the 21st century, you have your portfolio online, bring a copy of it on a CD (make sure it’s Macintosh compatible, too) or on the hard drive of your laptop. The net connection in our meeting room is perfectly reliable, but you never know, and it’s a waste of everyone’s time if we can’t access your work.
  4. Bring multiple copies of a printed résumé that you can hand out, and with which you’re willing to part. Multiple copies. If your résumé is online, great. But it’s no substitute for a printed copy to which we can both refer, and on which I can make notes. As an adjunct, make your résumé available online in PDF format, too — don’t lock it up inside a Flash movie or even in a perfectly validating XHTML page.
  5. Leave something behind, especially something with your contact information on it. Make it easy for me to get in touch with you to sign you up for that six-figure salary. (Just kidding about that — or am I? Actually, yes, I am. Maybe.)
  6. Send a follow-up. This holds true not just given my notoriously short attention span, but probably for any job interview: the moment you walk out the door, there’s a good chance you’ve been completely forgotten. Send an email within two days, or, even better, a note in the mail within five. I can count on one hand the number of designers who have followed up via USPS, and I remember all of them to this day.

Simple steps, right? You would think that career counselors would have drilled these kinds of procedures into young candidates at an early age, but it amazes me how few designers know them. However, it’s worth repeating what I mentioned above: even if you hit every one of these marks on the head, you still need to have good work in your book, above all else. For tips on that, I can’t help you.

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11 Comments

  1. Couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, where I work we expect the same list of five.

    And the last guy hired met all five criteria.

    So… about that six figure salary….

  2. Foofy -

    The act is not self-absorbed at all, or even annoying for that matter. You are simply showing the interviewers that you appreciate their time to see you and their willingness to look at your work. A follow up could be anything from a nice, concise typeset letter of appreciation, a small piece from your portfolio, or even a piece designed specifically for this purpose ( the follow up that is).

    Even if you end up not getting the job, you can still contact them and see if they could spare some time to look over your work anyway and give you some tips. I think things like that go a long way.

  3. I would make a follow-up brief, and in it, I would just say “thanks for meeting.” This sets the precedent for contact further down the road. It works, believe me.

  4. I can also chime in following up an interview. I landed both of my first two co-ops (internships) in school by being persistent. And I mean PERSISTENT. I thought I was bordering on annoying. But both of the jobs came through for me because they saw that I really wanted to be there. The guys making the hiring decisions were very busy, and they appreciated knowing that I was willing to follow through on something. When the dust of their jobs settled enough to let them think about hiring a new guy, I was left at the top, partially because I kept calling.

    Both of those were for short-term positions, but I assume the idea scales well for full-time positions…. I’ll let you know in May!

  5. Thanks, that was really, really useful.
    I’m applying for a placement year (Sandwich year/year in industry, whatever you want to call it) starting in the early summer, and I will start having to face interviews soon for the first time, it’s incredibly nerve-racking.
    Any UK based web design agencies interested? ;)

    (This post wasn’t an advert, it was me merely being cheeky, and thankful)

  6. I was also wondering about the design work. I’m just graduating so I have some but not a lot. Would it be best to just make some up for fake companies or try to go with what I have?

  7. “make your rжsumж available online in PDF format”

    PDFs annoy me so much that cannot imagine the thought process behind this phrase. If you give me a PDF, you have given me a big clunky document, which I have to open in a big clunky application, and has no benefit to me, and little real benefit to you.

    Please give me a document in plain text. If you have some geegaw that requires PDF, I probably don’t want to hire you anyway, but at least give me the option.

  8. “PDFs annoy me so much that cannot imagine the thought process behind this phrase. If you give me a PDF, you have given me a big clunky document, which I have to open in a big clunky application, and has no benefit to me, and little real benefit to you.”

    Ray — I can tell you with 100% certainty, without ever having met you, and knowing only what you typed above, that you are a Windows user. Do yourself a favor: get a Mac, and experience the difference between Acrobat Reader and Preview.

  9. Exactly what I was thinking when I read that post. Preview is so fast compared to Acrobat Reader it’s unbelievable. Okay so .pdf has no benefit to you personally but can’t you see past that and realise that unless they know what platform and software you use portability between platforms without loosing quality becomes the obvious benefit?
    It’s a shame that effort and forethought like that is wasted on some people.