How to Survive a Job Interview, 10 Tips for Creative Professionals
Are you the kind of person that — no matter how many job interviews you attend — you’re a ball of nervous energy? You’re not alone! In the following article I will share a few tips on how to be prepared and sail though your interview like a professional.
Do Your Research
Before you even apply for a job, you should do some research into the company or business advertising. A few years ago this would have been a time consuming task, but now, with the popularity of "online marketing", all the information you need is just a few mouse clicks away. Before your interview, you should have a clear idea about the size of the company/business, the kind of work or clients they have and what role they would expect you to work in. Knowing a bit about the company or business that is interviewing you will always come in handy. There's nothing worse than being asked "so... do you know much about our business" when the answer is no!
If you find out that the job you have an interview for isn't really what you're looking for, there's no harm in attending the interview anyway... practice makes perfect.
Dress the Part
Having conducted many interviews in the past, I can honestly say, leave the suit and tie at home. In creative fields a suit is too rigid and old fashioned and you don't want to appear that way. This doesn't mean that you should turn up in your jeans and sneakers either (unless you're a freelance Illustrator with an outstanding portfolio... they seem to be excluded). Try to dress a little bit better than what's expected from the staff, this way you will show that you're putting in some effort, but also that you're not a bad match for the workplace. If you're really stuck, try on your outfit the evening before and ask a friends opinion.
Arrive on Time
Always arrive at the interview on time. If you're nervous beforehand, you'll be a mess if you're running late. Arriving on time is good for other reasons too. Sometimes it's all that separates you from the other applicants and every little bit helps.
Take a Printed Resume
You may not need to take along your resume, but having a few copies on hand doesn't hurt. Just the simple act of offering your resume in printed form shows that you're the kind of person who is prepared when they step into a meeting. It also gives you something to do when you first arrive (rather than shuffle your folio and look terrified).
Show Your Best Work
If you're a web developer or digital animator, you may want to display your work as a digital portfolio. If you do, you need to make your portfolio in a universal format (I use a full screen interactive PDF) and have a good laptop computer with you in case you need to use it. I have a 17" Macbook Pro, so showing my work in digital format is easy. If you don't have a decent laptop and work with images rather than animation or web, then a printed portfolio is still your best option.
Printed portfolios should have a nice display folder with good quality plastic sleeves. Always print your work at the highest quality possible as a bad print will make you look unprofessional. No matter what format you use, remember to show your best work, not all your work. No more than 10 pieces should do the trick. Always start with your second best piece of work and end on the best.
Try not to speak over the person who's interviewing you and listen to what they have to say. It's sometimes hard to fight the urge to say as much about yourself and your skills as possible, but the same as with your folio, it's not quantity it's quality. If you listen and answer questions thoughtfully you'll be able to slow down and think clearly about what you want to say. You don't want to leave an interview wondering if you said the wrong thing. On the flip side, coming across as arrogant or overbearing can reflect badly on your ability fulfil the job.
Try not to act like someone you're not because chances are, when you're hired you will slowly turn back into the person you are. This means, don't talk endlessly about your "Typography Skills" when you don't really have any. Tell it like it is. There's no point selling yourself as something you're not, you will only end up in a job that you don't like with colleagues who think you're unprofessional.
When someone asks you how your day has been, don't tell them the truth (unless you have something nice to say). Creative types like us have a tendency to over dramatize things. Don't let this be your downfall! Keep the conversation "light and fluffy", save the grumbling for the bigger issues (crazy deadlines, broken computers, buggy software, the coffee running out).
Stay in Contact
Once you've survived the interview itself, be sure to send a "Thank you email" no later than a day after the interview. Keep it short and sweet, anything too long or gushy will make you look obsessive or pushy. Simply thank the person who interviewed you for their time and considering you as a candidate.
Try, Try Again
More often than not, your first interview won't be your last. Think of it as a process and with every job missed a new one comes up, sometimes even better than the last. Never lose hope and always have faith in your own talent. As I always say, a happy designer is a good designer!
Do You Have an Interview Tip or Story to Share?
Do you have any advice or stories to share about your own experiences with job interviews? If so, we would love to know about them. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.