20+ Job Interview Tips for Graphic Designers

So you’re fresh off the benches of school or you are a self-taught graphic designer and you are looking for a job. What’s the first thing you do?


1. Existential questions

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First of all, you need sit down with a pen and paper and answer a few simple (or not) questions like: what are your motivations? which are your strengths? which are your weaknesses? which is your personal style? where would you like to work? It’s very important to be honest with yourself, to be aware of your skills and to know which ones you need to improve. You may have a graphic design degree but trust me, there are so many things yet to be learned!

interview tips

Source: sxc.hu

2. Portfolio

After you get these things straight, you should put together or update your online and offline portfolio. When you go to an interview you would want to show off only your best work – sometimes less is more. You should also make sure you display examples of different types of work you’ve made – it will demonstrate that you are versatile.

Your portfolio is the most important factor in landing a job so make it look good both online and offline! Make your portfolio easy to navigate and to understand.

interview tips

Source: slab serif sheriff

When going to an interview, you must have two portfolios on you – one for the employer and one for you. The first one you will be giving away. The appropriate number of works to have in your portfolio is 8 – 12, they interviewers don’t have the time and patience to run through a 50 works portfolio – and you don’t want to annoy them!

Be prepared to answer any questions regarding the content of your portfolio, for example: what is the concept behind this illustration, why did you use these colors and so on.

3. Resume & Cover Letter

Update and print your resume. This document is especially important to a graphic design applicant. You need to pay special attention to it, you can even use some typographic designs which will reflect your type skills – you are, after all, applying for a creative job, so your resume doesn’t have to be so “stiff”.

interview tips

Source: Michael Anderson via Bart Claeys

You must bring two copies of your resume to the interview, one for the employer and one for you. I know you must think that they already must have your resume, but there is a chance they misplaced it or it got lost along the many application, so why take the chance?

Additional to your resume, you must also have a cover letter which must me tailored to that specific job and it must highlight your experience or strengths which match the company’s needs.

4. Research the Company You Are Interviewing With

Whenever you go to a job interview, it’s important you learn as much as you can about that employer. Visit their website, learn about their services, products and projects, find out the name of the company leaders, prepare some concise questions about the company and the job you are applying for.

interview tips

Source: sxc.hu

5. Business card

Being in a creative field such as graphic design, you must have a personalized business card (as well as the portfolio and the resume). Your business card should be well designed, simple but memorable and it would be a plus if it’s highly creative. Creating a business card for yourself, as a graphic designer is a difficult task, because that little card represents you and your work, so you should try to make it unique – and, of course, branded.

interview tips

Source: oxidizzy

6. Brand your work

Make sure your branding is consistent on your business card, CV and email signature. Here’s the thing: if you can’t create a brand for yourself, what are the chances you will be able to create for a client? So it’s highly important that you brand yourself on any document and official correspondence, it shows off your graphic skills and interest.

7. Prepare your pitch

Before jumping into showing your portfolio, it’s a good idea to talk a little about yourself. The pitch is a quick description of yourself, your skills and your aspirations. This small speech should last no longer than 1 minute and in that time you must highlight your strongest assets.

interview tips

Image Source Lai CDG

It’s a good idea to practice your pitch with your family or your friends, to make sure you get it right and to make you feel more confident in your speaking skills.

8. Spell check

Just think of it as a disaster if you have a typo on your resume, cover letter and anything else you submit. Spelling mistakes are not over looked by the interviewer and most likely, you won’t get the job if you have one – it shows lack of interest and attention. So have a friend or family to double check your materials, maybe there’s something you’ve missed.

interview tips

Source: Lauren Stolzar


9. Punctuality

I know it’s common sense, but I just had to stress out this aspect: you can’t be late to a job interview! You should look up directions a day before, maybe even print a map and take in consideration you may run into traffic or get lost – so have a reserve of 30 minutes or so and try to get there 15-20 minutes ahead and let them know you arrived.

interview tips

10. Dress code

Now this is a creative field and it’s considered to be less restrictive. Nevertheless, you should do some research on the company, see what’s their culture and what’s their dressing code to be prepared. In most graphic design job interviews, you don’t need to suit up (with a tie and everything), but it’s common sense to have a suit jacket and a shirt. Remember, it’s best to be overdressed than under-dressed.

interview tips

11. Firm Handshake

This is available both for boys and girls.Your handshake must be firm and assertive – just don’t squeeze their hand off.

interview tips

Source: sxc.hu

12. Give away your business card

Now I know that you may think that business cards must be given away at the end of a meeting, but that’s not always the case. Of course, you could do that, but take in consideration that some employers expect you do give them your business card at the beginning of the interview. It will show off from the start that you payed interest to that interview and that you have a great designed business card – thus good graphic design skills.

13. Notebook and pen

This is not necessary, but if you take out a pad or a notebook and a pen it will look as if you are organized, you don’t actually have to write anything on it.

interview tips

Source: sxc.hu

14. Talk About Your Work

Before showing your work, talk a little about it. Remember tip no. 7 above. Don’t make it too long, this is just to engage the interviewer in a discussion with you. They will be looking at you as you speak and afterwords, they will be looking at your work.

15. Basic Art Skills

You should bring some sketches to the interview. The interviewers may be interested to see the final design, as well as your basic art skills. It’s good to have a few drawings and paintings to demonstrate that you also have solid basic art skills.

interview tips

Source: cornie47

16. Ask questions

Don’t talk endlessly about yourself. Pay attention to the interviewers body language and verbal responses. When you feel it’s the right moment, ask questions about the organization, it’s projects and the job you are interviewed for. This will help you get some insight on what sort of company you may be working for and it will place you in a positive light because you are interested in them.

17. Pay attention

There will be lots of topics covered and discussed during your interview – regulations, processes and so on. You should really pay attention to everything that’s being said, so that the interviewers won’t have to repeat themselves.

18. Be enthusiastic

Do you want that job? Then tell the interviewers that you really want the job (these days, hardly anyone does this). Be enthusiastic, admit that you are willing to learn (even the interviewers know that no one knows everything) and be passionate about your work – let them know that this is the field you want to build a career in.

19. Be polite

Needless to say, during the interview, you must be as polite as possible. You will probably get some questions about your previous jobs and experiences and it’s recommended that you don’t speak in a negative way about your boss or your old company. Also, there are chances that the interviewers don’t always share your philosophy and have different opinions – if that happens, don’t be rude, just find a nice, polite way to sustain your ideas and beliefs.

20. Promote yourself

A job interview is a time when the company gets to know you and, on the other hand, you get to learn some more about the employer. But most of all, it’s an opportunity to show them that you are the person fit for that job. Be prepared to answer questions like “Why would we hire you? ” and try to be genuine. Don’t be shy and talk about the things you are really good at and let them know how you can benefit their company. In two words: sell yourself! this is the only chance you get.

interview tips

Source: chrs drby

21. Holidays & Payment

At your first interview, it’s best that you don’t talk about salary, vacations, bonuses or other benefits – inquire about these things only after you’ve received an offer.

But if this discussion comes up, whatever you say, try not to give the impression that you just came there for the money – the employer is more interested about what you can give to the company, and not what you can get from it. They see you as an investment so they must be sure that they make a profitable decision when it comes to hiring you.

Here is a joke I found on this subject, I just had to share it with you, you can learn from it:

Reaching the end of a job interview, the Human Resources Person asked a young Engineer fresh out of MIT, “And what starting salary were you looking for?”
The Engineer said, “In the neighborhood of $125,000 a year, depending on the benefits package.”
The interviewer said, “Well, what would you say to a package of 5 weeks vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, a company matching retirement fund for 50% of your salary, and a company car leased every 2 years-say, a red Corvette?”
The Engineer sat up straight and said, “Wow! Are you kidding?”
And the interviewer replied, “Yeah, but you started it”

22. Ask for the interviewer’s business card

At the end of the interview, ask your interviewers their business cardsfind out the correct spelling of their first and last names.


23. Send an appreciation email

If you followed all the suggestions above it means that everything went well on your interview: you were prepared, you weren’t late, you talked very passionate, you were receptive, attentive, polite, you promoted yourself and they loved your work. So what now?

interview tips

Source: L S G

As soon as you get home you should make use of the business cards you received from the persons who interviewed you. You should write a brief email in which you thank them for the interview and for telling you more about the company. Just picture this step as the little thing that can separate you from the other candidates (who were as good as you at the interview).

Your turn now.

What do you do before, during and after an interview? Can you share some more tips with us?


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22 Comments on “20+ Job Interview Tips for Graphic Designers

  1. Thanks for these useful tips……..but these tips are so simple and everyone follows these things. Give us some tips that how to impress the interviewers with lacking knowledge & information…….

  2. I was an art director for a number of years and when I interviewed someone the things I was most interested in were:
    Can you do the work?
    Are you willing to take direction?
    Are you a team player and willing work hard when we need you?

    The tips above are great but most wouldn’t have been a make or break for me. My advice to younger artists is be real, be personable, and be respectful. Most of all be confident in your abilities and make me feel like you’re the kind of person I can rely on.

    That’s pretty much it. A spiffy resume and matching business card are great but by the time you’ve been invited in for an interview we already have a pretty good idea of what you can do. Now we want to see if you are a good fit for the team.

    Good luck. I hope you all find the kind of work you are looking for.

  3. Don’t forget about Dumb Luck! No matter how good an interview goes, there’s nothing you can do to MAKE them hire you. The stars have to align, everyone has to agree (clients, agency, and you) and then the money has to make sense, the logistics have to be in place, and absolutely nothing may go wrong.

    But yes, please heed the advise written here.

  4. I disagree about giving portfolios away. Printing is expensive. And portfolios are usually displayed in an expensive, nice book. So you only need one.

    • It is expensive, but you do want to be perceived as a professional designer, right? Try to imagine a scenario: You’re going for a job interview and you find out you have a competitor, who uses top-notch prints and paper to present his work. Although your work is 10 times better than his, the employer will probably not see this at a glance. More than that, the fact that you ARE using expensive printing shows that you’re successful enough to afford it.

      I believe you’re already familiar with the Gestalt principle, so you’ll agree with me when I say you (as a designer) need to land an outstanding first impression before you go to an interview. The employer takes a quick glance, he gets distracted by the quality of your work and boom! There you are the next day, nailing that job!

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  6. Throughout my 10 yrs of being a Graphic Designer I never experience a potential employer/company ask to do sample print ads for their company. I have an interview with a small beauty product company and they want me to do print ads…I am very very very skeptical because I don't know if I will get hired,or the salary. I feel like why should I spend time on a project that its a 50/50 chance I might get hired but salary might not be up to par. I don't know what I should do because I am not really excited about it now. Any suggestions?

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  12. Hi everybody! I’m a recent graduate, and I was wondering if when presenting my portfolio, is it fine to bring my laptop with me and show them my online portfolio? or if for any reason I can’t connect to the internet, is it fine showing a PDF presentation of my work? I also thought of giving them a CD with my portfolio on it. What do you think about that?

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