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  • June 28, 2012

Before You Hit Send: A Few Honest Tips for Job Seeking Designers

Hiring a new designer is exciting. The hiring process is not. As someone who has recently been on the receving end of hundreds of applications, I’m noticing a few alarming trends. New graduate or seasoned veteran, it doesn’t seem to matter. Decorative Illustration

Job seekers, beware. How and what you provide in your initial response to a job posting is very telling and can make you attractive (or delete-worthy) in just a few seconds. Help the hiring manager out. They don’t have an excess amount of time to figure out who you are, what you do, and why you might be the right fit. Trust me, I know. For a small agency, hiring just one person can feel like a part-time job layered on top of an already overloaded workday. Yet, it takes just a few specific fixes to ensure that your message actually gets earmarked for follow-up.

Tip 1: Don’t Overdo It

The message or cover letter you write will elicit a reaction. (I’m not proud to say it, but I remember the bad ones more.) To ensure you don’t make the “naughty” list, keep it short and business-toned. Leave the snark and humor elsewhere. Yes, I know you want to instill a bit of you, but don’t make that a barrier to what I’m really looking for first; your credentials and experience.

Keep those credentials simple. A URL to your portfolio is more than sufficent. I don’t have time nor do I really care about your Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter accounts (yet). Provide those ancillary links at a later time when appropriate.

Avoid the temptation to over-design the resumé. Yes, you are a designer and want someone to know just by looking at your resumé that, hey, you can design! (Raise your hand if you haven’t been guilty of that at some point in your career.) Instead, focus on clarity and scannability. That means one page. “Quantity” in a resumé is the same as overloading a portfolio with too many pieces. Exhibit a knack for purposeful editing; include just enough to provide a snapshot of your history.

That also means just saying no to design fads. Turning your skillsets into an infographic might seem like a very “now” technique. Unless it provides some crucial insight into your experience, drop ‘em and opt for clarity. A concise statement will communicate faster.

Tip 2: Don’t Underdo It

Nothing says candidate apathy more than an uninformed piece of communication from a job applicant. Do your research; know why you want to work for the company. What makes the company special? Who are their thought leaders and why would you want to work for them? (Get your hands dirty with LinkedIn, if you have to.) Find the blogs they write or make a point to see them speak at a conference. The more you can uncover, the more likely you’ll have an opinion about the work the company creates.

Embrace the truth. If your work experience doesn’t match that of the agency, own up to it. I’ve seen too many print/identity portfolios of candidates applying for a digital design job that never address that gap in reality. It’s better to honestly state that, yes, this job is outside of your current experience but you are trying to learn and grow as a professional.

Finally, really read the job posting to which you are responding. Many hiring managers (myself included) include small details in the posting that act as a canary in the coal mine. These help employers see which candidate is putting a concerted effort into their communication versus one who is in mass-reply mode. Miss those details and your application gets deleted without hesitation. I know because I’ve done it.

Tip 3: The Medium Is (Part of) the Message

Hiring managers use smart phones. The PDF attachment of your resumé might not be the best way to provide a concise view of your experience. If you don’t believe me, please read this A List Apart article that expounds upon the benefits of a responsive HTML resumé

This technique not only benefits the recipient but you, the candidate. It’s quick to load, easy to update, and shows that you have a passion for communicating appropriately for the medium. Best of all, it shows you respect the time of the potential employer you are courting. Nobody wants to download then pinch-and-zoom a PDF on a 3-inch screen.

A dedication to differentiation is valuable. Like a responsive resumé, consider crafting a password protected webpage curated solely for the potential employer. Everyone wants to feel “special,” employers included. If you’re willing to dedicate your valuable time to constructing a personalized web experience, the employer will notice. The very few times I’ve come across these candidates, they’ve shot right to the top of my list.

Foot, Arm, Leg In the Door

There is no denying the obvious. Talent will always open doors. Yet, an attention to detail and a desire to differentiate yourself all point to two very important facts that are overlooked in the hiring process: an obvious demonstration of caring about the job for which you are applying and taking the pursuit of that role seriously.

Now, get out there and woo some Creative Directors.

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