Tips to land your ideal graphic design job

Tips to apply (and land) your ideal Graphic Design job!

Are you looking for ways to nail your application for a graphic design job?

A  while ago, we did a post on our  Facebook Page about making sure you study your graphic design course at the right college. It sparked some debate about getting into our industry, so we’ve decided to share our thoughts about what we first pay attention to when we receive applications. Here are some tips on how to apply (and hopefully land) your ideal graphic design job!

Please be aware that we are not recruitment specialists – I am a graphic designer who’s been in the game for 20 years and have been both an applicant and now an employer at Halo Media, so am familiar with both sides of the coin!

1)  Make the right first impression

The first thing you need to realise is that it’s highly competitive. We once placed an advert on one website, for 2 weeks, and received nearly 800 CV’s! That worked out to over 10 emails an hour each business day for 2 weeks! Even if I spent the entire day reading CVs, it only allows 5 minutes per application (with no time for a coffee to keep me awake during all that reading!). So making the right impression is vital. It will make you stand out from the crowd.

There are a few simple things we look at right away. Once you’ve sifted through hundreds of CV’s, it gets to the stage that these make or break it as to whether we’d read any further.

If the advert gives a subject reference, use it! It shows us that you read the advert which means you pay attention to detail.

Do a short covering letter – outline what position you are applying for (especially applicable in larger companies where they may be multiple positions). Say who you are and why you are applying. Be confident and friendly and don’t be afraid to show us your personality, but don’t feel the need to “hard sell”, it might will irritate. Examples of hard sell can include: “I’m a gifted graphic designer who your company simply can’t do without”.

Do not, and I mean this, DO NOT use text speak. To me, it shows a lack of professionalism. In fact, I can’t even understand it! Write clearly and make use of paragraphs. I want to make sure my future graphic designer can interface professionally with my clients, so I’ll pay attention to your language, spelling and tone.

Oh, spelling. This is my pet hate. I don’t understand how people submit documents without running spell check – this is your first introduction to me, if you can’t check your spelling, how will you provide quality graphic design for my clients? If I spot spelling errors, there is a very good chance I might not read any further. If you are applying in a language which is not your first language, try to get someone for whom it is their first language to check it first.

Don’t send your application to me and 7 other companies cc’d on the same mail – yes, it’s throwing lots of lines in the water, but it shows us that you aren’t keen on working for US, just for working with anyone. Obviously you are applying for many jobs, just don’t do them on the same mail!

Try ask a friend who is in the industry to read over your application before you submit it.

2) Your CV / Graphic Design Portfolio

There are a lot of different schools of thought on this subject, these are my thoughts! When we look through CV’s we mainly focus on firstly seeing if you are suitable for the position (qualifications and experience) and then if you tick those boxes, we start looking at your detailed experience, your portfolio and if we think you’d fit well into our environment.

When sifting through hundreds of CV’s, I’m of the belief that short and sweet is better (and you only have a few minutes for me to make an opinion of you). Try to condense your core information to two or three pages. We’re skimming the first page to see whether we should read on – at first we look to see if the person is qualified and experienced – we go on to read more into their detailed experience and personality type once we know they are suitable. So, page 1 is your details (name, education, etc) and page 2 onwards is your experience.

List your job experience from most recent down to oldest. There’s no need to tell us of your grade school achievements – a simple listing of clubs/achievements (preferably at the end) will give us an idea about you (not necessary for applicants with enough experience, we’re focusing on your work achievements then). Give us your core skills – remember, if we shortlist you for an interview, we’re going to ask more in-depth questions. And remember, spell check like there is no tomorrow!!

We’re people lovers – as a small design studio, personality and “vibe” really counts for us. So don’t be afraid to let your personality come through… if you love Isidingo (A South African soap opera!) and are proud of it, don’t be afraid to list it in your “About Me” section (it would probably count in your favour as we’re addicts!!). But don’t do an entire page about you… your 5 minute slot will be used up already!

I personally respond well to a .pdf portfolio, not too big (maybe about 3-4mb maximum – this may be specified in the job listing) as opposed to receiving 13 separate jpegs. Choose your design portfolio pieces well – I once received a poster design for a school fair which had a naked woman on it! That showed me that that particular graphic design applicant didn’t understand their client, so choose portfolio pieces which really show us your talent. I’m also interested in what your role was with that portfolio – it gives us an idea of what your range is. But, take note with the next point, as an accurate and honest representation of your role is key.

This is a biggie. Be honest. If you aren’t, it is going to bite you later, and you don’t want a reputation as a truth-bender! If, for example, logo design isn’t your strong point but your brochure design will make me drool, let me know. If I didn’t know and I hire you specifically wanting someone who is great at Corporate Identity design, then chances are you are not going to enjoy the work we give you, and we’re going to be disappointed. But if we know your strength, we can hire you according to your strength which is win-win for all involved! Lying about your experience can only smack you in the face later and is bad for karma.

Don’t lie on your CV, it won’t start you off on the right foot.

3)  Your online presence

I’m a Googler. I’m a LinkedIN’er; a Facebook-aholic; Insta-stalker and a Twitterer and if I’m interested in you, I’m going to look you up! And I may find out things which don’t cast you in a good light!

Keep a clean social media profile. Those photos you were tagged in in a wet T-shirt competition… yes, lots of fun, but it will make me wonder if I want you as the “face” of my company! This is not just for recruitment, it’s a general life tip – what goes on cyberspace stays in cyberspace, so think twice about what you do online. These days social recruitment is big and a clean profile is huge!

What goes on tour no longer stays on tour, it is online forever!

4) Be YOU!

When we are hiring a graphic designer, we’re looking for someone we can trust. Someone we can be friends with, enjoy working with and know that we share the same values. Someone who is an asset to our studio, and ideally, we’ll be an asset to your life. If you make it through to interviews and you don’t think the agency you’ve met shares your goals, then don’t be afraid to back out of it – you spend more hours at work than any other activity (except maybe for sleeping, but try not to do that at work!) so choose a company where you can envision yourself being part of the family.

Be enthusiastic, friendly and likeable!

So there you have it, some of my thoughts on potential applicants.  If this has interested you, please comment on it and share it with like-minded individuals looking for graphic design positions. We’re keen to hear your thoughts and, if requested, can follow this article up with one on things that impress us in interviews. Hope these points help you, happy job-hunting!!