.: 13 February 2016 :.

Perform better Design Portfolio Interviews

Design interviews are great. They really are.

Interviews aren’t just about landing an internship or job. Interviews are great because they teach you. They teach you to talk about yourself. They teach you who you are. What you want. What companies want. They even teach you Whether your portfolio is effective.

So especially as a student, you should be on the hunt for interviews. Apply to dozens of companies. Approach designers on Twitter. Connect with designers on Medium.

Especially as a student, you should be on the hunt for interviews. Accept every interview request you can get.

Do an interview even though you think you are not interested in the company. Interview even though you are still in college. Interview especially if you don’t think you would land that job. Stop seeing an interview as a commitment. You don’t owe your interviewer anything.

However, if you want to take the most of your interview, don’t go in unprepared. Do your homework. Know who you are talking to. Are you talking to a HR person? A senior designer? The more you know about the person, the better.

This will help you understand why they are doing the interview. If you can understand what the interviewer wants to get out of the interview, you can give him a helping hand.

You might think that design interviews are all about your work. I think they aren’t. They aren’t for the simple reason that companies are not looking to hire designers, they hire people.

Companies are not looking to hire designers, they are looking to hire people.

Hardly any company will do an interview before being confident about your skills. The fact that you are being interviewed means that they have seen your work. They want more. They want to get to know the person behind the portfolio.

So try to understand what they want to get out of it. Do they want to get to know you personally? Make it personal.

Connect with your interviewer on a personal level. Tell your story. Show your passion. No one has ever told you that you can only ask general questions about the company. Have you ever asked your interviewer this:

“Why do you like to work at Company X?”

Suddenly the interviewer becomes a person. Suddenly the interviewer becomes a person you can connect with.

By asking a simple question you can break the traditional roles.
You can shift the interview into a conversation. A conversation similar to one you would have at a social event. Let’s say at a design conference.

I’ve also done interviews where making it personal was less effective. All that the interviewer wanted, was knowing about my hard skills. I realized this early in the interview, so that’s what I tried to give him.

The point is to be flexible. Understand what the interviewer wants and feed him with that.

Especially as a starting designer, don’t try hard to convince the interviewer you are the right person for the job. Let the interviewer decide if you are. They know their company far better than you do. They have seen hundreds of students. They notice talent within a minute.

Don’t tell them you are eager to learn, show them a blog post of how you taught yourself how to animate. Don’t tell them you know how to code, show them a live website you coded. Don’t tell them you can deal with feedback, ask the interviewer to give you feedback.

Show, don’t tell. Let your work speak for itself.

Don’t just talk, listen. Listen to what the interviewer asks you. The questions are an incredible source of information. They reveal what companies are looking for. Is every interviewer asking you if you know how to code? Learn how to code. Is every interviewer asking about your personal role in a group project? Include a paragraph in your portfolio describing this.

The interviewer’s questions are an incredible source of information. It reveals what they are looking for.

So even if you don’t succeed in getting the job you hoped for you still gain knowledge. Interviews are great. They really are.

© 2020 Martijn van den Broeck
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