4 Job Interview Myths Designers Should Ignore - Image Credit: Tatiana Lapina

4 Job Interview Myths Designers Should Ignore

Job Interview Myth #1: No Experience = No Chance

Truth: Internships and Entry Level positions
Of all the job interview myths, this one frustrates most of my students. However, just remember that companies are often looking to grow the talent internally. They have the resources, time, and ability to nurture your growth. Getting an internship is the best place to start. You will be introduced to the industry and given the space to experiment and grow. Where I currently work (IBM), we have a robust program that brings in really talented designers as interns and entry level positions. They have the technical skills. I teach them how to navigate corporate hairball.

Learn more about company culture with Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace

Truth: Some companies just want cheap labor
Companies may be trying to cut back on payroll, or they simply cannot afford to pay for more senior talent. This is a good opportunity to get a start, but it’s also a difficult path. This is how I got started. I basically jumped into a rag tag local agency where everyone was trying to make a business out of nothing. All I did was say, ‘yes, I can do that.’ I then had to figure out how to do it.

Myth #2: – I have to apply to a thousand companies. Maybe I’ll get one response.

Truth: Short term strategy
As job interview myths go, this is a short term strategy, but I wouldn’t rely on this for very long. You’ll hear a lot of strategies to get your resume, cover letter and portfolio noticed by the companies systems that scan for keywords. Before you kill yourself trying to master this technique, spend some time on the long term strategy below. The key is to get your work in front of the right people (not a machine). I know even experienced designers loathe the idea of getting their portfolio and resume ready for applications. The truth is that you should always keep your work and how you will present it in the back of your mind. I redo my portfolio at least once a year.

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Truth: Long term strategy – Build up a personal brand and network that will attract companies to you
This is where patience and hard work are key. The people who come from the right design schools with impeccable portfolios will get hired quickly. That’s ok. If you adopt the philosophy that the current you is just a snapshot of your true potential, then you will also realize that everyone will have to keep working on improving their work and connections. Who you know and what they know you for is key.

People will help you if they know you will do good work. I make sure that I look at other designers’ portfolios to make sure I’m up to standards. In addition to my own work, I reach out to designers that I look up to, and I always answer inquires from designers that are asking for help.

Where do you start? Find design associations such as AIGA, IxDA, UXPA, and/or local meetups. I joined all of the local chapters of these associations. When I started working in product design, I started attending local meetups for tech. This branched out beyond designers to developers and entrepreneurs.

At the same time, you can build a network that spans outside of your immediate community. When I started working in design, I immediately connected to co-workers on LinkedIn. When I joined the board of AIGA Austin, I did the same. As I continued to expand my network, my connections on LinkedIn grew rapidly to the point where I can make introductions and help build other people’s community.

Myth #3 – It’s always best to show Client Work

Truth: New designers tend to do the grunt work for small companies. They often don’t have the expertise to guide the client through the process. Most new designers are not comfortable enough with the process to properly guide the clients to make the best decisions.When new designers are positioned to guide the client, the likely end results are that the client assumes the creative director position while the new designers push the pixels. Since the designer can’t speak to how s/he actually identified the problems, pitched the client, and solved really problems, the work adds little value to the portfolio. Of all of the job interview myths, this can be one of the most damaging because designers feel compelled to show projects that do not best speak to their strengths.

Read more about how to make your design portfolio standout.

Myth #4 – Student work or ‘Made up projects’ aren’t worth much

Truth: Create your own projects. Redesign Facebook or try to solve a common problem people have with an app people often use. Create UI kits and offer them for free download. This shows the designer’s understanding of common UI elements. Create a complete story. (i.e. User > Problem > Exploration of Solution > Direction from your Classwork). You ultimately want to show the interviewers that you understand design concepts and UX principles.

Read more about how to talk about your greatest weakness as a designer.

Image Credit: Tatiana Lapina



Matt Eng

Product Designer at IBM Design. Based in Austin,TX. Worked with clients such as IBM, Alcatel-Lucent, Polycom, Symantec and Pebble. Volunteers with AIGA Austin and teaches at Austin Community College.

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