You are new in this field, just got out of school or, maybe, you have skipped school and you want to work right away. You have already searched for a couple of agencies in your own country where you would like to work at, but, how do you get accepted? Many people coming fresh out of school struggle with this, you may have no idea where to start and you may be afraid of your first interview.
What should you take with you? How should you prepare?
The first step is researching. You are new in this design industry and this industry is a very wide field. There is printing, interactive websites,illustration, matte painting, coding, motion design etc. Do not be negative towards your work. Knowing what field you would like to grow in is one of the most important decisions in your career and the first thing you have to decide before you get in touch with a creative agency.
Having your portfolio ready
Interactive agencies love it when you have your own portfolio site, or website. It shows that you have an interest in web and layout. While printing agencies love it when you have your own book with your work, showing how you can handle typography and layout. Let us not forget that you should have a business card.
In summary, these options are the best to have:
- Your own book if you are an illustrator (which you can print at Blurb.com)
- Your own portfolio site
- Business card
Your own portfolio and book shows a lot about yourself: that you believe in your own work and you have the motivation and passion. Do not be negative towards your work, even if you think your work is not the best, this scares away agencies and clients. If you think bad about your work and say it out loud, do you expect them to think it is good? Also be careful with your attitude online. Agencies often do research before they hire someone and might check you out on LinkedIN, Facebook, Twitter etc.
Contacting an agency
A lot of agencies have their email up on their site, you can simply email them. Often they also have job openings as well. It is never bad to send an email, it creates a contact between you and the agency which they can always refer to later.
- Short straight to the point emails are the best.
- Don’t make your lines too long! (same for the subject of the email. It is proven that after the 5th word people lose interest.
- Do not forget mentioning your portfolio twice (beginning, end).
- End with ‘Yours Sincerely’, your name, status i.e. illustrator, site
What if they do not reply to your email after about 2 weeks? Call them to follow up! You are not annoying, you simply show motivation to work there. They may have been busy and forgot to send you an email back.
Your first interview
A very important fact for an interview is to always be on time, at least 5 to 10 minutes early. Do not come 30 minutes early, it may seem a little desperate. Remember that this shows motivation and that you are taking the time for the interview, it shows that you are serious. Keep in mind that designers are busy people, but, a good sense of humour might lightens the mood and tension.
Joking a little bit but not negatively of course breaks the wall of awkwardness a bit. They notice if you are tense, or nervous. But if you joke a little bit, you are hiding that.
Do not joke too much, still keep it serious and show your motivation. Place your hands on the table, instead of under the table. Look into the interviewer’s eyes, nod when you agree are facts that makes it pleasurable for them to talk to you.
What also helps is asking questions. This shows that you are interested in what the agency is about.
A question could be:
- ‘What is the latest project you are working on?’ and then ‘How is it going?’
- ‘Can I get a tour around the agency?’
Prepare yourself for questions like:
- ‘What are your strongest and weakest points?’
- ‘What do you plan to achieve here?’
- ‘What would you like to be doing here?’
- ‘What would you like to earn every month?’
- ‘Why do you want to work here?’ etc.
To take interest in an agency by checking out their projects on their site before going to the interview.
It is good to do homework and know some background about the company and the person or persons interviewing you.
It will be awkward if you do not know what they are about and they are asking you what you think of a certain project
they have worked on.
Never sign a contract right away!
Remember it is a legal document which binds you and the agency to which you will sign on to. Take your contract home, take the time to review and read everything thoroughly and then go back to sign it. If you have questions about the contract, ask. If you disagree, discuss it with them. By signing a contract right away it shows that you are not serious or interested in reading their legal document. Agencies expect you to take their contracts seriously, it is quite normal to take the contract home and review it, maybe you can ask for second opinions if you need to.
What if they ask for another interview? Be yourself again. Show up 5-10 minutes early again. Show interest in the person and the agency, again. Pretend this is the first interview, instead of the second. Once the art director of Saatchi & Saatchi told me, that 80% of what counts is motivation. Your skills are also important and must be at a certain level, depending on the agency. If you worked a lot at other agencies and gained experience, the chances of being hired are also bigger.
Want to know another fact? The longer your interview takes, the more interested they arein hiring you. As I mentioned earlier, designers are busy people and always have something to do. If they take a lot of their time to talk to you, it means you are very interesting to them and most likely you will get the job.
The annoying part, waiting.
You did your best and this is all you can do right now.
They tell you they will call you next week to tell you if you got the job or not.
But…what happens if they do not call you back?
Call them. Actually, if this happens, it is perfect.
This shows that you are very eager to work there by calling them and asking for the current status of getting the job.
You do not hear anything yet? Call again.
If you call two times, it is ok, do not do it too much though.
The second call should be enough.
Congrats! You got the job!
Of course you got the job, you have talked for maybe 4 hours in interviews! Showed your interest, motivation, that you’re social and also that you have the skills through your portfolio. Interest, motivation, experience and skills. 4 things that are important for acceptance. For the next couple of days it is important to always be on time. To show team work and that you are interested to know your colleagues.
- Keep a note book next to you on the table to write down notes of a project. Write when they talk, or you will forget and it can get annoying if you continuously ask them to repeat what they told you. It takes time to explain points all over again.
- Greet everyone when you enter and say good evening/morning. If it is a large agency, you do not have to greet everyone. Just on your floor and the people you meet when you go in and out. Always with a smile! No one likes an annoyed person.
- You are done with a project? Ask around if you can help with anything else.
- Do not just spend your time on blogs while your time could be applied to doing something useful!
- Agencies love ordering. Order your files good in maps with the right name. If you do not know how, ask for that right in the beginning. It is annoying for someone else to find your file between tons of other files, it takes unnecessary time.
- Name your layers so that if someone needs to access or edit the files if you are not present, it makes it easy for them to do so.
Also remember that a good agency respects your opinion and feedback. Yes, you always start at the bottom. But it is good to show that you are not some kind of robot, but that your constructive feedback can make a difference in a project. If an agency does not care about that, and you have nothing to say because you are just a junior, forget about it. That is not a good agency to work with. In the end it is all about making the product better that you are selling. It is all about team work, sharing ideas and accepting feedback and criticism to improve.
Hope this helps you out a bit!