Tips for Applying for a Graphic Designer Job
by Ben Bonello
Let’s begin by addressing a couple of preliminary points. Am I a human resources specialist with years of experience in recruiting? Certainly not. Do I enjoy the recruitment process when having to do it? No, I loathe it.
At Form Agency, we have been fortunate to maintain a cohesive team of eight individuals who have collaborated harmoniously for many years. However, recent circumstances have necessitated our search for new graphic designers, and I must admit that the process has proven to be quite challenging.
The purpose of this blog is not to dwell on the aspects of recruitment that I find less than enjoyable, which I’m sure others in similar positions can empathise with. Instead, it is to offer valuable tips and suggestions to enhance the chances of applicants standing out in a vast pool of candidates.
To begin, let’s consider our experience with Indeed.com, where we posted the job advert for graphic designers. Posting an advert on Indeed is a straightforward task, allowing for the inclusion of various parameters such as remote work options, desired skill sets, and levels of experience. After configuring all the necessary details and making the job posting live, one eagerly awaits the discovery of the perfect talent.
Within a mere 24 hours, we found ourselves sifting through over 300 applications. While it is natural to suspect that a substantial portion of these applicants might be suitable for the position, the recruitment process necessitates a thorough examination of each submission.
We presented a clear set of requirements for the ideal candidate:
1. An experienced Middleweight Designer
2. Proficiency in the Adobe Suite
3. Ability to work remotely
4. Must be based in the UK
5. A portfolio and a covering letter explaining why they are well-suited for the role
These expectations are quite standard when seeking a new graphic designer. However, the quality of applications and accompanying CVs left us pondering whether the applicants had actually taken the time to read the job specification.
Regrettably, the subsequent phase of the process often entails searching for reasons to eliminate candidates. This phase can be frustrating. Initially, we filtered out applicants from outside the UK, as this was one of the stipulations of the job. Some may question the necessity of UK residence for a remote role, but we do hold team meetings and occasionally visit clients in person.
Next, we evaluated the applicants’ level of experience, a somewhat subjective criterion. Although the graphic design industry categorises experience into junior, middleweight, and heavyweight levels, designers do not possess certificates certifying their status.
When we specifically request applications from middleweight designers, we do not anticipate receiving numerous submissions from recent college graduates or individuals who have completed online design tutorial courses, claiming to be middleweight designers. An applicant’s level of ability becomes apparent upon reviewing their portfolio, and it quickly becomes evident whether they are the right fit for the role.
It might seem unkind to label some applicants as delusional, but the truth is, some are. While I would never communicate this directly to an applicant, if asked in a follow-up email, I would suggest gaining more experience and applying for positions that align with their current skill level, whether that be at the junior level or by gaining experience through freelance work.
Finally, let’s address the importance of cover letters and video interviews. At Form, we are fortunate to have a remarkable team of individuals whom we trust implicitly to perform their roles and collaborate seamlessly when necessary. Therefore, new additions to our team must share this dynamic nature.
When asked to articulate why they are the ideal candidate for the position, applicants should refrain from submitting generic, copy-and-paste two-line messages that we have received in abundance and can clearly discern as having been sent to countless other companies. While we do not expect lengthy essays, we do appreciate a genuine effort and an indication that applicants have researched our company.
Last but not least, the face-to-face interviews—a pivotal phase in the process. After reviewing over 400 applications before pausing our Indeed.com advert, we narrowed down our selection to a final few who met our criteria. Interviews can be a nerve-wracking experience for candidates, and we always strive to create a relaxed atmosphere. This phase serves as the final piece of the puzzle. Regardless of an applicant’s experience, design skills, or qualifications, an arrogant demeanour, an inability to work as part of a team, or a lack of chemistry with the team can be disqualifying factors.
Fortunately, after many days of rigorous recruitment, we successfully identified the right designer who seamlessly integrated into our business. These processes have reinforced my appreciation for the challenges faced by HR professionals. Patience and discernment are undoubtedly crucial qualities in making the right hiring decisions.
For those considering applying for a design job, here are some valuable tips:
1. Match Your Skill Set: Apply for positions that align with your skills, even if it means starting at a lower level and working your way up.
2. Tailor Your Portfolio: Showcase work in your portfolio that is relevant to the job you’re applying for, emphasizing your expertise in the specific area of design.
3. Highlight Your Skills: Clearly articulate your design skills and proficiency with relevant software and tools.
4. Craft a Unique Cover Letter: Avoid generic cover letters and tailor each one to the company you’re applying to.
5. Create an Outstanding Resume: As a designer, your resume should be visually appealing and distinctive, reflecting your design expertise.
6. Research the Company: Familiarise yourself with the company’s culture, values, and vision.
7. Prepare for Interviews: Be ready to discuss your portfolio, your reasons for wanting the job, and ensure your references are relevant and positive. A positive attitude and a smile can go a long way.
There’s also no harm in sending a thank you mail after the interview. If a company is on the fence between a few applicants who to select for the position, these small gestures can make a difference.
I hope these insights from our recruitment experiences prove valuable to those pursuing design positions. Despite the occasional frustration in the process, we genuinely review all relevant applications. Even when you’re tired after reviewing numerous subpar resumes, the ideal candidate might be among those who applied later, so it’s essential to remain diligent.
Respect to all HR professionals who navigate these challenges with patience and precision.