Graphic Designers are in high demand. There’s always a need for someone who understands the ins and outs of what makes great design. A graphic designer who has an eye for aesthetics, a firm grasp on cutting-edge software and style trends, and who can destroy a deadline is worth their weight in gold. With that said, graphic design is a popular career for creative people who want to make their mark on the world, so it isn’t hard to see why graphic design is such a competitive field.
Whether you are thinking of studying graphic design to land your dream job in the future, or you’ve just graduated and can’t wait to get started, having interview skills that will make you the most appealing candidate are absolutely mandatory. Preparing for your day in the hotseat requires lead-in preparation time that starts with writing a fabulous resume and is supplemented by practicing your answers to common graphic design interview questions. But we know that won’t put you off–you’ve got the skills and the ambition, you won’t have any problem nailing the interview, too!
Before the Interview:
Before you even go in for your graphic design interview, it’s worth it to put the prep time in when it comes to crafting a resume and cover letter that will garner interest from potential employers. So what does the perfect resume look like?
Well, it should go without saying that the very first impression that an employer gets of your skills as a graphic designer begins with the work that you put in to your resume. It should be no longer than one page, and be clean, neat, and aesthetically pleasing. Spend some time crafting the typography elements of your resume; instead of thinking of it as a purely utilitarian way to convey information about your skills and experience, consider it the first piece of your graphic design portfolio.
It is also very worth the time to practice speaking. There are a number of basic interview questions that you are doubtless already very familiar with, like:
- Tell me about yourself.
- The interviewer isn’t looking for your zodiac sign or life story. Answer this question with four or five aspects about your experience or personality that can be framed in a way that still describes how you are a unique candidate.
- What do you consider to be your greatest weakness?
- Hint: it’s not kryptonite. This isn’t an invitation to denigrate yourself or be humble. Instead, describe a strength of yours disguised as a “weakness”.
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- The key to this question isn’t to sign your life away to your desired place of employment. Most employers just want to know how the position you are interviewing for fits into your career goals.
These all seem like very simple questions, but can actually be stumpers. Assume that questions like these will be asked of you and practice your answers to them before you even move on to the graphic design interview questions below.
Casting Your Net:
Graphic Design can be a competitive field to break into, but it isn’t impossible by any stretch of the imagination. There are a number of things to take into consideration before you even begin to look for a graphic design job, so you need to do a little research. Consider each of the following aspects before you start sending resumes out:
- Location: Metropolitan centers have many, many opportunities for the aspiring graphic designer, but some have more than others. You need to also consider the cost of living and the rate of unemployment as you look. For instance, New York City will always have a need for talented designers. But even with a lot of opportunity, there’s always a wealth of candidates, and the cost of living is sky-high.
- Level: It’s tempting to go straight for flashy, sexy jobs in advertising houses with big-name clients and near-unlimited resources, but consider your experience level before biting. Starting at an indie firm or doing something more vanilla when you are first starting out doesn’t have to be a compromise. You can learn a lot from jobs with solid-entry level positions to cut your teeth on.
- Reputation: There are a lot of resources and websites out there for job hunters wanting to understand a little bit more about the companies they want to work for. Interviews and checks aren’t just for candidates anymore! Spend some time looking at salary information, employee morale, and internal hiring practices at the company you’d like to pursue. Are there opportunities to advance? Are the employees happy? What are the perks like?
Taking these kinds of things into consideration when you cast your net will result in more call backs for you so that all you need to worry about is acing the interview when it’s time. Speaking of which…
Sample Graphic Design Interview Questions:
Finally, the good stuff. Let’s dive right in and take a look at some common (and not so common) graphic design interview questions. We’ll include a few answers as well, but remember that it isn’t a script! Let the sample answers give you a foothold, and then be sure to practice an answer of your own that lets your individuality shine through.
Q: In your opinion, what are the qualities of a good graphic designer?
A: Here’s your first chance to sell yourself a little, but don’t overdo it. Think about the qualities that make a graphic designer great, and then expound on them a little. For example, you could say something like:
“There’s no substitute for design intuition, of course, but understanding design technology as it changes is absolutely vital. For that reason, I make it a priority to stay up to date with software like Adobe CS and keep my eye out for changing market trends.”
Q: What kind of design projects are you interested in?
A: A question like this is why it’s so important to do your research. You don’t want to apply for a job doing layout design for educational materials and moon over how much you love motion graphics for social marketing campaigns. A sample answer might sound a little like:
“I’m always trying to develop better practices for streamlined User Interface layout graphics. I’m really excited at the work this company has done for XYZ website, and I hope I’ll get a chance to contribute to a similar project.”
Q: Tell me about a time that you had to work under pressure?
A: Your interviewer isn’t asking this question because she wants to know about that time in college that you had a paper due but your cat got a stomach virus and your car broke down. What she’s really asking is “Tell me a time that you succeeded under pressure”. You’ll want to answer it without framing it as a “woe is me” story. For instance:
“In my last position, we were working on a very strict budget and close deadline. Because we were skilled communicators, everyone was able to pull together and exceed client expectations when the presentation was rescheduled to a week ahead of time.”
Q: Which software do you prefer to work with and why?
A: Again, this is where research comes in handy. If you’re applying to a design job as a 3D modeler with a company that uses 3DStudio Max you want to be able to say that you use that same program, not that you only use Maya because you think 3DS is inferior. You can frame it like this:
“I think it’s important to know multiple modeling systems, because each has it’s benefits and drawbacks. I understand that your studio uses 3DStudio Max; I’m very familiar with 3DS, so I should be able to hit the ground running here.”
Q: What is your design process?
A: This is an intuitive question, but because it can involve multiple steps, it’s best to practice it before hand so that you aren’t stumbling over your words as you attempt to get them out. This is also a question that gauges how efficient you are, as well as your attention to detail. You want to fall somewhere in the middle–talking about how it takes at least 15 drafts before you reach your final design will make it seem like you won’t meet deadlines. On the other hand, claiming that you always design perfectly at square one will make it seem like you don’t value craftsmanship or worse, that you’re arrogant. You might say something like,
“Before I get started on a project, I like to develop a number of milestones to refer to so that I can stay on track. After that, I begin with a preliminary concept sketches and choose the ones that best meet client expectations. I will typically do three of four mock-ups to tweak the final design before I present it to the client. Of course, I always take any constructive criticism directed towards my work to improve as I go.”
Q: Can I see your portfolio?
A: There’s only one right way to answer this, and that is in the affirmative. You should include a link to your online portfolio of work with your contact information on your resume. Before you get to the interview, make sure that you also have a burned copy of your demo reel that you can leave with the interviewer. To review, this is what the answer to this question should sound like:
There are many more potential graphic design interview questions, far too many to name here. They can include everything from logic puzzles that test your creative and critical thinking abilities to software-specific skills that will vary depending on what type of position you are applying for. If you do your research and polish your answers before you go in, you’ll ace the interview for sure.
After the Interview:
After your interview, the first thing that you should do is heave a great big sigh of relief, because you did it! The very next thing that you should do is follow up immediately with a thank you email, and drop a thank you card into the mailbox the very next day.
Handwritten thank you cards stand out because they are becoming a rare and elusive breed. Your best bet is to again use your awesome graphic design skills to create something that is unique and showcases your talent.
With these sample graphic design interview questions, you are well on your way to landing your dream job by breaking into the field of graphic design. From here, you can consider other options as well, like supplementing your income as a freelance designer, or looking towards freelancing full time, if it suits you. It never hurts to brush up on additional resume and cover letter writing fundamentals, either. And of course, we wish the best of luck to you on your job hunt!