How to get an interview at a design agency

With the end of year design shows nearly upon us, are you a graduate designer trying to decide what to do next with your design qualification? Well, there are of course hundreds of potential options but we thought it would be helpful (especially as we are looking for 3 graduates to join us this summer) if we told you how we recruit and gave you some top tips for (hopefully) getting that interview!

How do emc design recruit?

1. We ask all potential candidates to email their CV, portfolio and in the case of the graduate scheme your completed application form to jobs@emcdesign.org.uk

2. Then Sophie sorts through all of the emails we get sent – lots of designers will have followed the steps we ask of them, but equally lots don’t! So the ones who don’t will not make it to our next stage.

3. Once we have our list of qualifying applicants Sophie reads through all of the application forms and CVs. She marks them against our criteria (taken from the job and person specs published in the information packs) and the top 20 or so candidates go through to the next stage.

4. We print out all the portfolios (so it’s important to send us in some of your best pieces as a PDF, with your name/branding on each page) as well as links to your website. All the portfolios and CVs get laid out on our board table and we invite the senior design team to take a look through them. They select their top few candidates. And then we whittle this short-list down to the top 4 or 5 (perhaps more this summer) who we invite to interview.

What’s our interview process?

By the time we invite you to interview we already know you’ve probably got what it takes. So the interview is to see if we like you and you us. But because it can still be hard to choose who we give a job to we ask all candidates the same set of standard questions. These are a mixture of technical (mostly InDesign) questions as well as a few cheesy ones! We ask everyone to do the same creative task. This is taken from a job we had in the studio, so it is as accurate as it can be as an example of what the work is like. So we use this to see if candidates will actually enjoy the work we do as well as use it to measure candidates against each other. If you don’t like the work in this task then you probably shouldn’t accept our job offer if we give you the job!

So as you can see, the recruitment process is very involved from our point of view because we like to ensure we bring in the right people for the job and us as a company. And we like to ensure we are fair to every candidate that applies so we purely select people based on who is going to be the best at doing the job.

So how do you make sure you get to the interview stage?

Think about yourself from an external point of view
Imagine you are the recruiter, ask what sort of person they are looking for, do I meet these requirements? How would I like to receive the application/email?

Don’t send a blanket CV, portfolio and application letter
It doesn’t take too long to find out who the person is you address your letter/email to. And if it really is impossible, at least say; Dear emc design.

Research design agencies and the type of work they do
Every design agency has a slightly different focus and specialism and client base. You probably won’t know exactly what type of design agency you want to go to yet but having a good look around will give you an idea of the different areas of the industry you might like. And during your research you will also get a better picture of the different skills and requirements agencies like to see in your application.

Tailor your CV and portfolio to suit these different styles of design agencies
You may end up having 3 or 4 different versions of the same kind of work, but tailored slightly differently. For example, if you are applying to us put your best and most relevant editorial samples at the front of your portfolio. If you’re applying to a marketing agency put your logo and branding work at the front.

How to send your portfolio
Most designers have an online portfolio, which is fantastic, especially as it shows recruiters you have technical skills in digital software. However, it’s also worth making your portfolio available as a PDF (or downloadable from your site) so that you demonstrate your ability to select your work, present it in an orderly and beautifully designed way. It also ensures that when we lay out our best applicants work your work hasn’t just been screen dumped from Sophie’s computer – she may not choose your best pieces!

Brand your CV and portfolio consistently
If you show that you have taken the time and have the ability to brand yourself consistently (also your branding on each page of your portfolio) you will definitely stand out as one of the better designers. It also makes it easier to see which work belongs to you when we lay out all of the portfolios at selection stage.

The importance of your CV
So many designers still send us their CV in Word. As a design agency this is one of our biggest bugbears! If you’re telling us you are a creative designer and know how to use industry standard software you MUST demonstrate this in your CV. If you don’t have access to or own a copy of InDesign you can download a free trial from Adobe! If you need some creative help take a look at Amy’s (one of our Design Manager’s) Pinterest page on Creative CVs.

What to put on your CV
Highlight modules or work experiences that are particularly relevant to the agency you’re applying to. So for example because of our specialism in the publishing industry you might want to emphasise work experience in editorial design/weekend courses in typography as a bigger emphasis than perhaps a weeks work experience at a marketing agency. Like your portfolio, you may end up having a few different CVs which are tailored to different areas of the industry.

Be aware of copy and pasting in email programmes
Dear Sir/Madame, I really want a job at emc design, and I would love the chance to work on your editorial projects.
It looks lazy and doesn’t make a good first impression, even if it is what everyone does! So just check that the email is formatted nicely.

Application form
We look for good English and no spelling mistakes (in your CV and application form). It doesn’t really matter how you fill out our form but it should look good. Same formatting, fonts and sizes. If you’re handwriting it no scribbling out!

Talk
If agencies are at your graduate show that means they genuinely want to hire in new talent, so talk to them (and us!). If they’re not at the show give them a ring, or contact them on twitter. We love hearing from potential new designers before we approach them at a show, it shows initiative and that you’re serious about entering the world of work.

If you are interested in joining emc design and are a recent graduate/graduating this summer take a look at our graduate scheme. It may just be the stepping stone you’re looking for to start your career now that you have that design qualification.
http://www.emcdesign.org.uk/about/graduates.html

About emc design

emc design is a leading print & digital design agency for publishing.
This entry was posted in Design, eMC folk, Graduate Scheme, Jobs, Publishing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to How to get an interview at a design agency

  1. Reblogged this on Every thought on design and commented:
    Useful…

  2. Pingback: Where does a design agency fit into publishing? We explore this as part of the PA’s #workinpublishing week | emc design ltd

  3. Pingback: Top tips for creating the perfect portfolio | emc design ltd

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