How to ace your next design job interview

by Aug 14, 2019

You’ve got an interview for a design role and need a refresher on how to tackle the design interview process?  

How do you approach this design interview differently to your casual hospitality or retail interviews?

There are certain qualities and characteristics many employers in the design industry are on the lookout for in junior designers. Follow these interview tips to demonstrate to the interview panel that you have what it takes (and more) to be the next unique addition to their design team!

Know your work inside and out

You are a genius. Yes, you are the only person in the world who knows each of your projects inside and out. You are the only person who knows the why and how of what you have done in each piece of your work, so justify to the panellists why you made certain design decisions. Confidently explain to your audience: the brief, the challenges you faced, your creative problem solving and the outcome. To stand out, highlight any anecdotal or client feedback, or even any prizes or exhibitions that work has been in.

“We really expect a recent graduate to just present and talk through the thinking behind each project like you would present to a tutor or lecturer. We really value the complex thought that goes into creative solutions and understand however that they are still at the very beginning of their journey as a creative.”  (Maria Briganti, Environments Design Director at Frost*Collective)

You are a reflective human being. An outstanding quality in a candidate is their ability to critically reflect on their work. Explain to your audience how you would approach the problem differently next time, or what learnings you will take with you into your future career.

You are a ball of enthusiasm. You love the designs you are presenting and should only showcase work you are 100% proud of. Therefore, you will naturally talk about your work in a positive light to your audience. This is not the time to be a negative nelly!

Showcase additional work

You are a bundle of potential. You can usually assume the interviewer or panel have seen the examples of work you sent through with your job application. These projects have clearly made a great impression on them. Now you’re in the room with them, they want to see more! Showcase projects they haven’t seen before. If you do have a limited portfolio and need to present on the projects sent in your job application, you must show more details of that project. Surprise them, and most of all keep them engaged in your unique design work!  

Practice your presentation skills

You are a storyteller. You have the responsibility in an interview to present visually and verbally how you approach complex design problems and find solutions.  

You are a problem solver, and better yet, a problem avoider. Nothing is worse than the technical components of the presentation interrupting your flow. Think ahead and avoid any issues by bringing power cables, saving work on USBs as back up, bringing in physical portfolios or products – the list goes on! Take further initiative and ask questions before your interview about any tech or other requirements that could prepare you appropriately for the presentation.

You are a confident presenter. A concise presentation that keeps to the point and takes the audience on an engaging journey doesn’t happen overnight. You need to practice talking about your work and presenting it in front of an audience many times before it becomes refined. By the time you present at interview, you need to feel confident that you can adapt your presentation on the day (as you are so well-versed in the content you are delivering).

“Presentation skills are an attractive quality and presenting your portfolio, both visually and orally, is a great opportunity to demonstrate this.”  (Scott Burns, Product Designer at ustwo)

Remember, presenting your ideas in the design industry is a core skill of any good designer. So grab some trusted people in your network and get practising! Practice makes perfect right?

Do your research

You are a keen learner. Do your research on the company and the interviewers before the big day. Understand what the company is about, their mission or goals, their values, their products or services, their people, their online presence including social media and any other relevant information.

You are a thoughtful human being. Communicating evidence of your research into the company through your interview answers shows your commitment and motivation to work for them. Preparing thoughtful and tailored questions to ask at the end of the interview further displays your interest and intention in wanting to become the next addition to their team.    

Be yourself

You are you. Be memorable. Let your personality shine through, not only in your portfolio, but in the interview.  The employer is trying to understand who you are, your personal attributes, what inspires or motivates you, what your core skill sets are, how you could add value and ‘fit’ into their team.

“When I’m interviewing a candidate I’m trying to establish if they’re going to be a good fit within the company.  Skills can be taught but attitude is something that is much harder to instil in a candidate. Be enthusiastic, interested to learn, and definitely don’t like act like you know everything (you’d be surprised about how many candidates we get where this is the case).”  (Richard Meade, Associate Creative Director at Binyan Studios)

You are a team player. Be open about your role and collaboration if presenting a team project. Be humble.

“I think when you are starting out in the field of design you really need to show the interviewer that you are eager to work on the really creative briefs but also more than help out with all the small day to day jobs.”  (Justine Morrison, Senior Art Director at Rockpool Dining Group)

In essence, if you can show you are a genius, a reflective human being, a ball of enthusiasm, a bundle of potential, a storyteller, a problem solver, a confident presenter, a keen learner, a thoughtful human being, a team player and most of all… a creative and unique designer (aka YOU), then who wouldn’t want you on their team?

Want more detailed info on how to prepare for a design interview and create the ultimate portfolio? Check out our Design Portfolio Guide!


Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Claudia Cowell

Claudia Cowell

Career Consultant

Claudia enjoys collaborating with academics, industry professionals, colleagues and students to develop and facilitate tailored and engaging career development education. Empowering students to research, ideate and take action towards their next career move that aligns to who they are authentically is what drives Claudia every day in her work.