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Job Search Tips: Standing Out to Recruiters for Creative & Design Roles

Some of the most in demand jobs today are in the creative field. Graphic designers, product designers, and UX/UI roles are all highly desirable positions where the competition is fierce. So, if you’re interested in growing your creative career, it’s good to know what employers want and how to present yourself best.  First impressions matter – and that means your resume and portfolio need to make the cut.

Invest in a Professional Website to host your Portfolio

Your portfolio demonstrates the quality and aesthetic of your work. It’s where you can really strut your stuff! Many employers look at your portfolio before they even open your resume. That’s why it’s vital that you invest in the best way to display that work online.

It’s highly recommended to have a paid portfolio website. This, after all, is your livelihood and you’re proud of your work. Skip the “free” portfolio sites that run advertisements. It sends the wrong message and can cost you more than the $5 you might have spent on an ad-free portfolio site. An employer may think that if you can’t put together a professional portfolio website, then why should they invest in you?

While a PDF may seem convenient, it’s often so large that there are downloading and sharing issues. Some clients’ databases won’t even take documents over a certain size (many are limited to less than 5 MB for an upload!). PDF portfolios could work for the interview or a presentation, but online portfolios are preferred because they are easier to share, easier to update, and some even have passwords for those secret projects the world can’t know about just yet.

What to show in your Portfolio

Like a resume, a good portfolio tells your creative story. Potential employers should be able to understand your work and what you’ve achieved without a verbal explanation. The flow and layout of the portfolio should make sense. Review your portfolio and ask: is it easy to see what I’ve done? When was the project completed? What was its objective? If it was a big project with multiple players, is it clear what part I played?  Basically, be sure to cover the “who, what, where, when, why and how” for each project on your resume.

  • Who worked on the project? Was this a team project or a solo one?
  • What did you do? Did you do 3D modeling and animation or just lighting?
  • Where was this done?  Was this done at an agency, client, or in house teams. What company?
  • Why was it done this way? For Example, UX/UI professionals often do research on competitors and the market. They make data-driven design decisions. The portfolio should explain how the candidate obtained this data and applied it. Maybe this was for broadcast, for web, for online streaming, different platforms must be considered in the process for creative production.
  • How did you complete this design? (tools, process, etc,.)

An effective way to organize your portfolio is by types of work. For instance, you can have different tabs for work in video, packaging, UX, graphics, print, digital, social, etc. This makes it easy for hiring managers to review your work.

Looks are Everything… Sometimes.

Some industries and companies are very specific on the brand aesthetic. In the beauty or luxury industry, the goal is beautiful design. The entertainment business is fast paced with a high fashion aesthetic. This will likely not be the case in manufacturing or banking. That’s why companies want to see what your industry experience is. 

It’s easy to think that design is design no matter the industry you’re working in. But in the pharmaceutical industry, for example, regulations frame everything: how the product is designed, marketed and advertised. Consequently, design work may take longer for legal approval, even for a social media post. Companies in banking, finance, and other regulated industries tend to look for designers with experience in their industry.

What if you want to move into a different industry? The first step is to study the industry, its challenges, and of course, your target company’s design aesthetic.

A Tale of Two Resumes

It’s tempting to show off your creative side in how you design your resume (That’s why we got into design in the first place, right?). Primarily, your resume must be easy to read and tell your career story. Most agency recruiters would like to see two versions: a simple, one column resume in a Word document or PDF (easy to scan and capture for databases or “applicant tracking systems” as we call them) and a more creatively designed resume that communicates your aesthetic. In most situations we can use your creative resume but there are times when we need a plain one for applications.

Back to Basics

Don’t forget the basics on your resume, please. Right next to your name (Please have your name at the top!) should be your title and overall career objective. Some questions you can ask yourself are: What are you hoping to do? Where do you want to go in your career? Can you describe what you want your next step to be?  If it’s a specific title or industry, let us know. We want to help you find that fit – so if you’re a Presentation Designer who loves Bioengineering and Finance, scream it from the rooftops! Or, just put it under your name on your resume.

The tools and software that you’ve used to create are particularly important to include on your resume (e.g., Adobe Creative Cloud, InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, – please list these out!).

For each position you’ve held, be it a job or internship, list your main responsibilities. It may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people just list a job title.

  • Were you working with a big team? Were you working with a production agency or in-house?
  • Were you doing end-to-end production or focused on preproduction / postproduction?
  • Were you the lone ranger at a startup wearing all the hats? Did you have a single hat at a large corporation?
  • What tools did you use?  What methodologies did you employ?
  • What sort of projects did you work on? 

Try to answer those questions for the hiring manager before they ever hop on a call with you- it’s more likely they pick up the phone if you do!

Tell Me About Yourself

Before the hiring manager calls you, practice giving a brief description of your career journey. This is your moment – your elevator pitch. If someone asks you, “tell me about yourself” then you should be able to summarize why you’d be a great fit for a position in less than a minute. Your recruiter can help you hone this presentation and give tips on how to improve it. We know what the hiring team is looking for and are happy to help you develop those interviewing skills.

Recruiters and employers are looking for two things: great attitude and great work. You need to be able to communicate and sell yourself – especially when going for a job in a new industry. Your resume and portfolio show what you’ve done so far, but you should be able to speak for your journey.

Help Recruiters Help You

We are a combination of ally, coach and cheerleader for your candidacy. Recruiters promote you, we tell the hiring manager why you’re a good fit for the job and we use resumes and portfolios to do that.We meet with the hiring teams and understand their specific needs, which can help you. By giving you critical information you need to sell yourself, you can excel in the interviews. Your resume, portfolio and industry experience are the tools we use to communicate your qualifications. Spending some time refining and upgrading your resume and portfolio can pay out big dividends for your career.

Photo Credit: Canva