Each of our design job advertisements attracts an average of sixty applications. So, if you have spent the last few months applying for design positions and haven’t landed a role yet, it’s worth bearing in mind that you’re competing with around fifty-nine other designers every time you apply.
Do those odds sound daunting? They shouldn’t, because the important statistic is a different one: most of those fifty-nine won’t even have the right experience to qualify for the role, and only an average of four will eventually make it through to interview. To look at things another way: if you still haven’t found a designer role, it might not be purely due to competition, but because nobody told you how to make the most of your talents.
The following fistful of common-sense guidelines will help to invert those negative responses and help take you closer to that elusive offer.
1- Portfolio. Portfolio. Portfolio.
Creatives are not defined by their CVs but by the outstanding work they do, and that’s what clients and recruiters want to see as much as your CV. So why would you not include your work alongside your resumé? As unbelievable as it may sound, the number of CVs submitted without work samples is still ridiculously high.
Got an online portfolio? Brilliant. Link it top right next to your contact details. Pdf? Fantastic. Put together up to 10 work samples, and either include them after your CV or submit the pdf alongside your CV (you may have to email this separately if the application process only allows one file to be attached). You want people to see immediately what you are capable of. Remember the standard requirement: clients are just looking for one designer who is perfect for them.
2- CV: as smart and creative as you are
It’s not unusual to receive Word resumés (not even pdfs) which show zero dedication to fonts, space, general layout. Given that the average CV is initially scanned for six seconds, trust me when I say that a couple of lines on a blank page isn’t the best way to persuade clients that you are a top creative. Your CV is your business card: use it to your advantage, tailor it around your skills and personality. Nice font, smart size, well laid out. It doesn’t take much and makes an impressive difference. And to stand out, come up with your own logo and add some creative touches, to better reflect your style and immediately impress. It’s time well spent.
3 – Meaningful terms
It’s crucial that your CV conveys the roles and responsibilities you’ve held clearly. Use powerful self-explanatory terms: “concept to delivery” is much more impactful than the vague “worked from brief”. “Brand identity creation and implementation” sounds better than “branding”, which could theoretically just mean simple logo creation. Leverage those buzzwords and never assume that your role doesn’t need to be defined.
“Excellent attention to detail” is probably the most over-used phrase in the history of job specs, so it’s no surprise that everyone takes it for granted… But it’s used for a reason.
Without mentioning the classic spelling errors and inaccuracies that riddle certain CVs, it’s crucial to understand that the details you provide contribute to a recruiter’s first impression of you, and are key factors when it comes to selecting or rejecting a candidate.
Some quick examples? Dead or unactivated portfolio links. Incorrect contact details. Triple check everything obsessively. A spot on CV & portfolio combination is not an option, it’s essential.
5- Is this the job for you?
If you tick all the boxes above – and I mean ALL of them – you are already on the right path.
Now, the last crucial question before applying is: does the role really suit you? More specifically, do you match at least half of the main requirements? Candidates often tend to play the numbers game and this works counterproductively, as it often gives recruiters and/or clients a bad first impression. It’s never fun seeing the same profile submitted for dozens of different jobs.
Focus on your specialism, strengths, top skills and spend quality time applying only for roles that genuinely are a great fit. Strong corporate in-house background? No reason to apply if they specifically ask for consumer agency-side experience. Fully-focused print specialist? If the requirements include strong digital, web and mobile experience it’s better to move to the next advert.
Candidates rarely fully match all the requirements – the ideal one will cover 80% of them – but it’s crucial to understand the importance of leveraging what you are actually strong at. if in doubt, obviously apply – the worst scenario will be an unwelcome rejection – but don’t make it a habit.
6- Trust the old classics
Tailor your CV and portfolio to the job’s requirements. Make your CV no longer than two pages, if possible. Avoid prolixity. Research the company before the interview. Know what they do and what your role is going be.
These are just a few of the ‘classic’ rules a creative jobseeker should abide by, and the internet is full of excellent articles on the topic that are worth seeking out.
Creativity and outside-the-box thinking should be utilised at every stage of the application process, but when it comes to the initial job search, it’s always better to keep it smooth and pay attention to the basics. Approach the market confidently by applying the above for every application and keep going. Your persistence will pay off.