Tuesday, November 27, 2012

5 Common Interview Questions for Designers

I hope all my U.S. friends had a happy and wonderful Thanksgiving. I sure did.

Anyway, I've been reflecting on my days of looking for a full-time graphic design work. So, I have some advice to help those of you who are currently looking. Basically, there are at least 5 common questions that seem to be designed to trip you up as a designer, and I want to help you not only avoid some of the potential pitfalls, but understand what's really going on.

1. Why don't you start by telling me something about yourself?

Candidate's mind: "Demographic and psychographic data request; endless…"

Interviewer's mind: "I want you to make my job easier by giving me good reasons I should hire you?"
The best approach to this question is not your life history, or why you like reality TV. This is the time to sell your expertise. Stick to who you are as a designer, the skill-sets you've developed, and why you might be a good fit with the interviewer's company.

2. Why did you leave (or would want to leave) your last job?

Candidate's mind: "They want to know all the negative reasons I wanted out, or had to leave. What do I tell them?"

Interviewer's mind: "I want to know if you easy to get along with, and a real team-player."
Try being honest without being negative. (Hmmm. Tall order I know.) But, you can think of some positive things to say about your last employment I hope. In any event, be sure to mention the good relationships you had and will miss. If you had none, I don't know what to tell you except to be honest about why you left.

3. What would your last employer say is your greatest weakness?

Candidate's mind: "Are you trying to trick me? How can I reveal my weaknesses without hampering my chances with this job interview?"

Interviewer's mind: "Can this person think on their feet and be appropriately honest?"
Before getting into this situation think beforehand about a weakness that demonstrates a positive value. What do I mean? Here's some examples: "My boss thought I was overly picky sometimes. But she appreciated the fact that I paid such close attention to detail and caught typos." Or "My manager felt that I can be pretty passionate about design sometimes, and needed to lighten up."

Another approach is to express a weakness coupled with a solution that minimizes or eliminates the effects of this weakness. For example, "I had a problem with some projects missing deadlines. However, I solved this issue by implementing a project management system that our department is now using successfully."

4. Why do you want to work here?

Candidate's mind: "Well, I want a job! I guess you want to hear how I love your company, but I just need a job and you have an opening."

Interviewer's mind: "I'm looking for a good fit. I'm wondering if you are it."
Unless you've been really wanting to work with this particular company it can be hard to come up with something clever. So just talk about how your skills match what's being asked for. I'm sure you are in the interview because that is the case. So, make light of that.

5. What's the best reason I should hire you over other candidates?

Candidate's mind: "I know what I'm doing, and I want the job. How about that?!"

Interviewer's mind: "I need something that will differentiate you from all the applicants and make my job easier."
This is the time to say something that will leave an impression. It would be a good idea to be prepared for this ahead of time. And it would be a good idea to give a statement even if they don't ask you this question. Whatever you say make sure it highlights something unique and valuable to the hiring manager. In other words, create your own unique selling proposition (USP).

In conclusion

Finally, make sure you spend a little money creating a leave-behind piece. This will show off your design savvy, reemphasize your USP, and provides easy-to-reference contact information.

Photo courtesy Kevin_P of Morguefile.com

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