Interviews are increasingly a two-way process. It’s an opportunity for a prospective employer to determine whether you have the right experience, skills and fit with their practice. As a designer, it’s the chance for you to build your understanding of the company, culture and its way of working, so you can decide if it’s the right practice for you.
We believe that preparation is the key to a good interview and this is why we will always speak to every candidate beforehand, to ensure they are fully briefed. We will tell you who you are meeting, what the culture is like, expected questions and the type of projects the practice work on.
Prior to the interview, think about your selling points and what makes you different from someone else. Try to demonstrate your wider skills and give examples in areas like problem solving, negotiation and communication. These are all core skills that will add value to you as a designer.
Here are our top 10 tips for preparing for interviews.
1. Research the company
It may seem obvious to do your research, but so many candidates don’t look at the company beyond a brief scan of their website. One of the questions the interviewer have in their mind, especially if they own the company, is why would this candidate want to work for us? Demonstrate your interest in the practice by looking at key projects they have completed or have underway. Research the person you are meeting to get an idea on their background. LinkedIn is very useful for this.
2. Don’t arrive too early
Get there early, but then go and have a coffee and turn up 5 minutes beforehand. If you arrive too early, it can be awkward, particularly in a small company where there may not be any reception area to sit and they may be interviewing someone else. Never be late, there is no excuse.
3. Take the lead from the Interviewer
We often find that candidates are keen to start talking though their portfolio and career straight away. Don’t immediately jump into this, the chances are they want to find out a bit about you first and this is a critical part of the interview. Be prepared with a possible opener that starts with ‘tell me about yourself.’ Craft a succinct summary beforehand and memorise it, don’t read what’s on your CV.
4. Don’t ‘Present’ your Portfolio
When it comes to your portfolio, the aim is not to present it, but to try to spark a conversation about one of the projects you have worked on. Stimulate this discussion by highlighting a situation that happened during the project and explain how you dealt with it. Don’t try to get through all of your portfolio in the interview, most of the time, it simply isn’t necessary.
5. Ask Questions
Regardless of what is covered in the interview, always ask a question, it shows you are interested in the company. Ask who you’d be working with or what projects you might be working on. You can also enquire about the company ambitions, how may people are they planning on taking on over the next 12 months, for example.
6. Take in 2 copies of your CV
Quite simply, it saves time if you have CVs to hand and the interviewer hasn’t had chance to print it out. Many people read them online and it could give you a positive start if you are prepared for this situation.
We always do our best to make sure there is a good fit between you and the practice before you go for an interview. However, this initial meeting is really the key time for employers to assess this. The main advice here is to be yourself and don’t oversell your experience. Be honest about what you have done and what you haven’t.
8. Know What to Wear
Dress code varies hugely between practices and whilst we would never suggest you compromise your personal style, you need to reflect the company. The interview is a formal process and some practices will expect a suit, others will prefer jeans and a t-shirt; we always suggest you go for smarter. We have known many of our clients for years, so we will guide you on what to wear and what will be expected from that particular practice.
Only discuss money if the interviewer brings it up. Normally it’s a good sign, but be prepared to have the conversation. You may also get asked about your notice period. Ideally, you don’t want to get into too much of a discussion about when you could start and don’t feel pressurised to try and reduce your notice period. It won’t necessarily go in your favour if you are reducing your notice period and going to leave your existing company with resource gaps.
10. Second Interviews
A second interview is not a given that you have got the job and it’s not a repeat of the 1st interview. This is an opportunity to find out if you want the job and like the practice, so ask questions. Normally, you are meeting more senior level decision makers, so you need to do your research on these people too.
Preparing well for an interview will show the employer that are genuinely interested in the role and working for the practice. It will also allow you to present yourself in the best way and hopefully help secure your next role.