Tips on applying for jobs from the other side of the fence...

posted by adam johnson on August 11, 2011

Today at work I had the pleasure of reviewing several candidates for a web design position within our institution. I remembered how it was when I applied for jobs—dauntingly long, annoyingly detailed, and all too formal.

So, in light of giving back, I'm going to share some tips on how to break into the inner circle and get asked for an interview.

  1. Always have work to show.
    • There are so many candidates that apply for these web design jobs with absolutely no mention of their work. If it's a job dealing with design, impress the review committee by giving us some eye candy. Ideally, for a web job, you would link to your portfolio website. Also acceptable would be using something like Behance, or sending a PDF. Either way, show your work and you will have a leg up.
  2. You are getting scored.
    • This is a test. Numbers are involved. When you submit a resume, cover letter, and references, it's likely that a committee of some sort will rate you based on several factors like design aptitude, skills, technical knowledge, and, depending on the job, things like Section 508 compliance, knowledge of that entity's branding, and communication and writing skills.
  3. Your worst work is how you are judged.
    • When looking at someones work, a lot of people have one or two really outstanding pieces. That said, so many applicants fear that they will not have enough work and may not be considered. This is not the case. If you show two to five pieces of your best work, that will outshine someone who has fifteen things in their portfolio but ten of them are shit.
  4. Keep your resume short—really short. And make it a PDF.
    • There are a lot of new grads who have two to four page resumes with paragraphs of text for some poor soul to read. When you multiply that by sixty applicants, it equals a lot of skimming. On top of that, as designers we should be communicators, not writers. Keep your resume organized, scannable, well designed, and only one page. Also, if you can incorporate some of the branding from your portfolio site or logo, you get bonus points.
  5. It's not just one person you are getting in touch with.
    • Interview committees consist of several people. Generally speaking, the bigger the organization, the more people will be on the committee. Also remember that these committees can consist of people with varying backgrounds. Some may have a design background, some may be your potential boss or perhaps the administrative assistant. Remember to appeal to everyone.

So, those are some general tips for when applying for web design jobs. Obviously, not every organization interviews in the same manner; however, I'll bet dollars to donuts that if you follow these tips, you will improve your chances of getting a call for an interview drastically. ...Just think. This is only the beginning.

Do you have your own tips? Leave them in the comments of this post.

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