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So you’ve graduated with a graphic design degree, perfected your creative resume, and landed an interview in-house or at an agency. It’s time to showcase your skills and get hired.
In-house and agency interviews may vary because of the nature of the work in each role. In the former, you will typically work with one or a narrow range of brands whereas the latter will require you to adapt to a number different brands and styles.
To help you fly through the daunting interview process, we’ve put together some of the top questions hiring managers ask – and the responses you should prepare to impress them.
1. Tell me about yourself.
While this is asked of interviewees across all industries, it carries an added weight for creatives because you are your brand. Open-ended requests like these can leave even the most seasoned interviewees stumped if they haven’t prepared. Key points to share are recent successes, strengths and abilities that relate to the job or company, and a statement on your current situation.
An example of what this might sound like:
“I’ve been in the graphic design field for two years this March. My most recent project was with a confectionary company – I was tasked with redesigning their logo, press kit, and packaging. Since it was a branding overhaul, it required a lot of attention to detail and a balance between retaining the original design and updating it for the 21st century. I particularly enjoy working in this industry because no two days are the same. When things feel new it becomes easy for me to throw myself into the work”
Tip: Rehearse your script until you can say it off by heart – nailing the first part of the interview will give you an added boost for the rest of the questions to come.
If you don’t have any formal graphic design training, check out our article on presenting your informal education.
2. Why do you want to work for us?
Employers want to know that you’re interested in working with them, specifically. This is your opportunity to show them just that.
“Acme Agency is a vanguard in the advertising world. When applying for jobs, I keep an eye out for places where learning and retooling are encouraged. Acme struck me as a place where I could do just that with industry leaders”
Tip: This is where you get to show that you’ve done your research – talk about your compatibility with the company culture or any projects you admire. If you need more inspiration, Big Interview goes into greater detail on how you can answer this question.
3. Where do you see yourself in five years?
With this question, your potential employer wants to hire someone that sees this role as a good career move. A happy and motivated employee means a productive and a highly retentive one.
“My goal right now is to work in a company that enables me to work with people I can learn from. Later down the line, I would like to hold more responsibility for creative direction.”
Tip: Even if you’re quite ambitious, avoid telling the interviewer that you plan on “taking their job” or “running the company”.
4. Why did you choose graphic design as a profession?
Employers ask this because they want to know who they’re working with. Talking points include your education, personal experience, and motivation behind working for the industry. Perhaps you could share how your penchant for doodling carried on well into adulthood so you decided to take a course in design or simply that you want to make the world more beautiful or user-friendly, one design at a time.
Tip: Gauge how informal or formal the workplace appears to be (you can usually tell through researching the place) or how much you’d like to disclose to your interviewer.
5. What makes you a good graphic designer?
Graphic design as a profession is a juggling act. You’re working to create something that incorporates your client’s specifications as well your own design sensibilities. If you’re lucky, the two overlap, but that’s often not the case. Sought-after qualities in this field include: communication, curiosity, passion, ability to take criticism, problem-solving, patience, and reliability.
This Creative Boom article goes through why each of these qualities holds weight in this field.
6. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Employers ask this question to ensure that your abilities line up with the skills needed for the role. More importantly, they’re looking for candidates that are confident and self-aware about their strengths and shortcomings.
When talking about your strength(s) ensure you have an example or two handy to illustrate how it has benefitted you or others. A strength can be something technical, like UX, or something less tangible, like problem-solving.
“I’m quite curious, and as a result, am able to find new ways of doing things or solving minor issues before they become major problems.”
Avoid using weaknesses that aren’t actually weaknesses. Instead, speak truthfully about a trait or habit and the steps you’ve taken to remedy it.
“Procrastination is a habit I’ve learned to keep in check by using the Pomodoro technique and breaking down a task into bite-sized bits.”
Tip: If you’re unsure of your key strength or weakness, ask a close friend or family member for some suggestions.
7. Describe a time where you had a conflict at work.
This question covers uncomfortable situations in the workplace from disagreements with clients to uncooperative co-workers. Your goal when answering this question is to demonstrate your ability to navigate tricky situations tactfully and come to a solution.
You can use the S.T.A.R format when answering questions like these:
S or T (situation or task): “I was in charge of managing a team for an interactive infographic we were tasked to create for a charity. We were on a tight deadline, however, the developer would miss meetings and inform the team at the last minute.”
A (approach): "I brought up the issue with him and explained how it affected the progress of the team. I suggested that he could be responsible for deciding when to meet, if the other previous times didn’t work in his favour. As it turned out, he had a number of other projects which invariably left him with a schedule with few slots.”
R (results): “After our conversation, attendance increased and we were able to complete the project on time.”
Tip: At all costs, avoid disparaging the individual or team you are speaking about. Instead, focus on the steps you took throughout the process.
8. What qualities and skills should a great graphic designer have?
An important quality in a graphic designer is the ability to communicate, both verbally (to clients and co-workers) and visually. A great graphic designer should be able to create work that conveys a brand’s vision and solves problems. It also doesn't hurt if you keep up with trends in graphic design.
Tip: Most job descriptions go over what they are looking for in a designer. List out what you agree with and think of a couple talking points behind them.
9. Do you work better alone or in groups?
While your day-to-day would typically consist of solo work, graphic designers should be able to work well with coworkers (e.g. UX, developers, copywriters) and clients. Like your strength and/or weakness question, it’s best to answer truthfully so your manager knows your preference.
If you fall on the far end of either side of the spectrum (i.e. a very strong preference for working alone or in groups) it may be best to bring up ways you manage that – much like the weakness question above.
"I prefer working alone when there is a deadline. However, I find that I come up with better ideas when working collaboratively."
10. How do you incorporate feedback into designs?
Employers want to know that you will be able to work with clients effectively and a large portion of that is incorporating feedback into the design. Go through your process, if you have one, or speak about a time you did this.
“When receiving criticism, the first thing I do is mentally remove myself from the work and try to understand why it’s being said. If I don’t understand it on a surface level, I probe further. I then figure out what is actionable and specific and consult with the client to ensure that the alterations are correct. Finally, I thank the critic for taking the time to review my work. If I notice there are trends in the type of criticism I get, I work towards adapting away from that."
11. If I asked you to design x, which software would you use? What is the use of x in Photoshop? What is the shortcut for x in CAD?
Questions like these are used to test your technical skills for the job. Employers want to check if you know the most efficient way to get from a to z. Even if you're a pro, it could be valuable to go over shortcuts in programs like Illustrator, Photoshop or InDesign, and refamiliarize yourself with tools you haven't used recently.
For in-interview tasks (a test where an employer will ask you to demonstrate your skills on the spot), remember to relax and ask for more time if you need it. While your work, in theory, should speak for itself, it’s worthwhile to map out your thought process.
We hope these questions and answers help you prepare for your next interview! Write in the comments below if you have any interview questions you’ve been stumped with.