Completing your design degree was just half the battle. All those late nights finishing your projects in the design studio have culminated in this moment, sitting in front of a creative director and vying for your dream job. Although it's smart to arrive to your interview prepared, don't let the job interview jitters get the better of you. If you landed an interview, rest assured that your resume and portfolio managed to impress. Now, you just need to show your personality and drive to succeed in person.
Research the company or design firm that you're interviewing with. Know how long it has been around and who the founder is. Find out who its clients are and get a feel for the style of work it does. Interviewers generally ask applicants what they know about the company, whether they're hiring accountants, lawyers, engineers or designers. In the age of the Internet, there's no excuse for not knowing some basic company information, so show interest in the firm by learning about who it is and what it does.
List your strengths and weaknesses, and come up with a story or example to support each one. Interviewers like to ask about your weaknesses and how you plan to work on them. They also like to hear about situations where you failed and how you coped. Recruiters also want to hear what's good about you, so list a few of your best qualities so you're not left stammering on your big day. Always end negative stories on a positive note, discussing what you learnt and mentioning what you're doing to improve.
Plan your interview outfit the night before. Graphic design firms are usually relatively casual, but that doesn't mean you should show up in jeans. Go for a business-casual look. Answers sound more professional coming from someone who's sharply dressed.
Shake hands firmly with the recruiter on the day of the interview. Bring two resumes -- one for you to refer to and one for the interviewer. Listen carefully to questions, and maintain eye contact while responding. Take notes while the interviewer explains the position and its main responsibilities.
Put together two portfolios -- one on a CD or DVD and one physical portfolio with your work printed in high resolution. As the website A Digital Dreamer points out, printed portfolios are pricey and you probably don't have the resources to make one for every prospective employer. Nevertheless, it's important to have physical examples of work on hand to make your accomplishments come alive for the interviewer. Use your physical portfolio as a discussion tool, and leave the CD behind for reference.
Know what technical skills you have and what you're missing, taking the job description into consideration. The interviewer will ask about the design tools you're familiar with and which ones you're still learning. If you're not an expert with a certain piece of software, be honest but emphasise your willingness to learn. If you can show off your technical skills in a concrete way by pointing to portfolio pieces, that's even better.
Brush up on your colour theory and design terminology. If the interviewer asks you about how you would effectively use colour in a design scenario for a specific client, you want to answer intelligently.
Come up with a few examples of other designers, advertising campaigns, magazines and websites that you find inspiring. Interviewers sometimes ask about who you admire to get a feel for your design personality and to test how in touch you are with the industry.
Answer project scenario questions with three steps in mind: plan, do, evaluate. For example, if the interviewer asks you how you would approach a web design project, first talk about what kind of questions you would ask the clients. Next, outline what decisions you'd make and anticipated project tasks. Finally, discuss how you would ensure that your design was effective. Make up a few of these scenarios in your head and answer them for practice before the day of your interview.
Establish your personal brand. There's no better way to prove that you're a design guru than by branding yourself in a compelling way. Professional brand identity designer David Airey recommends getting business cards made with your own logo and giving them out at the end of interviews to leave a lasting impression.