Recently, I interviewed for a local graphic design position with a small firm and was excited to show how I could contribute to their continued success. I was asked to design a logo, before the interview, for a fictitious restaurant and took the challenge in stride. When I arrived on the big day, I revealed the completed logo and they liked it. It was for Wing’n It, a casual chicken wings and beer joint .
Next, it was my time to show work examples…. I asked what kind of stuff they wanted to see. They said, “Graphic design stuff”, which was a bit vague. So, I showed them three widely varied projects, trying to show versatility. To which they exclaimed, “You’re obviously very talented! You don’t have to show me any more.” In my own mind, good design does not come from elusive talent – but from good judgement, commitment and work ethic.
Thirdly, came a series of interview questions, presumably to see if I was a ‘good fit’ culturally. Isn’t that just the way of things these day…a buzzword to see if you are homogeneous enough to fit in the box. I answered honestly, and we had a good conversation… These are some of the questions I was asked:
- PC or Mac?
- What are your hobbies?
- Who is your hero?
- If you went on a dream vacation, where would you go?
- What meal could you eat every day for the rest of your life?
- Whats your favorite movie?
- Do you have a pet peeve?
The conversation went great! Nothing horrendous was revealed… but on the other hand this didn’t reveal much about what kind of employee I am, what I offer as a team member, or my work ethic.
Warning! I am going to make a general statement on what I have observed about people who are searching for a designer and being a designer that is looking for work. The paradox is that while what a designer does cannot be quantified in hours of labor, and while prospective employers always say they want people who can think outside the box, are “talented”, versatile and have a unique approach- these are not the traits they HIRE for, when the rubber meets the road. I don’t blame them, because they have companies to run and clients to serve, and they pretty much have been brainwashed from an early age that truly creative people are moody, erratic, easily bored and just basically not very reliable and steadfast employee material.
As a result there are tons of job listings out there calling out for creative, innovative thinkers who can perform magic for varied and unique clients, giving them unique solutions. And as a designer this is naturally what you try to show them that you are when you trot in with your portfolio and present your work. Surely they want to know what cool and different projects you have done. They might even tell you that you are “REALLY TALENTED!” when they see all the cool things.
However, those words can be the kiss of death when you want to get hired because a simple thought will come to their mind IMMEDIATELY after they say great things about your work and sent you home with a handshake:
MOST of the work at my company is boring, mundane and repetitive. I don’t know if this creative person can handle boring, mundane and repetitive… what I really actually need is someone who knows how to work 9-5, every day, turn things in on time, and is can figure out what my clients want quickly and deliver something creative enough to keep my clients happy.
Turns out that what employers say they want is not what they REALLY want, most of the time, when it comes to hiring designers and artists. They don’t know they are misleading you, they don’t realize they are asking you the wrong questions. YOU don’t know that you are trying to sell yourself to them in all the wrong ways…
So, what do you think the interviewer said near the conclusion of my interview? He said he wanted to show me something- then left and came back in with a messy stack of direct mail coupons and flyers, plopped them on the arm of the couch and announced that THIS is mostly what his company does, and that his concern is that I might find that BORING, given how much interesting stuff I do.
This stuff is in no way boring to me. At this point we had already talked for an hour, so I tried to assure him that I am used to doing routine pre-press work, color matching, ATM machine graphics, billboards and all the stuff that is the bread and butter of most companies. This is understood, that 90% of stuff you design every day is practical and detailed, and utilitarian, and has its own rhythm and satisfaction to it. But it was already too late, I just didn’t know it just yet…
So, next time I will try to steer any of my interviews in a more practical direction, to identify the REAL issues important to the employer, and address those directly, correctly and practically. Forget about ‘talent’ and thinking outside the box, lol- what do you need me to DO every day? And can I do it? Simple.
Disclaimer: This is my perspective on the interview. Not an objective account, just saying.