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7 Tips for Your Design Job Interview

I’m not the best web designer or graphic designer out there and I don’t claim to be, but I do have experience in getting jobs in the industry. I’ve worked for all kinds of companies since graduating from high school. I’ve worked as a web designer, graphic designer, and also a front-end developer. In this article, I’d like to share with you some pointers that have helped me in my job interviews.

design job interview

I’ve noticed that a lot of people struggle with this area of the job interview. Considering you have the experience and the skill for the job, then the job interview should be something that you look forward to. It should be something that you are confident in, and it should be something that you don’t shy away from. You can be the most talented web designer out there, but if you don’t do well in your job interview, it can cause you to lose out on that excellent position that you have always wanted. So let’s get started. I’d like to give you 7 important pointers to help you on your next job interview.

Further Reading on SmashingMag: Link

Preparation Link

Before you even go to your interview, you have to be prepared. This is so important yet so many people neglect to prepare for their job interview. Someone once said,

“There will always be a prepared place for a prepared person.”

Let me give you some tips on what to prepare.


Prepare your portfolio. Link

I cannot stress this enough. If you are interviewing for a web designer position, then get your online portfolio ready. Make sure all your links are working, clean it up a bit and make sure that your code is neat and organized. I’m not saying that you have to redesign your entire portfolio but at least have it be as presentable as possible. Wait, what’s that? You don’t have an online portfolio? Then how do you expect to get the job? It’s sad, but I’ve heard of so many people who want to work as a web designer / graphic designer yet they still don’t have a portfolio up. This is your number one priority. Get your portfolio up as soon as you can.

Here are examples of some great online portfolios:

Prepare your appearance. Link

This is another important aspect that a lot of people tend to neglect. I’ve been in interviews before and while waiting in the lobby, I’ve seen the other job candidates and it’s a shame that some of them come with jeans and a t-shirt. Unless you get specific instructions not to get dressed up, I suggest that you look as presentable as possible. I’m not saying that you have to wear an Armani suit and alligator-skinned shoes, but dressing up in a shirt and tie won’t hurt. Not to be prideful, but I’ve actually received numerous compliments for my appearance in interviews. The way you look says a lot about your character. It shows that you were willing to get ready and look as best as you can for the interview.

Prepare your résumé and supplies. Link

The day before, look through your résumé, update it and tailor it towards the job you are applying for. Print out a few copies and put it in a nice folder or envelope that you can bring with you to the interview. Also, don’t forget to bring a pen, something like a notepad that you can take notes on and if you have business cards, bring that also.

If you need help with crafting a great résumé, then read this11 article on Smashing Magazine.

Prepare by doing research about the company. Link

If the company that you are applying for has a website, go ahead and browse through it and learn more about the company. You want to have a general idea of what the company is about, their vision, goals, etc. Actually, I’ve had the interviewer ask me before if I’ve had the chance to view their website. It’s always good to be able to show them that you prepared for the interview and that you tried to find out more about the company.

Punctual Link

The dictionary defines punctual as:

Acting or arriving exactly at the time appointed; prompt.

Please don’t be late to the interview. It really isn’t good to be late especially before you are even hired. Google directions the day before and give yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. Oh, and prepare for traffic and give yourself enough breathing room so that in case you get lost, you still have enough time to get there. Once you get there, walk into the office about 15-20 minutes before your scheduled interview and just let them know you are there.

Polite Link

During the interview, be as polite as possible. Don’t be rude and obnoxious. They might ask you about your past jobs and experiences. If you had a bad experience, don’t bash your old boss or your old company. If you have nothing good to say about them, just don’t say it. Also, you will probably get questions about your process and thoughts about current web standards, etc. When you share with them your beliefs and opinions, they might have a different philosophy from you so be ready for that.

Also, please don’t use profanity during the interview. Some of you are saying, that’s just common sense! Well, it is, but you would be surprised at how many people slip and say something foul or inappropriate during the interview. Remember to be as respectful as you possibly can be.

Pay Attention Link

Lots of topics will be covered and discussed during the interview. Processes, rules, regulations and policies will be talked about during the interview. Make sure that you pay attention so the interview won’t have to repeat themselves. By the way, ask if you can take notes and jot some thoughts down from time to time. Also, ask some questions about the position and the company. Asking good and pertinent questions is a good sign to show them that you are trying to learn more and that you are paying attention.

Passionate Link

This should be a given. Be passionate during your job interview. If you are passionate, they can sense that and they will take note. I’ve seen plenty of people at job interviews who look uninterested, bored and tired. Don’t be like them. Have a positive and confident tone on your voice.

When they ask you a question about design or development, give them an answer that’s not generic but something that’s thought out. By the way, if I was interviewing someone, I’d want to hire the person who seems passionate about the job and wants to learn and grow.

Promote Link

A job interview is really a time where the company gets to know you and you get to know more about the company. It’s also a time where you get to show them why you are fit for the job so be ready for this. Usually, the interviewer will ask you, “Why should we hire you for this job? What sets you apart from everyone else?” Be ready for questions like these and be genuine in your answers. If you are really good at a certain area, maybe XHTML/CSS or typography, then focus on that. Let them know how you can benefit their company and what you can do to help them. Don’t be shy.

Everyone at these interviews are showing their best and so should you.

I’m not saying that you lie and tell them that you are the greatest, but give them some legitimate reasons why they should hire you.

Post-Interview Link

So you’ve finally made it home from the interview. Everything went well, you were prepared, you got there on time, you were passionate, you paid attention, you were polite, you promoted yourself. They liked your portfolio and your work. So what’s next? Well, I would suggest that you get on your computer and you write a brief note to the interviewer and thank them for interviewing you and for telling you more about the company. Remember, every little thing counts in these interviews, and so many times, you and another person have such similar skills that the only thing that will set you apart are the little things.

Well, those are just some tips that I’ve learned and used over the years and doing these thing have really helped me when I went to my job interviews. I’m confident that if you follow these things, you will have a great interview.

Now, it’s your turn. Let us know what are some of the things that you do before and during the interview? What are some experience, tips, guidelines that you can share with us? I’d love to hear from you so please feel free to leave your comments below. Once again, thanks for taking the time to read this article. If you still haven’t found the right job, I hope that the tips in this article will help you in your next job interview.

Footnotes Link

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Former editor in chief of Designinformer.

  1. 1

    Awesome read Jad, seems as if you read my mind :) So far I had a dozens of interviews and I had a chance to be on “both sides” – as an interviewer and a candidate.

    I can only echo a few things I find very important but neglected by many. It is indeed important to be right on time, not 5 mins earlier, not 5 mins later. Getting there half an hour earlier and taking a coffee in a nearby restaurant is a bulletproof method.

    Shirt and tie not only that won’t hurt, but sometimes can make or break your chances to get a job.

    And doing research about the company is a must. By doing so you show that you interested in the company and that you care about where you would work. It is not a pleasant situation when interview finds out that candidate wasn’t interested in finding anything about their company.

    • 2

      Jad Limcaco

      May 4, 2010 3:52 pm

      Hi Janko, thanks for dropping by.

      I’m glad you agree with the article. That’s really nice to hear from you because like you said, you’ve been on both sides of the fence.

      Regarding doing research on a company, that’s really something that I’ve tried to do when going to interviews and it has done me well. It really does show the employer that you are interested and want to work at the company.

      Anyway, thanks again for the comment. I can’t wait for your new article/tutorial over on your blog.

  2. 3

    Thanks for this article Jad. Most of the points are common sense but it’s nice to have some kind of checklist. I’m guilty on the very first thing you write about, I don’t have an updated online portfolio at this moment. Working on it though (:

    • 4

      Jad Limcaco

      May 4, 2010 3:00 pm

      Thanks man! Actually, that’s kind of funny as I also am working on a new portfolio design but I already have a web designer job so that doesn’t apply to me. :D

      • 5

        Jad Limcaco

        May 5, 2010 11:54 am

        Ha, I know exactly what you mean. It seems like every couple of months, I get the redesign itch.

  3. 6

    Jad Limcaco

    May 4, 2010 3:01 pm

    I appreciate it Marco. Glad you enjoyed reading it.

  4. 7

    Jad Limcaco

    May 4, 2010 3:47 pm

    I always try my best to make each article unique, whether it be a custom designed post or just a regular post with some minor graphics here and there. I’m glad you like it. Thanks Jacques for the compliment!

  5. 8

    Jad Limcaco

    May 4, 2010 3:49 pm

    Yes, that’s a great addition. Being positive is definitely something that we should be when going to an interview.

    BTW, I’m glad you found a new position that pays even better and with better incentives. :D

  6. 9

    Submitting resumes on Craigslist?

    If you are submitting resumes on Craigslist for any design jobs, you must submit in the first 30 minutes after the job has been posted. Here is why…

    Yesterday I posted an ad for web design, permanent position. 1 hour later we had over 213 emails and in 5 hours we had 564… and still counting.

    Last week I posted an ad for print design, contractor position. 1 hour later we had over 151 emails and in 3 hours had 412. We are still getting emails after after a week later.

    My director of HR explained to me that she was not going to look at all of them. Her method was to look at the first 50 submitted and told me choose the top 5.

    • 10

      They’re some really interesting statistics, and that whole scenario might make an excellent blog post in-and-of itself!

      The fact that the response was so intense and sustained its momentum over time is just incredible, but the really interesting thing would be to hear the results of your HR Director’s review of the first 50 resume’s and your impression of the “top 5” – I’d be interested in the quality of applications among the quantity, or if the sheer volume denoted a desperate influx of applications from people just dying to “catch a break”.

    • 11

      Jad Limcaco

      May 5, 2010 12:00 pm

      Really interesting Jae. I’ve actually found all of my design jobs on Craigslist and what really set me apart was my portfolio, according to the people that I’ve worked with. I’m not going to say too much yet, but I do have an article planned for that and it might be a little bit controversial as I already know not a lot of people will be agreeing with my point of view.

  7. 12

    The final point interests me the most. What experience have people had with interview followups? I have been to quite a few interviews in my day and the rule I always played by was following up a week or so later. I guess my reasoning for this is that I have had interviewers tell me in the past that they had interviews scheduled for the next few days. I figured I had a better chance of standing out if I refreshed them as to who I was a few days later as opposed to a few hours later. Thoughts?

    • 13

      Jad Limcaco

      May 5, 2010 12:02 pm

      Hi Jason,

      Thanks for the question. Well, this is what I do. When I get home, I send the thank you email and about a week later, I follow up again with another email. That way, you still stay fresh on their minds. Hope that helps!

  8. 14

    Love the header design…

    It’s funny how some people forget these things which leave a huge impression on others. I’ve personally seen so many people come to interviews inappropriately dressed, whether it’s for a design position or not.

    My biggest tip would be to smile…appearing friendly and genuine begins with a smile..

    • 15

      Jad Limcaco

      May 5, 2010 11:58 am

      SMILE! :D

      Yes, you definitely want to have one when you go into an interview.

  9. 16

    I think it makes a huge impression if you mail a physical thank you note, as opposed to just sending an email. I hand-made two thank you cards for the people who interviewed me at an internship I really want. Haven’t heard back yet, but I hope it made an impression. It’s a good way to show that you’re serious — and you have a life outside of the Internet.

  10. 18

    It’s a cool post, once a week you post some superb and valuable articles, thumbs up!

    • 19

      Jad Limcaco

      May 5, 2010 12:01 pm

      Yes, currently, I’ve been posting once a week as that’s all the time that I’ve had so far, but I do want to post about three times a week if I can.

  11. 20

    Very good tips!!! – Muy buenas ideas!



  12. 21

    These are all great reminders – and I think you can’t take any of them serious enough… except the clothing. I’m not a collared shirt and slacks guy – I have knuckle tattoos, a sleeve, gauges and a big ol’ beard… I recently interviewed in San Diego… in a t-shirt, jeans and chacos – and I got the job.

    The important thing to remember is this: BE YOURSELF.

    I went in and just let them know that I love the web and all of the emerging technology, told them about the applications I’m developing for the iPad/iPhone, told them about what I love about the field and they knew I was sincere.

    Now, getting the interview I think is the hardest part.

    You absolutely need a great online portfolio, and a very transparent about section (if your site is geared towards applying to a company for a full-time position). Whether it’s a client or employer, they get to know you through your site – My main picture on my about page is of my knuckles up in your face.

    They knew what to expect.

    Again, this doesn’t mean I act like the a** that I look like. I’m always professional, very extroverted and can bull with just about anyone. You have to let your EXPERTISE show.

    And look at it this way – if you’re work is hot and don’t get the job because of the way you look, you probably don’t want to be working there in the first place.

    • 22

      Jad Limcaco

      May 29, 2010 4:00 pm

      I completely understand your stand on this man. What I’m trying to say is that you still need to make a good first impression. I find that they will take you more seriously if you are dressed appropriately for the interview. Besides, you can still “be yourself” while wearing a shirt and tie.

      Also, it all depends on the industry. If you work in some corporate job, they might even have dress code requirements for the office. Remember, they are the ones who will be paying you, so you need to follow whatever standard it is that they have given. :D

  13. 23

    Your timing is excellent. Thanks for following whatever proddings that got you to post this today. I have possibly the biggest opportunity of my career this coming Tuesday. And I was pondering all the preparations before me.

    This was a GREAT read! You’ve earned yourself a new follower on Twitter and a bookmark!


  14. 26

    Very helpful article. Thank you!

  15. 27

    I just had one two hours ago hehe. I think I did a good job according to this :)

  16. 28

    Great pointers, Jad.
    Here’s some tips I learned over the years…

    – Don’t chew gum during the interview.
    – Do bring extra resumes to the interview.
    – Don’t answer cell phone calls during the interview, and do turn off (or set to silent ring) your cell phone and/or pager.
    – Do wait until you are offered a chair before sitting. And do remember body language and posture: sit upright and look alert and interested at all times. Don’t fidget or slouch.
    – Don’t say anything negative about former colleagues, supervisors, or employers
    – Do show what you can do for the company rather than what the company can do for you
    – Do try and get business cards from each person you interviewed with — or at least the correct spelling of their first and last names. And don’t make assumptions about simple names — was it Jon or John — get the spelling.
    – Don’t inquire about salary, vacations, bonuses, retirement, or other benefits until after you’ve received an offer. Be prepared for a question about your salary requirements, but do try and delay salary talk until you have an offer.

    I hope this helps. Thanks for sharing, great read.

    • 29

      It’s a similar thing in Australia – the few interviews that I’ve been to, even for simple retail jobs, ask you your salary considerations; especially if you’re going from one job to the other.

    • 30

      Jad Limcaco

      May 29, 2010 3:57 pm

      It’s a little different here in the States. Sometimes, they do ask you, but often times, they don’t discuss salary until they give you an official job offer. Like Sachin said, different cultures have different ways of doing things.

  17. 31

    At the end of the interview, there is usually a point where the interviewer asks if you have any questions. This is a huge opportunity, and can be a liability if a poor question is voiced.

    I have been interviewing lately and found this to be true. At the end, if you are still engaging and inquisitive, it really conveys enthusiasm and genuine interest.

    For a list of good questions, see the article:

    • 32

      Jad Limcaco

      May 29, 2010 4:02 pm

      Nice share! Those are some great questions. Thanks for the link. :D

  18. 33

    Here’s another trivia I’d like to share about job interviews. Always wear blue (blouse, collared polo or coat) Research says that blue symbolizes determination and brings a more professional aura / atmosphere to your look.

    • 34

      Jad Limcaco

      May 29, 2010 4:02 pm

      Really? That’s interesting. Do you have the link to that study?

  19. 35

    As the interview is necessary for a job, these tips are much helpful. Fantastic work! thanks for sharing.

  20. 36

    Great article!

    I absolutely agree with what you write about having your online portfolio ready, and I’m taking this a step further by bringing printed versions to interviews. It works miracles, changes the atmosphere. Creating a good book is tedious but it pays off for me (I use Blurb myself). Furthermore I have a pocket portfolio which I bring everywhere (use Memolio, seems to be a unique product).

    – Paul

    • 37

      Jad Limcaco

      May 29, 2010 4:04 pm

      I really wish I had one as well. I need to do some research and create a physical portfolio for myself.

  21. 38

    Jad Limcaco

    May 5, 2010 11:55 am

    Thanks for the kind words.

  22. 39

    Jad Limcaco

    May 5, 2010 11:56 am

    Nice to hear that Shawn. Do you freelance or do you work for a company?

  23. 40

    Jad Limcaco

    May 5, 2010 11:58 am

    That’s an excellent point Preston. For sure it will be a lot more relaxed when you start working at the company but the interview is not the time to let up. By the way, thanks for sharing that article. A lot of useful tips covered on there as well.

  24. 41

    Jad Limcaco

    May 5, 2010 12:03 pm

    Yes, it definitely would have been awkward for you to go in there wearing casual clothes when everyone that’s interviewing you is all dressed up.

  25. 42

    Great article! I think being punctual and dressing well are two of the most important ones. First impressions set the mood for the whole interview.

  26. 43

    Great article with simple yet effective tips. The only one I disagree with slightly is under Punctual, where you say they should arrive 15-20 minutes early and let them know you are there. We have a firm rule in our office, where we simply show up on time. Never late, of course, but also never early. Being early is just as rude as being late, and simply stresses the client/interviewer out right before your meeting. It is quite common to be trying to tie up a few loose ends before a meeting, or putting out some last minute fires, and knowing that someone showed up early simply adds to the stress. Being on time, or no more than a couple of minutes early, respects everyones time and leaves the best impression (in our office).

    • 44

      That’s very interesting! I’ve never heard that one before – usually people are either happy or don’t care if you’re early. What you said does make sense though. Perhaps I’d just rather go early and come off as rude to a smaller percent than risk being late and being rude to most people :)

  27. 45

    Cool article, also your portfolio is really sharp.

  28. 46

    @Johannes, you have a good point, however, it depends on the position for which you are applying, the number of people who are conducting the interview and applying for the position and the familiarity you have with the company and building layout. By “a little bit early”, I mean that you should arrive with enough time to get into the office building, find the correct room or waiting room for the interview and check in with the receptionist or whomever you see first at the door. You should also take into account any time that you might need to fill out additional forms, prepare any documents which you have brought with you and take a moment to utilize the facilities to double-check things like that your tie is tied, your blouse is buttoned and your zipper is up. In general, interviews that are scheduled back-to-back happen every half hour, so you’ll want to arrive less than half an hour early to the interview to make sure that you’ve got enough time to take care of pre-interview business without causing an overflow of human traffic in the waiting area. As a rule, 10 – 20 minutes early, with 15 as the average, is a good time frame for arriving at an interview. Now, if I could just convince myself to leave the house at a time that would get me places only that early, I’d be okay!

  29. 47

    Good tips here. Dressing presentable is something I would agree with: it lets them know you’re serious about what you want. I had an interview a while back for an internship with a company that was pretty casual. Which was a good thing because I could not find my nice shirt that day. But still, even if its casual, dress presentable, nothing baggy and what not.

    Also, having a portfolio is very important. There is no excuse for not having one now a days. Even if you don’t know how to code or design for the web, there are a lot of good free choices out there. If you do have your own portfolio, having accounts on those services could also help. You can network with like minded folk and possibly get a new job out of it.

    Thanks for the article.

  30. 48

    Hi Jad! :)
    Good morning just read your article. It’s very useful.

    Thanks for the article.


  31. 49

    Scott Corgan

    May 6, 2010 4:15 am

    I went so long without an online portfolio because, let’s be honest, I was lazy. It is time consuming and the ROI isn’t instant. I will tell you what though, it pays off more than I would have ever imagined!

  32. 50

    Wow man, if job interviews look like you describe them in the US, I’m never coming over. :) It sounds like you are a sheep going to the slaughter house :)

    I must say over here in Europe the job interviews are much more relaxed, and are much more about what you can and whether you fit the team you’ll be working in, than if you did put a tie or not :) LOL, that sounds hilarious.

  33. 51

    Great tips…

    I’ll be sure to follow those tips when i get a chance!

  34. 52

    In my experience, while an online portfolio is beyond necessary and needs to be up to date just to even get you in the door, it is always a good idea to bring some kind of a printed portfolio with you into the job interview. If the potential employer wants to discuss your past work and experience, don’t assume they’ll have a computer with internet access where you will be interviewing. Just another way to cover yourself and be prepared for any scenario.

  35. 53

    Regarding his second point: Don’t be late, but don’t be too early either!

  36. 54

    Hi, these are some great Interview tips.

    Please visit here for more tips on interviews.

  37. 55

    Thanks for the advice!

  38. 56

    Jad Limcaco

    May 29, 2010 4:01 pm

    You’re very welcome Laneth. I really hope you get a job in the industry. I see that you are very passionate about it and really want to learn and grow your skills.

  39. 57

    Jad Limcaco

    May 29, 2010 4:05 pm

    LOL! Funny story. Yeah, that’s why I would prefer email over a handwritten note. Maybe you can do that once you are hired, but not during the interview process. ;)

  40. 58

    Congratulations on the great post, these are valuable words. Time to seek employment now. Thanks!

  41. 59

    This was a good read, some interesting info.

  42. 60

    Hello, i once attended a interview where a qualified lady was refused appointment because she was looking sad, when asked why her face looks sad, all she said was my husband came home drunk last night and i had to wait all night for him, the appointment was offered to another unqualified lady, because she was full of smiles, i believe puting up a smiling face in an interview helps you gain friendship and confidence. full preparation for an interview can not be complete without a smile. it works the magic. thanks

  43. 61

    Excellent Points. Thanks

  44. 62

    Thanks a lot for posting this article. It has been really useful.
    A lot of it, as you say, is common sense. However, it is helpful just to read an article like this, that reminds you of all the important interview points.
    Thanks again.

  45. 63

    Thank you for the article. I guess I am right on track, as I do everything on this list. In school, they always stressed to us to create some “leave-behind” piece, to differentiate yourself and show that you go the extra creative mile. Have you ever done that? Perhaps that is advice for fresh grads entering the design market?

    I only send an email thanking them and stating how I would be a great fit after learning more about the company and position. But I do have 4 years experience now, so I guess everything else speaks for itself..

  46. 64

    Shweta Sharma

    March 14, 2013 3:43 pm

    Thanks for these beautiful and knowledgeable tips. It will be very beneficial for me.

  47. 65

    Jad, Your article is really useful.
    One interviewer ask me how much time would you take to design layout in Photoshop. how to handle such question? secondly, while test on Photoshop I have found less time to imagine and more time to design how to cop up this?.

  48. 66

    This post still offers great advice for recent design grads! Our Creative Director shares similar thoughts in one of our blog articles that may be worth a read:


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