how to… apply for a job with a design agency (part III)

April 7, 2014

written by
Bri Martinez

The 300FeetOut team often receives inquiries about job opportunities with our studio. We are always happy to speak with individuals, whether the goal is to simply network, or to see if they might be a good fit for our team. Sometimes, however, there is a lack of understanding on the part of the applicant regarding best practices for interviewing with an agency. The 3FO team has been writing a series of blog posts recently to pass along tips that will make the process easier for all involved. Check out the first post about getting an interview and the second post about preparing for the interview to get the full story.

• • •

It’s the day of your interview. We assume you’ve read our previous posts on this subject and are totally prepped to knock it out of the park. A few last reminders that we’re sure you’ve already considered but may be too nervous to remember:


don’t forget personal grooming.

Appearances matter. You know this because you’re a designer and you understand how important visuals can be to any situation. We don’t even want to think back on how many interviews we’ve had with potential employees who looked like they had just rolled out of bed or come from the gym. We want to talk to you, not smell you. Don’t squash your creative flow — the artsy outfit can definitely work if you appear clean and well put  together.


be punctual.

Duh, we shouldn’t need to explain this one… but we will. Show up for the interview just a few minutes before it’s scheduled or if you want to live on the edge, right on time. If you’re 20 minutes early, take a walk around the block or get some coffee. Designers often work on billable time, which means all time is money. An agency who is interviewing new talent is likely busy and they may only have time to prepare for your interview 10 minutes before you are scheduled to walk in the door. If you want a good interview make sure you don’t rush them. And if you’re running late? Show some professional courtesy and make sure you call to let them know.


remember that you’re a designer, not a superstar.

Agencies want to know that you can be dependable and that you can put together a presentable package. Without any background knowledge about you, they can only assume that your layered PSD file will be as organized as you appear. Do you want to go to client meetings? Make sure you look like it. On the other hand, if you appear too stiff, you won’t fit into the culture either, so make sure you strike the right balance. And yes, we know that’s difficult but hey, you can handle it.

Awesome! You showered, showed up on time, and prepared! Now what? During the interview…


use your manners.

It seems so silly to even mention this, but hey… it’s important, and you’d be surprised how often it’s forgotten. Manners are the guidelines which society has created in order for all of us to get along. Say hello. Stand up and greet people when they come into the room. Shake hands and look them in the eye. Having good manners won’t necessarily make you stand out, but NOT having them makes us question your ability to work with others.


think about your responses.

Don’t be afraid to sit for a moment in thought when you’re asked a question. Interviewers know that some questions require a well-reasoned answer – that’s why they’re asked.


show that you know you’re young and you’re eager to learn.

If you are a newly-graduated designer showing your portfolio, an agency is going to assume three things about you:

  1. That you’ve been told by numerous professors that your work is capable of changing the world and that your aesthetic is different and one-of-a-kind. This is why we always stress the need to be humble and aware that you can always improve. Sir Ives can be a snob if he wants (we don’t think he is) because he’s been knighted. You probably have not.
  2. That you didn’t work on a single project all by your lonesome unless it was done outside of school.
  3. That you had weeks, if not months, to finish a project, rather than the quicker turn-around of hours or a day that is sometimes required in an agency setting.

Because of these assumptions, we suggest the following:

  1. Be prepared to show personal side projects, why they matter, and how long it takes to complete one. Share why this project is important to you.
  2. Explain your role in each school project. We already know you didn’t do it in a silo so don’t tell us that you did. If you do, we’ll think that you could be a person who steals credit for other people’s work or has an inflated sense of self-importance and dismisses other people’s contributions.
  3. Tackle the elephant in the room and discuss timing and deadlines. In the end, agencies are generally beholden to clients. If we know you understand that there is a creative process to be explained and that you can explain yours, it gives you a leg up.


have fun!

Many agencies look for individuals who have good attitudes and certain personality traits, in addition to solid design skills. It’s important to uphold an agency setting where everyone works well together and gets along. For that reason, they often look for designers who they feel will be a good social fit within the existing team. Show us your personality! You’re applying for a design job, afterall, not for a position as a cog in a machine.

While we certainly cannot guarantee that these tips will lead to a successful interview resulting in a job offer, we can tell you that abiding by these guidelines will definitely help your chances. Yes, you’re interviewing for a design position, but there are other factors, skills, and traits to keep in mind as you go through the interview process.

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