An open letter to job-seeking designers
As XPLANE’s Director of Design I’ve plowed through thousands of résumés from young designers looking for work, and I must admit it’s starting to take a toll on me. Each time I sift through a pile of applications or portfolio samples I wish I could have given that person a little coaching beforehand to give them a better chance of moving forward in the process — or at least save some of their time.
So with graduation just around the corner and this economy being what it is, I figured it was a good time to reach out and give you a few things to think about as you apply for your next job… hopefully with us. We’re hiring.
The job posting
We put a lot of thought into what we say in our job postings. We do this in the hope that you’ll read through the qualifications and only apply if you meet our criteria. So please make sure that your skills and experience fit well with what we do. We take complex, messy information and make it understandable. You do too? Great! Let’s talk. No? I’ll just push the button under my desk that makes the trap door open.
This may come as a shock to you but I barely read these. It’s not that I think you shouldn’t write them. It’s just that they are all so unimaginative and repetitive that I’ve become numb. So when you write, show your personality and be succinct. I’ll probably just skim through looking for your website links anyway (more on that in a minute). Also, make sure that you spell our name right. It’s not Explane or X-plane. It’s not even Xplane. It’s XPLANE. Mind the details. The work we do is filled with important little details.
Some call this their Curriculum Vitae (CV) whereas I like to think of it as Page One of Your Portfolio. This is my first impression of you. If I see bad typography, misspelled words or a lame layout, the record player screeches — and the party is over. This one-page encapsulation of your experience, schooling and personal information should look as good as it reads — so put some effort into it and make it shine. This is basically a design project so when you put it together, dear designer, please use a designer’s tool. MS Word is not a design tool.
In this day and age you better have your own URL with samples of your work. A personal profile in a few other places is even better: Flickr, Twitter, art blog… something! When I look at your portfolio, I’m looking for thinking and execution, so show your process, not just some thumbnails. The thinking behind a project is often more revealing than the finished piece. Because what I’m really looking for is your potential — how you work, not just what you’ve done.
If you are asked to come in for an interview, please have a solid understanding of what XPLANE does. When I ask, “What attracted you to XPLANE?” Have an answer other than, “I saw the want ad and your company seemed cool.” That’s pretty much a death knell for your chances, although you won’t know it from my expression. And make sure that the samples you show are as relevant as possible to the work we do. I’m looking to see examples of information design and storytelling, not watercolors of your cat.
You’ve chosen a fun, fast-paced, fantastic profession in which to make your living — but it might take a little time to get going. Have patience, work all your angles and make stuff for anybody that needs it… charities, bands, lost cat flyers, whatever. Don’t get taken advantage of, but take the creative experience and run with it. Network all you can and use your down time to experiment and learn even more.
School may be over but your education has just begun.