Jobs that offer a creative outlet as well as the possibility of flexible hours or telecommute options are particularly appealing to millennial jobseekers, so competition can be fierce. Whether you're looking to kick off your career as a professional graphic designer or move on to a better job than the one you have, you'll want to do some extensive preparation before your next interview.
There are a wide variety of jobs in this field, with responsibilities ranging from creating easily digestible corporate reports to designing book covers, webpages and social media campaigns. Most employers will be looking for a similar combination of creative, technological and social skills, however.
Here are 10 common graphic design interview questions and suggestions on how to answer them correctly and land your next gig.
1. ‘Tell us about your design education and experience.’
Prepare and practise a concise pitch of your graphic design background that will work for any interview, and then be prepared to elaborate if asked.
This question can occur in many forms during an interview, including:
- as a casual opening conversation that allows you and your potential employer to get to know each other a little better
- as a direct question about how your work experience will inform the job you're applying for
- as the kick-off to a deeper question about what kind of teams you worked with and the types of projects.
Be ready to talk about the graphic design school you attended and highlight any coursework that would directly apply to this new role. If you have limited work experience, you'll want to make the most of any honours you received at school, and succinctly note the different skills you acquired at an internship or first job.
For example: 'While working for Company X, I learned how to present ideas and proposals to clients both in person and via email and Skype. I helped design several client web pages using both HTML and CSS’.
If you have a longer CV or an extensive collection of freelance work, be sure to note some of the variety in your projects to show your adaptability and creativity.
2. ‘How would you describe your design process?’
The answer to this interview question will be unique to you and your exact graphic design process, but there are things that every candidate should be sure to address. You should emphasise the client's needs first, developing your work to fit their brand and collaborating with them during the project.
Balance the creative process with notes about the research, budget concerns and problem-solving required to design not just something that will get noticed but that will also work for their target market.
This is not just art for art's sake; you'll want your prospective employer to know you understand that any brochure, website, report or promotional material you design will be tailored to the client's customer base.
3. ‘What are your favourite pieces in your portfolio and why?’
You should already have an online graphic design portfolio or website that your interviewer likely looked through before you met. It's still a good idea to have something tangible to reference as you talk about your previous projects, whether it's quickly accessible materials on a tablet or in a print portfolio – the latter of which is especially advisable if you're applying for a job in print.
This question gives you a chance to highlight your successes. Use your chosen examples to explain a problem that a client had and how your work helped them solve it, like repairing their brand image or appealing to a new market.
4. ‘What graphic design software do you have experience working with?’
In order to land any graphic designer job, you'll want to be as up-to-date as possible on the latest software. Most candidates will be listing the usual suspects like Adobe's collection of creative software, GIMP and Sketch, so any out-of-the-ordinary technical skills you have will help you stand out from the crowd.
Be aware that there are usually clues to how to answer this kind of interview questions in the job description you saw when you initially applied. The company will often list graphic design software that a candidate must have, as well as desired proficiency with other apps. Make sure you are familiar with every piece of software listed. Obtain and use it, if possible, or consult with a colleague that you know has experience with the product.
Even if you've never used the listed software on a project, the fact that you are aware of the technology, know how it works and can compare it to something you have used will help convince the interviewer that you can easily adapt to their work process.
5. ‘What brands do you admire and how has that informed your own work?’
This particular graphic design interview question has an answer that should change over time. The employer is looking to see if you're up on current trends, particularly in relation to the company you're applying to.
If they want more than one example, it's fine to mention how something early in your career inspired your creative process, but then address a current shift or innovation in design that you have applied or will apply to your work. Discuss the use of intense colour and primary focus on the individual on Converse's Instagram, for example, or how a new font for an established company's logo helped them update their image.
This can also be a good place to talk about other things that inspire you, like the juxtaposition of different eras of architecture in downtown Chicago or the styles of typography used in your vintage poster collection. You want them to know that you're always looking for ideas and inspiration, and not just following what someone else is doing.
6. ‘Tell us about one of your most challenging experiences getting a project completed on time.’
As a graphic designer or even a design student, you should have plenty of experience dealing with deadlines. This question isn't just about getting a full project in by a certain date. There were likely initial meetings you had to be prepared for, feedback you needed to reply to in a timely matter and materials that had to be rushed to be ready for an event or to coincide with a sudden online trend.
Interview questions that address dealing with high-pressure situations at work can come up in any line of work, and the answers follow the same format. Focus on your time management skills, how you delegated and prioritised the workload and how you were able to motivate yourself and others.
Avoid bringing up examples where the time crunch was due to your own errors, or any story that sounds like a catty criticism of a former boss or coworker.
7. ‘Why do you want to work at this company?’
This question is designed to test how much you've looked into your prospective employer before the interview and how much you will care about the graphic design work you'll be doing for them. Your answer should focus on the company itself, their mission and products, and not about why you want the particular position you're applying for.
Charlie Lewis, a self-taught graphic designer who shares his career knowledge and interview skills on YouTube, suggests researching the company online and finding some aspect of their business that you personally connect with and can be passionate about in the interview.
It can be a revolutionary product or their desire to appeal to a more diverse customer base or their track record of being trendsetters in their industry. Be specific and positive.
8. ‘How would you respond to creative feedback you don't agree with?’
This falls into the category of a strengths-based question often asked in job interviews.
The interviewer wants to know how you will work with others and what your strongest personal qualities are. If you're applying for an entry-level graphic design position, you definitely want to stress the importance of taking direction and incorporating constructive feedback into your work.
If you'll be doing a large portion of the project or have a leadership role, it's fine to show conviction in your design in your response. Something like 'It is part of my job to effectively explain my vision to the client, and how it will achieve their goals' is a fine start. Still, be sure you conclude with carefully listening to client feedback, improving your work as needed and acknowledging that they have the final say in how their brand is presented.
9. ‘Do you prefer to work alone on projects or with a team?’
Your answer to this interview question will depend on the role you're applying for. If you're doing freelance work or will be telecommuting, the company wants to know that you can self-motivate and be creative without having a team around you.
In contrast, if you'll be working with a project manager, copywriter and other creative staff, you'll want to emphasise your teamwork skills and give examples of situations at previous jobs or school assignments where you worked effectively with others.
If there are a few elements of the job you prefer to work on alone, it's fine to say so, but make it clear you are happy to collaborate with others and incorporate their feedback.
10. ‘How would you design a logo for our company?’
A valuable tips when interviewing for any job is to set up Google alerts for the company you are interviewing with so you receive all the latest news on their business. For a graphic design interview, this up-to-date knowledge can assist you with any test project they ask you to do, whether it's a logo, Instagram story or ‘About’ page on their website.
It's not a bad idea to sketch a few logo ideas before going on the interview, just so you're not completely starting from scratch if they want you to actually show them a finished product. You should be aware of their company colours and have an idea of their mission and brand identity. This request is mostly designed to illustrate your creative process, so be sure to treat the interviewer as the client and ask pertinent questions that show you know their business.
That first job interview can be nerve-wracking but researching ahead of time and preparing for these common questions will definitely help you through the process.
What other graphic design interview questions have you encountered in your job search? Join the discussion below and let us know!