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How to land a design job interview
Tips on finding design opportunities and improving your portfolio to land interviews.
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Hi, it’s TK here from interns.design! I hope everyone’s holding up alright after this crazy past week.
In this issue, I’ll be talking about how to find jobs and get a design interview.
As I kickoff this Newsletter, I’m pumped about the upcoming content schedule. I’ll be interviewing designers and leaders at companies like Facebook and Figma. I’ll also be doing deep-dives into other design disciplines like UX Research and Content Strategy. And as always, I’ll be sharing the latest paid opportunities and career resources!
My Ask: Are you in a design community at your university? I’d love to learn more and connect! Please DM me on Twitter @thetkkong or email me at email@example.com.
Let’s get to it!
Please don’t take advice here prescriptively. This is what’s worked for me, but this isn’t the only way to successfully land design interviews.
The Design Recruiting Cycle
To start, we must understand the general design recruiting cycle in 4 steps:
Finding job opportunities via searching on job boards, cold-emailing, networking, and Twitter.
Applying to jobs with your resume, portfolio, and case studies.
Going through the interview process that may include portfolio reviews, take-home design or whiteboarding challenges, and app critiques.
Receiving an offer and going through the negotiation process.
In this piece, we’ll dive into #1 and #2. In later posts, I’ll discuss more about each design interview and the offer negotiation process.
Finding Job Opportunities
I’ve written two posts about this topic previously and I’ll summarize the high-level points below. Feel free to checkout the full posts here:
Searching & Cold-Emailing
Job boards like interns.design and AngelList (for startups) are the easiest ways to find new opportunities from companies. But just applying to roles won’t make you stand out in the job application process. I recommend cold-emailing recruiters, design managers, and founders.
Quick tips on cold-emailing:
Find the contact info of the person via LinkedIn or Clearbit.
Write concise emails with a quick intro, what you’re looking for, prior work in 3-4 sentences, and attach your resume and portfolio link.
Add a customized message depending on the person, company, or opportunity.
Make sure to follow up because people sometimes miss your email. Send them a friendly bump!
Power of Twitter & Networking
I personally think this is where many designers are missing out. The network on Twitter is 10x better than the one on LinkedIn. People are more responsive to cold DM’s and more open to chatting with you. Many startup founders, design leaders, and designers can be found on Twitter!
If you don’t have a Twitter account, I highly recommend creating one. A Facebook Design Manager told me about how she found all of her jobs via Twitter. Many have similar stories and I’ve also personally found jobs on the platform.
Build a presence on Twitter by engaging with other designers. Reply to their Tweets or shoot them a DM.
Stay on the lookout for new opportunities on Twitter or just build a network with other designers in the industry. Build genuine connection – don’t message every single designer and be intentional! (e.g. “I’d love to learn more about design at agencies.”)
I also don’t want to dismiss the network on LinkedIn. Building genuine connection with others in the industry on any platform will go a long way in your career.
Improving Your Portfolio
Great, now you know how to find job opportunities and reach out to people! Another important factor to getting a design interview is your portfolio. Below are a few tips on improving your resume, portfolio site, and case studies.
Highlight your impact in previous roles. Numeric impact is the best (e.g. “We increased sign-ups by 25%”, “We designed an app from scratch and reached 10,000 daily active users.")
Describe your experience in action sentences. A good format is [Action] to [Goal]. “Designed and developed a site to help students find paid opportunities and career resources.”
Add hyperlinks to your resume for the best UX. Make it easy for recruiters to see your work. Link your portfolio site, projects, and companies (especially if they’re less known). PDFescape is a free online tool to add hyperlinks. I design mine on Figma and use PDFescape to add the links.
Pitch yourself in less than a minute. Most people spend less than a minute reviewing your site. Make it easy to find your selected case studies and learn more about you!
How you build your site doesn’t matter. Students have asked me this question. Your portfolio can be on Squarespace, Webflow, Notion, Dropbox Paper or be coded by yourself. Just focus on making it easy to see your work! If you present yourself as a “designer who codes", it probably makes sense to code your own site.
Showcase your design process in your case studies on your portfolio site. Don’t just add wireframes of the final product because recruiters want to know that you know the design process. I’ll discuss how to present case studies during interviews in later issues but here’s my case study format:
Overview: Talk about the context, problem, how it’s being solved today, prior experience, any data you have, your role, team, and timeline.
Solution: Start with the final solution. This should be a prototype video or a few high-fidelity mockups, not paragraphs or extensive graphics. Then, dive deeper into your design process (ideation, explorations, user research, testing, prototyping, etc).
Summarize: Show key screens that you designed for the final solution and reflect on your work. What could have been better? What are some other explorations for the future?
Keep it concise: Your case study should not exceed 5 minutes reading-time (if using Medium).
I recently chatted with an early Facebook NY recruiter who helped hire hundreds of designers and he mentioned that design process is one key thing that designers are missing on their portfolios. Designers often just showcase wireframes or mockups and don’t show their process and explorations.
That’s it! Have other helpful tips for designers? Message me and I will feature it in the next issue. And let me know if this helps you land offers, I’d love to share your success stories with the community.
Thanks for reading,
Follow me on Twitter @thetkkong for more!
Announcements & job opportunities below 👇
🚨 Another reminder to submit your portfolio to the Design Recruiting Database if you haven’t already. I’ll be sharing this database with recruiters and founders who’re looking to hire design talent! Psst, a super-exciting company is going to look through the portfolios in the coming week (more soon).
Internships This Week
Featured: Apply for the Facebook University Design Program! If you’re a Sophomore in College (Class of 2023), this is a fantastic opportunity to learn product design! Apply soon, applications close on Jan 18.
Product Design Intern at Shopify (Closes Jan 18)
Find more open internships on interns.design