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So you got an interview. Now what do you do so you don’t f*%^ it up?

You’ve just received that much anticipated phone call to appear in person for an interview with Company X. Oh, how you’ve dreamed about walking through those big doors of Company X in order to have the opportunity to profess all the reasons why you would make a perfect addition to Company X. So, after your victorious fist pump and lap around your bedroom you suddenly have racing thoughts of all the preparation you have ahead of you. First, there is the critical selection of showcase pieces to narrow down your portfolio into a manageable document. No hiring manager wants to be handed your entire design memoir. Cut it down to 10-15 interesting pieces that showcase your talent. Also, make sure you can talk about the pieces you choose. For instance, if asked why one of your pieces is a certain shape or color, be sure you can give some explanation or insight as to why you did what you did. You should never respond to a question with, “Uh, well, because it looked cool”. Remember, there is no exact right answer for these types of questions as long you sound like you know what you’re talking about. The interviewer is just making sure you can communicate and defend your choices for the design.

Now that you’ve tightened up that portfolio and thought about how you would verbally support your designs, it’s time to pick out your favorite “interviewing” shirt (this may be your only half decent collared shirt if you’ve just graduated, in which case please wash prior to interview). You have now come to the most nerve jolting portion of the process, the face to face interview. You may be interviewed by one person or 2-3 people, like you were in front of a parole board. Regardless, at any point during the interview that 4×7 plate glass office window might seem like a viable exit plan, but you must stifle urges of escape and soldier on.

The questions that may be thrown at you will vary in range. It really depends on the person conducting the interview. If you get the HR person who thinks industrial design is a form of ice sculpting, well you might want to brace yourself for a mind numbing Q&A session. If you happen upon this situation, try to be professional and answer every question with integrity, minus the sarcasm. You might be asked trivial questions such as, “Do know how to use Outlook?” Try not to answer with statements like, “I tried, I just couldn’t get the handle of that damn reply button…”, or “No, is it new?” While these responses may bring you momentary inner joy, they ultimately will yield a poor review. Remember, the HR person is just trying to do his or her job.

Let’s hope you avoid the HR catastrophe and you are interviewed by a knowledgeable design manager, who you can have a constructive interview/conversation with about your views on design and the expectations of the position.    Someone of this nature will most likely forgo the formalities and assume if you can reverse engineer a complete RC car assembly in SolidWorks, then you should be able to handle Outlook emails. As interview situations vary wildly, it’s hard to be prepared. Just remember that communication is one of the most important aspects of design. As designers, we can become fixed on certain forms of communication, be it sketches, renderings, or 3D models. Communication skills are needed in the design field and always will be, but let’s be honest, nobody wants to hire the “it looks cool guy.”

 

About the Author: Matt Finney is currently an Industrial Design Senior at Columbia College in Chicago. He also works in the exhibit industry, and can be contacted through his Coroflot profile – www.Coroflot.com/m_finney

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Matt Wells August 16, 2011, 8:21 pm

    I completely agree that communication is absolutely key in an interview, but like making sure you prepare by knowing your CAD drawings, make sure you have done your research on the company prior to the interview!

    Having worked in HR; I dread to think some of the toe curling questions I have asked, but its just as horrible to watch a candidate try and take a guess at what the company does.

    Like any presentation, fail to prepare and prepare to fail!

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