Whether you’re a designer seeking a full-time job or a freelancer looking for project work, how you handle yourself in the interview can make or break your chances of landing the gig. In fact, a recent survey of executives by Robert Half International (the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm) shows this is the stage of the hiring process where candidates are most likely to make mistakes. How can you avoid pitfalls and stack the deck in your favor? Here are six tricks to incorporate into your interview arsenal:
Kick off with a question. During an interview, the hiring manager is supposed to ask most of the questions, right? Not necessarily. While this is how many meetings pan out, you can gain an edge by posing a query right off the bat. Asking questions throughout the interview allows you to learn more about the firm and whether you want to work there. The most productive interviews are two-way conversations.
Stray from the script. Employers have grown weary of candidates who say their biggest flaw is "perfection" and can instantly rattle off three of their proudest accomplishments. This shouldn’t deter you from considering how you might address common interview questions, but it should serve as a warning sign to avoid scripted answers. One of the best ways to do this is to contemplate which professional experiences have had a significant impact on your career and how they illustrate the talents you would bring to the job. Before any interview, identify personal anecdotes that address career achievements and satisfying projects, strong communication skills and your preferred work environment.
Know your audience. Just as you would research the target demographic before developing a marketing plan, you should do the same when formulating your interview strategy. Request collateral materials to review before the meeting, and supplement the information you glean by searching the internet and tapping professionals in your network for additional news about the company. Also, if possible, identify the people with whom you’ll be meeting—often, a helpful receptionist will provide these names.
Be honest and open to critique. Most hiring managers appreciate candidates who can be candid and direct; describing a difficult situation with diplomacy can even be a powerful way to convey your ability to overcome adversity. Open-mindedness also is a major plus. Emphasizing your willingness to respond to critiques and address client concerns will win you points. Be prepared to give examples of how someone’s feedback has helped you identify the best solution to design challenges.
Demonstrate style and substance. Creativity combined with strategic thinking is a match made in heaven for many employers. One way to reveal your marketing mind-set and understanding is to discuss each project in your portfolio as a case study, starting with the big-picture business need, then moving on to design specifics, such as the bottom-line results of your efforts.
Make them an offer. If the interview has gone well, and you want the job, consider asking to work at the firm on a trial basis. You might say, for example, "I have a really good feeling about this position after speaking with you, and I know being short-staffed must be a challenge. How would you feel about hiring me on a temporary basis to see if the job is a good fit?" If they accept your proposition, you can discover if you enjoy working at the firm before committing to a full-time job, should they make you an offer.