7 Tips for Getting (and Acing) an Interview at a Creative Agency by Kate Gallé

A big welcome to Kate Gallé, our latest guest author! Kate is a Creative Director at Design Bridge, a studio that has been in the game for 33 years and now has five studios across the world—in London (where Kate works), Amsterdam, Singapore, New York and Shanghai. Kate also came to Shillington earlier in the year to talk to our graduates all about job searching and applications in the design industry.  Kate’s first article for us is an extension of this—all about getting that all important interview at a creative agency—and tips for her firsthand experience of being both the interviewer and interviewee.

As a Creative Director at Design Bridge I see a LOT of portfolios, and I interview a lot of people. After being part of a panel discussion and portfolio review session at a recent Shillumni event, I wanted to share some of our collective advice on how to approach getting a job in the creative industry.

1. Don’t Be Shy

Look at creative agency websites, follow them on social media, go and listen to what they have to say at industry events and talks. If you like what you hear, stay back to chat to the person who was speaking, or follow up with an email afterwards. Tell them you liked it, and what it was that really connected with you or inspired you.

We need feedback too, plus everyone likes a bit of flattery, so don’t be shy.

2. Get Our Attention

We all stare at screens all day, every day. Nobody gets much in the post these days, and we rarely even see portfolios printed.

Celebrate the analogue and send something the old fashioned way (making sure that the name of the person you are writing to is spelled correctly).

Don’t spend huge amounts, but also make sure it doesn’t look like you posted 50 identical ones. You are far more likely to get a response from a personally addressed letter to a Creative Director than an impersonal email that you’ve sent to every email address you can find. Someone on the Shillington panel recounted a tale involving a hand-delivered cake—that is definitely going to get some attention!

3. Make a Famous Project

If you have a piece of work that really stands out and is truly memorable, embrace it and champion it. I see a lot of work that is quite similar, and it’s the really bold, different, even provocative ones that really stand out and become memorable. Like the period poverty campaign that won our Student Awards competition a couple of years ago. I was known as the ‘nuts’ girl at my degree show, one of our senior designers was known as “the Quality Street girl” for a good 6 months after we employed her. Even if we can’t recall your name, we’ll definitely remember your work.

4. Be Persistent… But Not Weird

As the old saying goes, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get”. We all have the best intentions, but we are busy people and it can mean that getting back to someone can drop to the bottom of our ‘to do’ list. If you’ve already made contact but haven’t heard back, do follow up. You’ll be respected for your persistence. But don’t let it get weird.

If they haven’t replied after the 3rd or 4th time don’t end up on our doorstep, or sending selfies standing outside our building (true story).

5. How Long Do You Have?

One of the best questions one of my fellow Creative Directors has been asked when interviewing someone was “How long do you have?”.

It shows that you’re thinking about us and that you respect our time (bonus points). But it also means that you can pace yourself and gauge how much detail to go into when sharing your breadth of work, without having to cut anything short because we’ve run out of time. Keep it top line and focused on the big ideas if your interviewer doesn’t have long. Go into more detail on execution and process if you have longer together.

6. Sell You, Not Just Your Work

It’s your work that gets you the interview in the first place, so when you meet whoever is interviewing you, remember that they really want to find out if you are a person they will want to work with every day. Let your personality come out as you talk through your work, and share your passions and creative hobbies.

Remember that you are also selling YOU and how you present work, not just the work itself.

7. Embrace the Nerves

We are all human. We’ve all had the sweaty palms and butterflies in our tummies. Nerves show you really care about the job, but don’t let them get the better of you. I used to shake so much that I could hardly point at my work, but I found that admitting it and saying “I‘m a bit nervous” got it out in the open, and it helped me to relax and get into my stride. So admit that you’re nervous if you need to, open up, be calm, make eye contact, and give us good vibes. Like I said before, we want to get to know YOU.

Header image by Amelia Cherrill, Junior Designer at Design Bridge. Amelia joined the company as a recent graduate on their bursary scheme, before recently landing her permanent position on Kate’s team.

Big thanks to Kate for coming on board as a guest author and writing this foolproof guide to interviews for us! These insights are invaluable to any designer, whether they’ve just graduated or have come back in to the minefield of job applications. Be sure to check out all of Design Bridge’s incredible work.

Want to win some amazing prizes and stay in the loop with all things Shillington? Sign up to our newsletter to automatically go in the draw.