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Our Top Tips for Applying to a Design Agency

22nd Jun 2022

You might not have noticed, but Martin Hopkins have been hiring recently (keep an eye out for some new faces!) and whilst going through stacks of talented designers’ CVs and portfolios, we thought it might be useful to share our Martin Hopkins’ Top Tips for Applying to a Design Agency (Still waiting for the trademark on those…).

Scroll down to see our tips, we’ve broken them up into categories, the technical problems we all run into, and how to avoid them, tips for your portfolio and CVs to make them sparkle, and some extra tips that will help you stand out from your fellow applicants.

Houston? We have a technical problem

We’re all more than familiar with technical issues, especially since the pandemic!

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Most interviewers will graciously forgive technical issues, a lot of them can’t be helped, but here’s some tips to help you avoid some of the most common ones.

  • We advise against sending your portfolio via WeTransfer when applying to a design agency. Whilst the site is great for sharing files easily, the limited time frame to download the files might mean your potential future employer can’t access your work! We’d suggest sending all your files through Google Drive or Dropbox – but make sure you don’t make it password protected.

  • Prooof read everything 😉 You might not notice it, but a potential employer will. Sometimes it can be hard to notice spelling or grammatical mistakes in your own work, especially when you’ve read it multiple times, so we’d suggest getting a friend or family member to have a read through or putting your text through an app like Grammarly.

  • Similar to the point before, if you’re going to address your interviewer by name in your correspondence (we love to see this and can usually be found easily via LinkedIn!), double check you’ve got the spelling of their name right.

  • If you’re a night-owl, who is most productive once everyone else has had a night time tea and snuggled under their covers, we’d suggest you schedule your emails to send the following day. It can be a red flag for employers to see an application land in their inbox at 3am.

Make your CV, Cover Letter and Portfolio ✨Sparkle✨

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We won’t lie to you, writing CVs and cover letters is hard, and we know how hard it is! It can be tempting to copy and paste your cover letter and just change the company name, but you’re not putting yourself in the best position to get the job then. Here are our top tips to make you stand out from the crowd when applying to a design agency.

  • Write about some of their work in your cover letter. Did you really love their last branding project? Or were you impressed by an award they won? Mention that in your cover letter. Not only will it show you’ve taken the time to go through the company’s social media and website, you’ve clearly connected with their work which will be a huge green flag for potential employers.

  • Make sure your tone of voice is consistent across your CV, portfolio and cover letter. Nothing’s more jarring when you’re reading an applicants’ CV, that’s so beautifully written you have to check you’re not reading the an excerpt from latest Sally Rooney, and then you click on their cover letter, and it’s like it’s written by Oscar the Grouch. It can be really worthwhile to give up an hour or two to go through all your documents and ensure your TOV is consistent and reflects who you are as a person. Are you naturally bubbly and funny? Let that show! If you’re more reserved, there’s nothing wrong with a personable, professional tone, just keep it consistent!

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  • Speaking of consistency, keep your branding consistent! Consider your CV, portfolio and cover letter a set, not three individual pieces of work.

  • Be friendly and approachable from the get-go. We love seeing portfolios that open with ‘Hi, I’m X’ or ‘Hi Martin Hopkins Team!’

  • Remember less is more, it’s better to have a portfolio of 3-5 pieces of show-stopping work, rather than 20 pieces of mediocre work. You should also explain each piece of work, such as what you did, how you achieved it, if you worked on it alone or with a team, it really helps us understand more about your skillset and experience.

  • Make your portfolio a visual delight. You can’t just add a few images into a PowerPoint and expect to get the best design jobs. Each page should offer something new to the viewer.

  • Choose your mock-ups carefully! Don’t do them for the sake of it, and make sure it suits the context, for example, don’t spend ages making corporate letterheads for a childcare company, because it won’t make sense. Mock-ups show us your thought about brand placement, context and your understanding of how it could work.

Best Practice Tips from our Best Creative Director

Whilst writing this, I asked Sarah, our fantastic Creative Director and all-round superwoman in the studio, what her tips were for general ‘best practice’ whilst applying to jobs. These tips don’t just apply to design jobs, they can make you sparkle in any industry.

  • Get them familiar with your name, follow them on social media and interact with their posts in a meaningful way, for example if a piece of work really resonates with you, or they’re using a technique you’ve not seen before. Be careful though, there’s a fine balance between making sure a company sees your page, and registers which posts you’re liking/commenting on, and going overboard with your enthusiasm! No one wants to be a Joe…

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  • Be responsive and don’t be afraid to show your personality through your emails with them. It’s important that the agency, or company, can get a feel for who you are, and how you’d fit in their team as well as seeing that you can handle yourself over emails – after all, you’ll have to get used to it once you’re emailing clients!

  • Now going to the opposite end of the spectrum… Don’t blanket apply with the same copied and pasted email to each company. We know when you do that.

  • Before applying, go through the agency’s website to make sure that you’re a good match for each other. There’s little point applying to a design agency that does mostly corporate work, when your style is wacky and ‘out-there’ because you won’t be a good fit.

  • No one likes feeling like they’ve been ghosted, and that includes potential employers 👻 Emails can get lost easily in inboxes, so make sure to keep a close eye on yours so that you can respond promptly if you get invited for an interview, or if they have any further questions they might want to ask you.

If you don’t get your dream job, don’t be discouraged! Each agency is completely different, and even if you think you fit their criteria perfectly, you never know what’s going on behind the scenes! You also might not meet the whole team, and a lot of interviewing is about seeing how people could work together, and it might be that your interviewers felt like their company wouldn’t be the best fit for you.

Whatever happens, you’ll find the job that’s right for you and with a team who appreciates you as a designer, and we hope these tips help you! We’re rooting for you!

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