May 19, 2017

You Are The Experience: A Designer's Guide to Interviewing

People don’t hire portfolios, they hire people.

Over the past 15 years, Mike Gadsby has had the honor of meeting and interviewing designers from all over the world. In all that time, he has learned one important lesson: the experience of meeting people and making a connection is just as important as the details in the work.

On April 27th, Mike, CXO of O3 World, explored the lifecycle of the hiring process for a designer at the DesignBrew event. From deciding which jobs align best with your career objectives, to preparing your portfolio to all the various intricacies that make up the interview itself, Mike talked through the do’s and don’t’s and considerations he and his colleagues’ debate as they review candidates at all levels.

Mike broke down the interview process into a life cycle:

  1. Preparing for the next job (Before)
  2. Interviewing (During)
  3. Following up after the interview (After)

In each cycle, he gave tips from his experience of the best (and sometimes worst) applicants.


Be Honest. Make sure you’re looking at the right jobs by being honest with yourself and assessing your goals. Be real about your salary requirements and do some research to make sure this job is going to meet your needs.

Don’t add fluff to fill out your resume. Your resume is one of the first things a hiring manager is going to read, so be sure that they can read it and understand what you have to offer. Be clear and concise with your language and focus on the content of your work, because they’re looking for your real experience.

Portfolio is key. As a designer, the portfolio is key for showing your process in solving real problems. Show your role in meeting business needs and telling the story. Think about presentation: for Mike, he’s looking through your portfolio on his phone whenever he gets the time. Make it easy to skim and mobile-friendly. Throughout your application, consider your personal brand. What is it that makes you different? How will you fit into the company and make it better?


Show them that you did your homework. The employer’s goals are to make sure you can do the work and assess how you will fit into the company long term. Do your homework and make sure you have answers to those questions. Learn about the company, their work, and their people. During the interview itself, engage with the interviewers. Work is a 50/50 prospect. Listen, ask questions, and take good notes for yourself.

Show them that you give a shit. Take time to ask good questions and work through the problem to the best of your ability. This is your chance to showcase your process.


Don’t forget to follow up. Remember that ultimately, this is about building relationships and growing as a professional. Have the courtesy to follow up, and feel free to ask for feedback regardless of the result of your application. Though this job might not be the right fit here and now, consider how you can build your network and maintain your connections for the future.


As designers, we’re tasked with developing and delivering impactful experiences. When you’re searching for a job, “you” are that experience. It’s not just about the employer finding the right employee, it’s about “you” finding the right place to grow and be successful.

Interested in working with us? Check out our careers page for open opportunities.

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