A few months ago we had the opportunity to hire a new graphic designer. We were super pumped about the opportunity. So we posted the job online, and we got 106 applicants for the opening.

106 applicants…

So yeah, that was a bit overwhelming. But we did get to walk away with some key insights from the entire process.

Your Resume Matters

One of the first insights we learned was that if you’re a designer and you want a job in design you’ve got to have a stellar resume. I’m not just talking the content of the resume itself; I’m talking the actual design of the resume.

It was surprising to me the number of applicants that turned in a resume that looked like it was just Word document with little thought put into typography. How much did resumes matter? Well, we were able to eliminate 85 applicants just based on the design of their resumes.

Our thinking here was if you can’t lay out a resume, then you probably can’t do the other things well.

Keep Your Portfolio Up to Date

So we now we’re down to 21 applicants. Our next step was to online and view their portfolios. Just like with resumes, we eliminated a large number of applicants. If we saw poorly designed websites with broken links and outdated portfolios, we passed on the designer.

If you think about it, this is remedied by going with Squarespace or another well designed templated website provider. It also doesn’t take more than thirty minutes to update a portfolio.

This quick search of portfolios told me about whether or not the applicant is caring about details and their brand. We easily eliminated another eleven candidates.

Do Your Research

I was surprised by the number of candidates that did not research on us. We research them, but very few of the applicants came prepared to talk during the phone interview about who we are and how they could help us.

The applicants that came prepared had opinions about our current design work and what they would improve or change. These type of interviews showed me a lot of vested interest in us, and they wanted to work with us.

Again I knocked off another seven candidates and now had the top three candidates.

Learn to Talk About Design Not Art

So at this point, we went from 106 down to the final three candidates. Now came the long interviews where we got to dig in getting to know the designers.

One of the things we’re looking for at this point is to see if the candidate can talk about their work as a designer in a way that anybody can understand. Knowing they can talk intelligently about design is important because they’re going to find themselves working with people who have no design experience.

One of the ways to determine this is to listen to how they talk about design. Do they use abstract or concrete language? Do they struggle to explain why they made certain choices?

These questions illustrate the difference to me between design and art. A designer is somebody who is trying to solve a visual problem. So if a person can use concrete language and explain to their design choices, then I know they’re thinking like a designer.

I’m also looking for somebody who understands how to work with and deadlines and constraints. When we asked people about their projects, we want to do now how long did it take them to do their work and what were their constraints.

The Final Candidate

In the end, we landed on Lindsay Baker. She’s an all-star out of Auburn University, and since we hired her, we haven’t regretted it.

Lindsay had a stellar resume, a great portfolio, a clear understanding of who we are, and talked about design in a way that I knew the people on our staff would appreciate.

A Challenge for You

If you’re a designer looking for work I’m challenging you to kind of step up what you do. You’re not just competing against other designers, but also 99Designs and Fiverr.

It’s true that those services have an unfair advantage concerning price and quantity of options. However, you have to create an unfair advantage by investing in those organizations that you want to work for. You have to stack the deck in your favor. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but after interviewing 106 designers, I know it can be done.