4 Steps to Landing a Killer Design Job

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What is the first thing you do before you start any project? RESEARCH!

In the digital age, you have all of the information in the world at your fingertips. Why not use the tools you have available and identify who, exactly, you are applying to? This goes for any job.

There are lots of easy ways to make your job hunt much more likely to result in an offer. Here are four I’ve found to be particularly successful:

1. Research—What Can I Learn About the Company on LinkedIn?

As the internet’s professional database of choice, LinkedIn is one of the best places to start your research. When you find a job on a company site such as Angel.co, Indeed, or any other job posting platform, go to their company page on LinkedIn. Take note of various important characteristics of the company like location, company type, and company size (more on that later). More times than not, they will have that exact job posted on their page.

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Next, take note of the “How You’re Connected” field. How many employees do they list? The size of the company can greatly change the way that you approach your search. In the screenshot below, the company has 19 employees, making it a small-to-medium sized company, which in turn means my ability to connect with precisely the person who will review my portfolio goes way, way up. Use that to your advantage! (More on this in the next step.)

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On the other hand, larger companies are more likely to have someone you’re personally connected to/ If you have a connection, great! Reach out to your mutual connects and ask for an introduction.

2. Audience—Who is going to see my email/portfolio?

If you do see a job posting you like on Linkedin, you will often find the job poster listed in the top right corner as shown below.

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There’s the job poster! I can click through and view who they are, what their background is, what their position is, etc. That can be a really good insight into what exactly that person is looking for in an applicant, not to mention how to go about emailing them. For instance, you wouldn’t write an email the same way to a recruiter as you might to a fellow designer or creative director.

Side Note: It may be worth purchasing LinkedIn Premium for a month while on your job search. These particular attributes of our user are more likely to be discovered and displayed with Premium).

Again, I have also noted they have 19 employees—this is important. When it comes to who might be reviewing applications, here is my rule of thumb:

1–10 Employees—You are probably applying to, and will be directly vetted by, the CEO.

<20 Employees—You are probably working with someone that is very operational, reporting directly to the CEO, carrying out administrative tasks on behalf of the CEO. If this individual has no experience in design, they were probably assigned the task of posting of the job, but will not be doing the vetting. In this case, we are applying directly to the CEO.

>20 Employees—They probably have a talent manager/recruiter on staff. Again, check on their experience in the field. Would you communicate your expertise differently to a CEO? An administrator? A knowledgeable recruiter? An unknowledgable recruiter? I hope so.

3. Cyber Stalk—What can I learn about the person reviewing my portfolio?

Now that we know who we are applying to, their experience in the field, their role in the company, the size/type/culture of the company, we are ready to find out something specific we can connect on with this particular individual.

Places to Cyber-stalk:

  • Rapportive—Gmail extension that aggregates information on a person like their Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile, Website, and Google Plus Account.
  • Twitter—Search for the individual on Twitter
  • Facebook—Search for their Facebook Profile, maybe you went to the same event as them, are part of the same networking group, have mutual friends etc
  • Google—Search for the person and any other information you can pull up on them
  • The company’s own website

4. Email—Synthesize your research and write an excellent outreach email

In this particular instance, I have gathered a bunch of useful information:

  • Company Size—Smaller, with 19 employees
  • Job Poster—Office Assistant to the CEO with zero experience in design. This employee will likely be handing applications directly to the CEO. Even if she is doing some vetting, if your portfolio is clean and professional, you’ll likely make the pass. So, who is the user I need to connect with? The CEO.
  • Company type—Venture-backed e-Commerce startup. I have an e-Commerce project I worked on this year, I should probably highlight that on my resume and portfolio, as CEOs are busy and I have to quickly capture their attention. Also, I looked up the company on Crunchbase and noticed that they raised $10 million 3 weeks ago! That’s exciting news I can use to make a connection.
  • The CEO—I click through to his profile and notice that he went to the same design school as me, DESIGNATION. Awesome—I will definitely mention that in my email.

Now that I have done my research, I am ready to apply and email the CEO. Again, the leadership members at small startups are extremely busy, especially ones that have VCs pushing them to perform. I need to quickly capture his/her attention and connect with them.

I want to make sure that: I demonstrate my interest in their company (news of funding round), establish a connection to the recipient (DESIGNATION), and communicate exactly why I’m a good fit for the position by mentioning previous work on e-Commerce clients.

So, all I can say is, always do your homework. Everyone knows that finding a job is a job unto itself, so make sure you treat it like one. Find out as much information about the company, the decision makers, their interests, their goals, and carefully format your email, resume, or cover letter to give yourself an edge over the many applicants that will skip this step.

Be sure to subscribe, as my next post will cover “The Art of Cold Emailing.”

Best of luck and happy hunting!

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