You’re Hired: Five Tips to Prepare for a Great Interview

By Kristen Harris

You have an interview! Maybe you’re a little nervous. It probably feels like there are a thousand things to remember. Whether it’s your first interview, or you haven’t interviewed in twenty years, being prepared can help tilt the outcome in your favor.

There are two sides to every interview, the person interviewing you and YOU. While it may seem like the interviewer holds all the cards, you have total control over one half of that equation.

Keep in mind that you both want the same thing— for this to be a good fit so you can move forward in the hiring process. No hiring manager wants to suffer through a bad interview or waste time talking to a string of people that are not a good fit. And you don’t want that either. Be prepared so you can be “the one”.

  1. Clothing and Grooming. Studies show you have between 7 and 30 seconds to make a first impression, and it’s often based on subtle cues we’re not even aware of. Never give someone a reason to not like you. I’m all for creative expression, but keep it appropriate for the situation. Find out the dress code at the company, and dress one step above that. Make sure everything is fresh, clean, in good condition, fits well, and smells good. That includes your clothing, body and hair (head and facial). Keep jewelry, makeup and scents to a minimum.
  2. Resume and Work Samples. Make any last-minute updates to your resume, and bring several copies in case you meet with more than one person. If work samples are expected for your role, have those ready to present as well. If everything is online, confirm they have the appropriate technology available or bring your own. If possible, bring a few printed samples in the event of a total technology fail. For more on this topic, read our blog on creative portfolio tips.
  3. Know the Location. There is no good reason to arrive late; you are being judged from the moment you arrive, so be on time. Plan ahead, map the address, calculate travel time, and do a trial run of the route. Identify parking, or ask your contact where to park. Arrive a few minutes early, relax, take a deep breath, and walk in about 10 minutes before your interview time. Calm, cool, collected.
  4. Know Your Contact. It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people show up for an interview and can’t remember the name of the person they’re meeting. You’ll need the company name, address including floor or suite number, and name of the person you’re meeting. If someone else set up the interview, bring their information too. Write all of this down, put it in your phone, or be extra-safe and do both. A day or two before your interview, use LinkedIn to check out the person you’re meeting so you know what they look like, their background, experience, and anything you may have in common or want to ask about.
  5. Prepare Questions. Before you’re ready to walk in the door, practice the interview. Plan what you want to do and say, and think about questions they might ask. Walk through your resume and portfolio on your own, or with a trusted friend or colleague. What do you want to emphasize or highlight? Find a nice notebook to bring on the interview, and write down a few questions of your own. What do you want to know about the company, role, manager, team, or culture? What do you need to know to decide if this is a good fit for you?

Remember there are two sides to every interview. You’re in control of, and responsible for your part, so take the time to be prepared. Then relax and get ready to shine!

Creative Portfolios: Ten Tips for Showing Off Your Work

By Kristen Harris

In the creative industry, a portfolio is one of your most important tools. Whether you’re looking for a new position, seeking freelance work, or interviewing for a promotion, you’ll be asked for samples of your work.

The portfolio’s function hasn’t changed, but its form certainly has. Gone are the days of lugging around huge art portfolios filled with printed pieces and tear sheets. Today so much creative work is electronic, portfolios are often fully or partially electronic as well.

Beyond the format of your portfolio, the content is what really matters. This is the opportunity to showcase your best work. The viewer is looking for something, you need to grab their attention and show them it’s you.

Here are ten tips for a great creative portfolio:

1.     Stay current. A.B.C. Always. Be. Current. The viewer wants to see what you’ve done lately. Leave out that favorite piece from last decade, even if it won an award. No schoolwork unless you just graduated. Include mainly work from the last 2-3 years; anything older can look dated.

2.     Show your best. Edit. Edit. Edit. The impression of your whole portfolio is lowered to the level of your weakest piece. Choose your strongest 15-20 pieces. Then eliminate the weakest one, the next weakest, and the next weakest, until you get down to 10-12 excellent pieces. That’s your portfolio. If it’s hard for you to be subjective about your best pieces, ask a friend for help.

3.     Choose a format. A portfolio can be anything you want—a book, a box, a slideshow, a deck of playing cards. The goal is to create the best possible showcase for your work. Decide whether your work looks best printed or electronic, bound in a glossy book, or shown on an iPad. Then create the best possible version in that format.

4.     Be creative. You are a creative person, after all! Feel free to get creative with the format of your portfolio. However, remember that the goal is to showcase your work in the best possible way. Don’t do anything that distracts from the work, or that is more memorable than the contents.

5.     Go digital. Regardless of how you choose to format and present your work in-person, you need to be able to share your work digitally as well. In fact, this might be the first or only way someone views your work, so make it great. Create a website, online portfolio or slideshow that can be sent to viewers electronically. Many viewers will request a printable PDF as well, so go ahead and put one together that highlights a few of your best pieces.

6.     Focus. Many creative people have multiple, varied skill sets. You may be an excellent graphic designer, wedding photographer and oil portrait artist. Just don’t try to show all of that in one portfolio. Create a separate portfolio for each main skill set or audience. Show only the one relevant to the work that viewer is interested in; you can share another specialized portfolio if those skills come up in conversation.

7.     Organize your work. Arrange your portfolio specifically for each meeting, and lead with what you think that viewer is looking for. If they need a logo, start with and show several great logo projects. If their website needs redesigned, show your interactive samples first. People tend to remember what they see first and last, so open and close with your strongest work.

8.     Tell stories. Tell a story about the strategy, concept and result behind each of the pieces in your portfolio. Share a sentence or two about the piece, then watch the viewer’s body language. If they’re ready to move on, do. If they ask questions or want to know more, let them lead the conversation. Be clear and don’t ramble.

9.     Practice your pitch. Before the meeting, walk through your portfolio presentation several times. Practice what you’ll say about each piece, and make sure the flow is logical. If necessary, rearrange pieces to create a cohesive story.

10.  Love every piece. You must passionately believe that every item in your portfolio represents your best work. Who cares if your boss, teacher or client liked it? It’s not their portfolio. If you love it, believe it’s effective, and can explain why it’s a quality piece, keep it. If not, ditch it.

By being particular about what’s included, creating the perfect showcase for your work, and practicing your presentation, you’ll create a portfolio that best represents your work.