A designer, fresh out of college, reached out to me about the difficulties in getting a full time role. He had submitted assignments to several companies, only to be told by some that he wasn’t suitable, while others did not even bother to get back. Sadly, this is an all too familiar story.  

I have heard similar accounts from other bewildered young designers. They are talented and passionate, but unable to crack the design job market. 

First Impressions = First Gate 

The reality that every hiring design manager faces, is a flood of applications and limited time to process them. Many applications are visually well-crafted but fail to outline the crux of the problem and thought process. Show us your true self as a designer – do not create a portfolio that looks like someone else’s.

It typically takes about a minute to shortlist applications after going through the assignments and portfolios, so it is important to make your application stand out  

The Assignment 

If your application piques our interest, we will go through your portfolio in detail. If you are relatively inexperienced, or your portfolio doesn’t hold sufficient information, we may send you an assignment, with a timeline for submission. 

Here’s how we evaluate your submitted assignment: 

  1. How are you looking at the problem statement? Will you focus on usability alone, or will you also do a competitive analysis of similar apps? Will you pull up data from existing platforms to redefine the problem statement? My advice is to always do high level research across the competitive/ similar landscape and mention your findings in the assignment. 
  2. How will you articulate the problems and what approach you will take? I highly recommend communicating ideas and processes as visually as feasible. Mind maps, flow charts, IA sitemaps and infographics, ensure that your inputs are concise and scannable Long, verbose chunks of text are hard to go through. For examples, look at the Swiggy Design page. As you can see, my colleagues took the effort to break down the problem with visuals and easy-to-scan formats to genuinely communicate their work and involvement. Any portfolio with this kind of effort, will warrant a place at the top of the queue.
  3. What is your final recommended outcome? We don’t expect in-depth solutions, but we do expect to see how you have translated the identified problem scope into screens. Six to eight screens are more than enough. It is good to see visual designs for at least two screens, to showcase your visual design aptitude. 
  4. Have you included clickable prototypes and videos? We tend to pay more attention to submissions with prototypes, because they show that you are committed enough to put in extra effort. Learn prototyping tools like Principle, Marvel and Invision – they have an easy learning curve. 
  5. How did you handle an assignment that is in an unexplored area for you? Provide solutions based on assumptions. Instead of saying ‘I don’t have context’, say ‘My hypothesis is that X does Y, so in line with that, here is my solution.’ 

Being Prepared 

Here are some overall tips that can help you prepare better for the application process 

  1. Make sure there’s a good fit with the opening. If you are an inexperienced designer, look for positions that specify this, instead of ignoring the seniority requirement all together. 
  2. Read and learn from professional design case studies. Follow leading designers and see how they articulate their thoughts and process. I personally like Hardik Pandya’s case studies for his clarity in process and solutions  
  3. Re-evaluate and re-design. If you have done several assignments, but not landed a job, relook at your work and attempt a redesign to help make your submissions more compelling.  

Finally, always demonstrate that you are smart, humble and willing to learn. For inexperienced designers, it is important to show that you don’t expect handholding, but are ready to contribute to the team and hit the ground running. 

Stay strong and keep the faith! 

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