Updated: Dec 16, 2019
If you're anything like me when applying to a job you really want — you take your time putting together your application. You do this because you understand that employers receive tons of submissions every day, and you want your application to be the one that stands out. In a competitive industry it is vital to your potential employment to avoid these 10 mistakes when applying to design positions:
1. Not taking your time
As mentioned earlier, when I want a job I TAKE MY TIME when filling out an application. This means double-checking, and triple-checking your application for spelling, grammar, and portfolio items. It's important to keep in mind that what you have in your portfolio is a BIG DEAL. Simply put, your portfolio is your sales pitch, if you don't have what that employer is looking for then chances are you will be overlooked. Again, you need to keep in mind the amount of people that are applying to these desirable companies, and don't waist their time or yours — an employer can tell when an application or portfolio has been hastily put together.
2. Spelling & grammatical errors
If spelling is not your strong suit then be sure to have apps like Grammarly on your computer, spell-check, or have a friend proof read your work. You need to remember you're not just applying for a job — you're applying to a brand — and as someone who is applying to be their designer it is your job to uphold their image. Most successful companies don't just provide services to the general public, they also have investors involved, and misspelled words will not make you a desirable candidate. Not to mention, people judge others based on their grammar and spelling. There are even channels on YouTube dedicated to trolling the web, social media, and news outlets for horribly spelled words or grammatical errors, and while I do admit these videos can be hilarious, you don't want that to be your first impression upon review for a job. So, remember to double check your work before clicking submit.
3. Not following directions
If you can't follow simple application directions then chances are the employer will assume you're someone who can't follow direction in general. Don't miss an opportunity because you failed to read the entire job posting.
4. Submitting resumes/cover letters in .doc instead of .pdf
I'm sure a few eyebrows were raise on this point, however, you'd be surprised how often designers send their resumes in a .doc format. As many of you should know MS Word is not the program designers should be using when laying out their resume. Instead, I recommend using InDesign or Illustrator to design your resume. Remember this is your opportunity to showcase your skills. So, be sure to design your resume in a way that shows off your own brand identity to potential employers.
5. Submitting non-original cover letters
You're doing yourself a disservice when you copy and paste someone else's words. It's OK to look at examples for inspiration but NEVER copy word for word! An employer can tell when someone has copy and pasted a direct quote from someone else. Remember they have thousands of applicants applying for the same job. Make yourself stand out and write something that shows your personality, and why you're the best fit for the position. Be sure to include ways in which your style blends with theirs or call out specifics about their company like their company culture or artistic style as the reasons why you want the position. Show that you want to be a part of their team through research about the company and work that into your cover letter.
6. Cutting & pasting from past resumes
Consider this one the unforgivable sin. What happens when you "copy and paste" from past resumes and cover letters is inconsistency, and if you're rushing through your application you will more than likely miss errors such as differing font sizes, and fonts. Instead, take your time to type out all your information and be sure that your resume has a consistent look and feel. It is in your best interest to be seen as the expert you are claiming to be so be sure to show this.
7. Not having an online portfolio
Don't apply to a design job without an online portfolio. We live in the digital age, and as designer (no matter what you design) you should have an online portfolio. There a different options for portfolio focused sites like Behance, Deviant Art, Fabrik, Wix, Adobe Portfolio, FolioLink, Viewbook, to name a few. So take the time to create one before applying for jobs. The best option is to have your own website so you can truly stand out amongst other applicants.
8. Not having a diverse portfolio
Your portfolio should include work in the following categories: branding, illustration, print design/layout, and web design. You’ll want to have at least 2-3 examples within each category listed above. If you are fresh out of school and don’t have much client work, create spec work to show you have the skills necessary to land the design job you want. Your portfolio should include work that exhibits your skills. If you're a graphic designer you need to show work that shows brand design, typography, and if you draw too include illustration projects. Show the company you are a jack-of-all-trades designer and you can handle any client project that comes your way.
9. Applying to multiple positions for the same company
Admittingly, I have made this mistake a couple times in my life. What I learned was rather than increasing my chances of working for the company I was actually minimizing my chances. Employers view this as the applicant not having a specialty or them being more qualified for one job over the other. Instead, it is recommended that you apply for the one you are most qualified for/the one you want the most.
10. Requesting help or recommendations for jobs
This may seem odd, but I've seen it happen before. An individual will apply for a position and not be selected then later request for recommendations for other companies to apply for. This is not tactful, nor is it the employers responsibility to aid in your job search. Instead, get back online and start researching more companies you'd like to work for.