Creative effort

Careers in art and design require planning, interview savvy

Posted: Sunday, January 28, 2007

Artists of any medium often watch their colorful world turn gray when thinking about how to dress and what to bring to job interviews. And a gray area it is. There are lots of mixed messages out there, and to be completely honest, there is no definitive answer on what to do and say during an interview in the art and design industry.

Do your homework

Ann Convery, president of Speak Your Business in 30 Seconds or Less, a business communication training company based in Los Angeles, says the key to proper etiquette is researching the company before the big day. Often, this can be as simple as visiting your potential employer a few days prior to the interview to verify your appointment. Then take note of how everyone is dressed. If workers are in T-shirts and jeans, it's OK to sport a turtleneck and slacks, says Convery.

"One of the most important things to employers is they want to know if you can communicate well," she explains. "They're very much looking for someone who can talk about and communicate their project to a client. There have been some phenomenally creative designers who can't talk."

Talk the talk

Being able to effectively communicate your skills and the effort you put into a particular project is not only important when working with clients, but also when working on a team. That's why those skills are just as important as the information you have on your resume and in your portfolio.

"[Lack of communication skills] might set you back, because a big part of the job is presenting," says Convery. "They want to know you can communicate the product, can you talk about the process to the client, and did you achieve the goals for the client. What was the thought process in how you went about achieving those goals? What was your role? They want you to be able to articulate what you've done."

Fitting in

While artists might have some creative freedom when it comes to their work, it's important to show the company and employees respect by coming prepared with portfolio and resume in hand, as well as dressing the part.

Typically, you should keep your sense of personal style, but stay in fashion without going overboard. For example, women can get away with black pants, a black top and a bright-colored oversized necklace.

Leave the fishnet stockings and torn T-shirt at home. Although those items might be all right to wear after you've landed the job - keep in mind that the interviewer should be more focused on your accomplishments and what you can bring to the company - not your hairstyle. So keep your outfit simple and toned down.

"You don't want to convey the sense that I am the lone wolf on the mountaintop," says Convery. "It's extremely important to be able to work on a team. First you'll be junior designer, then they'll become art director, then they might become creative director. So, they're constantly working on a team."

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