In the competitive creative and marketing fields, you need to prove your worth to a hiring manager when you're new to the game. Division directors at The Creative Group (TCG) offer the following recruiter tips to guide and encourage creative professionals looking to secure their first jobs.
1. Highlight your best work
"Creatives often want to put all their school projects into a portfolio," says Kristen Herberg, TCG division director in Washington, D.C. "Actually, less is more. So include only your best work."
2. Seek real-world experience
Eric Kimble, division director of TCG's Denver team, said one of his favorite recruiter tips is to include work beyond student assignments in your portfolio. But how do you accomplish that? "I encourage any student or recent graduate to acquire freelance experience," he says. "There's always a good nonprofit organization you can create a project for. The pay may not be great, but including your project in your portfolio will indicate that you've worked at a professional level."
Internships are another way to gain professional experience. "Hiring managers come to TCG because we can vet candidates and ensure that they have experience that will let them hit the ground running," Herberg says. "In school, a project can take a whole semester. Through an internship, you are working in the 'real world' and must adhere to non-negotiable deadlines, quick turnaround times, little direction and even less opportunity to make revisions. If you can manage to keep your head above water, stick to the timeline and still produce great work, it's easier for us to convince a hiring manager to take you on, even without formal work experience, because you've already proven yourself in a real-world setting."
3. Create your own website
"It's a given that you need an online portfolio," Kimble says, when asked for more expert recruiter tips. "When assessing designers, most hiring managers are impressed by websites that you created yourself instead of using a template. Not only can you apply your sense of style, color and design to it, but you can also demonstrate your technical expertise. You don't need to have a lot of coding experience to create a simple website, but if you do want to make it more elaborate, seek the advice of a website developer. For non-designers (advertising, marketing, PR, social media), a template is probably sufficient and easy to use."
Kelly Yosten, TCG division director in Dallas, adds this essential point: "Make sure you consider the user experience of your website, which is often just as important as the work you're displaying. When links are working, navigation is intuitive and images are visible, the user has a positive experience."
4. Work with a recruiter
Not surprisingly, our recruiter tips include registering with a staffing agency. "For all candidates – whether just starting out or with years of experience – a firm like TCG should be one of the tools in your job hunting toolbox," TCG's Kimble says. "You should be leveraging everything you can in your job search, and a staffing firm like TCG that specializes in creative talent should absolutely be in the mix.
"Find a recruiter who can be a true career resource," he adds. "That means someone who communicates with you regularly, provides honest and open feedback, and accurately sets expectations about career opportunities for you."
5. Conduct yourself like a pro
The job market for recent grads can be extremely competitive, so it's important to practice your interviewing skills. "Presentation and the way candidates explain their design choices are really key factors in any interview," Herberg says. "Hiring managers are looking for maturity. The professionalism you bring to the table is important."
If you're a creative professional looking for your first big job in the design field, visit The TCG blog for advice on crafting your resume and preparing your portfolio. You'll also find more recruiter tips to support your search.