Graduating soon? While it’s an exciting time — no more late-night study sessions or subpar cafeteria food — the post-college employment search can feel daunting. But do not fear. Here’s how to get your first job in the creative industry.

It’s a big, professional world out there, and there is no shortage of job opportunities for recent or soon-to-be college graduates looking to enter the creative field. At the same time, getting your foot in the proverbial door can be challenging if you don’t know how to sell yourself to hiring managers.

So, what matters most to employers today? In a survey by The Creative Group, advertising and marketing executives said they place the most weight on a candidate’s interview performance when hiring entry-level creative professionals. Resume ranked second and previous experience came in third. (See our infographic of the research below.)

Fortunately, you can prepare for meetings with hiring managers — whether in person or via phone or video — and get that much closer to landing an offer. And you would be wise to: Executives said they conduct three rounds of interviews, on average, with top creative candidates.

Here are some tips on attracting the attention of employers:

5 ways to get your first job

1. Cast a wide net when networking. Start spreading the word about your job search both online and off. You’ve no doubt heard it before, but “who you know” can be the key to landing your first job. Talk to friends, family, college professors, alumni members, neighbors — even the parents of your friends. Take advantage of professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, and join industry associations and groups relevant to your field. Request informational interviews with people in positions that you aspire to have one day. Briefly explain your qualifications and be specific about the kind of creative job you want. If you don’t ask (in a professional way), you don’t get — and you may be pleasantly surprised by others’ willingness to help.

2. Perfect your application materials. Nearly three-quarters of advertising and marketing executives surveyed by The Creative Group said they prefer to receive traditional resumes — that is, Word or PDF documents — from candidates applying for creative roles. The best resumes and cover letters are easy to read and highlight specific skills and achievements related to the open position. Research each employer so that you can customize effectively. Try to track down the name of the hiring manager so you can further personalize your pitch. Also, make sure that every piece of written communication, including thank-you notes, is error free.

3. Only show your absolute best creative work. Polish and (potentially prune) your portfolio. Some recent graduates make the mistake of trying to show employers their range by including far too many samples in their portfolio. Stick to sharing your very best work — eight to 12 items is generally good. If you’re not sure about a particular piece, leave it out. For more tips, check out our post on how to put together your first professional portfolio.

4. Do your homework before interviews. Peruse the company website and ask people in your network what they know about the position and company culture. If you know who you’ll be interviewing with, review the person’s LinkedIn profile. Prepare to answer the most common interview questions. If you’ll be presenting your portfolio, practice with friends and family before the meeting. You need to be able to effectively articulate your role in and the results of each project.

5. Be prepared to prove your technical proficiency. Employers know it’s not uncommon for job candidates to exaggerate on their resumes — and in-person assessments are one way they can validate applicants’ claims. In fact, 17 percent of executives surveyed by The Creative Group said they always include skills testing as part of their hiring process for creative roles; another 36 percent said they sometimes do. So don’t be caught off-guard if you’re asked to complete a test to prove you have it takes to do the job.

Read the infographic text.



The best resume format to use when applying for creative roles:

2018: 74%
2016: 78%
2013: 70%

Social or online:
2018: 9%
2016: 14%
2013: 4%

2018: 9%
2016: 3%
2013: 20%

2018: 7%
2016: 3%
2013: 2%

Some other format:
2018: 1%
2016: 0%
2013: 1%

Don’t know/no answer:
2018: 0%
2016: 1%
2013: 3%

3: Average rounds of interviews hiring managers conduct with top creative candidates

How often companies include skills testing as part of their hiring process for creative roles:

38% Rarely
36% Sometimes
17% Always
9% Never

What matters most when hiring entry-level creative professionals?

#1: Interview performance
#2: Resume
#3: Previous experience

Source: The Creative Group survey of more than 400 advertising and marketing executives.

Some responses do not total 100 percent due to rounding.

© 2018 The Creative Group. A Robert Half Company. An Equal Opportunity Employer M/F/Disability/Veterans.