Check out some great work from Klaus Rosburg.
AH: What kinds of portfolios get your attention these days? What brings in an industrial designer for an interview?
KR: The most important thing for me is a good attitude. If you work with somebody, especially on a small team, and the chemistry is not quite there, you feel it right away. It also has to be somebody who is diverse and flexible because we do so many different things. If someone just wants to do consumer electronic products, that’s just not happening in a small agency. One day the team might work on a packaging program, like a simple cardboard box, the next day on a lighting project or a toothbrush, so there’s a lot of shifting around. If designers are interested in just one specific category, they can get unhappy quite fast. A few times I preferred a designer who might have not had the best portfolio, but had the best attitude and was motivated and willing to learn.
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AH: What about the content itself, of the portfolios? What stands out? Have you seen a portfolio recently that resonated with you, and what about it stood out?
KR: I just looked at one today, which was exceptional. It was not only very professional, but also diverse. The candidate had not only worked in various countries and companies, but also successfully in different disciplines. She had worked in ceramics, tableware, and high-tech products in Shanghai, Germany, and New York. The portfolio certainly stood out, but not everyone will have such background, nor need one to land a design job.
The initial samples of work sent by email should stand out, but keep in mind, it is just the teaser. It only has to get my attention and open the door for a potential interview. It is important not to use all of your bullets at once and to keep some exciting things for the interview to talk about. The teaser should be a good selection of your best work illustrating your skills and creative style. It’s also very important that the selection of work you send really aligns with the company.
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AH: What are some reasons you have rejected a candidate?
KR: I had people coming into the interview with chewing gum in their mouth or a cup of coffee in their hand. You always wonder: “Okay, if they’re already so unprofessional in the interview, how professional will they be at work?” You would think it’s a basic thing, but it happened quite a few times. Some students are so convinced and full of themselves that they think they own the world, but the climate has changed. You have to be professional from the get-go. I also had students come in and they didn’t even bring their work. When I asked them about it, they told me to check out their website. This is a missed opportunity because I like to hear firsthand about the work and also see a designer’s presentation skills.
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Overall, I feel that most students who come to an interview are quite motivated to get started, but it’s a very competitive field right now. That’s why a book like yours is successful and helpful. Everyone is trying to grab any little straw and have the information at hand to walk out of the interview with a job offer. Many more graduates are looking for jobs than there are openings. You will have to be pretty much flawless and stand out.
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