Navigating the Design Job Market

June 12, 2023

While the current design job market is still considered a “candidates’ market,” employers are starting to show fatigue from the overall lack of professionalism in the marketplace. Although it depends on who you speak to, many job-seekers are likely to attest that the issue cuts both ways. That said, when you’re the one looking – and they’re the ones hiring – there’s no denying it’s the employer who has the upper hand.

Presenting oneself with the utmost professionalism, communicating effectively and responding promptly while using proper etiquette may all seem like common sense practices. Nevertheless, the feedback from employers these days tends to suggest otherwise. Below are a few pointers (and reminders) designed to help you interview in the best possible light, set yourself apart from other candidates and restore employers’ faith that great hires aren’t hard to find … especially when that individual is YOU.

• Keep resumes simple and accurate. Employers are looking for work history, technical skills and the basics of what you did in a job. They don’t need every single task, but they would ideally find anything that is listed in the job description highlighted in your resume. Keep formatting simple. Microsoft Word documents and PDFs are still best. Highly graphic resumes in advanced programs are great if you want to be a graphic designer but not so much for other positions. Resume scanners have a tough time reading advanced formats, and you wouldn’t want to risk yours going unseen by the right eyes merely because it wasn’t picked up by an algorithm.

• Be clear about what you want from your career and only apply for positions you are truly interested in that also correspond with your career goals. Do your due diligence and take the time to research the prospective firm. Be prepared to discuss why you want to work there.

• Realize that for the most part, employers want staff in person. While working remotely may be great for you in the short term, it probably will not benefit you in the long term. Additionally, try to join a firm where you can work for years to come not just one to be used as a stepping-stone. When the going gets tough, it’s the loyal employees who are retained.

• Check your spam folder and your voicemail regularly (Yes, people still call and leave messages!), and then respond in a timely manner. Answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize while you are actively searching.

• Show up early for the interview. Answer questions directly and efficiently rather than digressing and rambling. If you don’t know an answer, just say so. Don’t hedge. Tell the truth, because more employers (and recruiters) are not only checking but also testing design abilities and technical skills. Be honest and share the truth quickly; it makes everyone’s lives easier. Plus, it demonstrates that you respect other people’s time and value your own.

• Ask permission to speak with other employees at the firm to see what they have to say about working there and gain further insight.

• Send a follow-up note thanking the interviewer for their time and state the reasons why – or why not – the opportunity is right for you. Be honest about other opportunities you may have, thereby giving an employer a chance to proceed … or not … with your candidacy.

• Don’t ghost. That’s just bad form altogether.

• If you make a commitment, stick to it!

Remember, your next great opportunity in the design job market is right around the corner. All you need to do is stay focused, be organized, keep at it and try to relax.

You got this!

—By Lloyd Princeton, founder and principal consultant of Design Management Company. He is an expert in the field of architecture and interior design recruitment and management.