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How to Make Sure You Stand Out in Your Job Applications

We’re delighted to welcome Joel Rosen, Co-Founder and Creator of Briefbox as a new guest author to the blog. Briefbox is an ever-growing online library of practice briefs and helpful resources for designers. It was launched by Joel (Creative Director of Orca Design) after he became increasingly unimpressed at how many portfolios and job applications lacked design work which emulated real client briefs. Briefbox offers recent graduates a chance to work on realistic briefs and gain feedback from designers. 

Keep an eye out for more guest author pieces from the Briefbox team! 

I’m the director of a design agency here in the UK called Orca Design. I set up the company over 7 years ago and today we have 8 staff members and have managed to build up a great collection of clients. Design in my city of Bristol is super competitive as it is in many other creative cities around the globe and that means there’s a whole bunch of people job hunting and looking for applications at our agency every year.

Every day of my working week is extremely busy—managing existing clients, looking for new ones and working on multiple projects we have on at the studio. Although most creative directors completely understand the importance of putting time into young talent and potential candidates, unfortunately as they get busier this becomes more and more difficult. The first thing that stands out to me when someone applies to my agency is how easy they make it for me to learn about them, their creative talent and how they could fit into my agency creating work that keeps my clients happy.

Over the years, I’ve seen some pretty crazy application tactics.

Someone once sent me their wife’s car key, insisting that I let them come and meet me so they can pick it up…

Suggesting that whilst here they may as well have an interview—talk about inviting yourself! We’ve had people create a full custom brand and packaging set for a made-up tea company, all about hot teas for creativity, with each different flavour representing a different style of design. However this candidate didn’t offer any links to their portfolio or other relevant work to the style of work we offer at our agency.

Unfortunately, neither of the above candidates made it in for an interview. That’s not to say that another design agency somewhere or director wouldn’t have been impressed by their efforts, but it just wasn’t right for us. If you want to make an impact with your application, here is my three super simple tips of how to stand out and land that internship or design job:

1. Have awesome design work with quality over content

This goes without saying, but don’t start sending your CV and portfolio out until you’ve dedicated the time to actually improving your design skills. If you’re looking for an internship, it’s fine if you have no real agency or client experience, just include your best personal work that you have spent time on to make it stand out and be honest about it. I’m always impressed by a potential candidate who has spent their free time working on made up or personal projects. If you’ve got lots of freelance experience, include your best work and just show the highlights to condense your portfolio down. Think quality over quantity and always make sure you target your selection of projects included to suit the agency your approaching—which leads to me my next tip.

2. Show work that has the same vibe as the agency

If there’s only thing you focus on when approaching potential agencies it’s this. The agency needs to see creative evidence that you can create design work that suits their client’s needs. Often, an agency (especially cool ones ? ) will have their own unique style that helps them to stand out or is what has led them to become successful. If your an awesome Illustrator specialising in pen & ink or other traditional techniques, don’t waste your time sending your CV, a cover letter and portfolio out to an agency who has a portfolio of 99% app development projects.

Target and tailor your portfolio and CV to the company your approaching and you’ll be on the right track to landing that gig.

3. Keep it simple and make it easy for the viewer to learn about you

This leads me back to what I mentioned before about the applicant who created a full set of tea packaging as an attempt to get work in my agency. Whilst my team and I appreciated the effort this applicant had gone too and did think it was pretty impressive, it was difficult to learn about them. Essentially they had tried to showcase their skills over small panels of tea packaging, but it left little space for nice large shots of actual design work and a clear and easy to read set of points, or even a paragraph introducing themselves.


It’s fine to push the boundaries and create something unique that stands out, but keep in mind that workplaces do still want to see clear, large shots of awesome work that relates to their studio and its client’s needs. We also want to be able to learn about you, your passion and why your right the for the job in an easy to understand manner. If you stick to those three tips, work hard at improving your design skills and be persistent—it will pay off!

Exciting news: Shillington students to get 40% off any Briefbox plans using code BBSHILLY40

Illustration: “I’m glad that we matched” by Whitney Anderson

We’re lucky to have had a host of talented guest authors feature on our blog. There’s inspiring #Shillumni advice on networking from Gerald Torto, aspirational career advice from Alec Dudson of Intern and productivity tips from the lovely team at MOO.  

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