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Top 10 Questions To Ask An Employer During an Interview

Preparing for an interview can be stressful and intimidating, especially if it is for a position that you truly care about getting. Most people focus on how to answer questions that are most likely going to be asked, which is a great idea. However, it is equally important to know what questions to ask the interviewer to make sure that you are a good fit for the position and that you will enjoy the work environment in the long run.

  1. How will you define success for this roll?

    Knowing how the company will define whether you are successful or not can take a lot of stress off of your plate. Asking this during the interview process is great because it will let you know ahead of time if you are likely to survive and thrive at the company, or if you aren’t going to last long at all.

  2. Where do you see your company in the next 5 years?

    Sound familiar? This all too common question that employers ask employees is just as valuable for you as it is for them. Knowing what their plans and goals are will help you realize if this position truly does fit in with your personal and life goals. Don’t be afraid to ask, but if they aren’t sure how to answer, be cautious. This question can also help you better answer their same question for you, if you know where they are going to be in 5 years, you can align your words with their description.

  3. What role does this position play in the success of the company?

    Knowing where your position fits into the company should give you some insight into your position and how well you will perform at the company. If the position doesn’t seem to have much weight at the company, be prepared to be put on the backburner and left out. If the position is more vital at the company, be prepared to take on lots of responsibility and accountability.

  4. What kind of personality traits indicate that someone is a great fit around here?

    Ask what kind of personalities fit in best with the company. No one really wants to work at a company where they don’t fit it, so its best to know ahead of time.

  5. What do you enjoy most about working for this company?

    This question can give you insight into some of the intangibles or subtleties about the company that you may not have been aware of. Asking this will also give you some insight into your interviewer and what they like, which may help lead to some friendly talk in the interview, which is always a plus.

  6. Is there opportunity for growth?

    No one wants a dead end position, so you better find out if that is what you are getting yourself into. If the position has no room for growth, you likely want to start asking why and why not. If the answers scare you, it may be time to politely excuse yourself from the interview.

  7. What are your company’s biggest challenges?

    Asking this question shows the interviewer that you are interested in the company and shows that you are ready to help. In addition to that, knowing this can help you identify and inefficiencies in the company, and if you can help solve those, you have something powerful to talk about with the interviewer.

  8. Why is this position vacant?

    It is always wise to ask why the position is not currently filled. Knowing how the previous person was let go can give you insight into what things the company will not tolerate in the position. It can also give you some insight into the sanity of the company, if they have a high turnover rate or have fired people for some ridiculous reasons, you may want to continue your job hunt elsewhere.

  9. Where are the successful people who used to hold this position now?

    Knowing where the people who you used to hold the position you are seeking is great insight into where you may be headed if you get this position. If they all got fired, you know what is likely in store for you. If many of them have advanced through the company or moved on to other companies with equal or better roles, that is a healthy sign.

  10. Do you see any reasons why I wouldn’t be fully qualified for this position?

    Ask direct, ask bluntly. This question will probably throw off your interviewer a bit, but you are well within reason to ask this question. If this interview doesn’t work out, at least you will know what you need to get the position you are going for, at the next place. If you do end up getting hired or considered, you know what you need to take care of right away.

  11. (Bonus) What is the typical process for someone in this role?

    Asking what the job will be like often gets you a response that is far off from the reality of the position, that is why I like to hone in and ask what the process will be like. This forces the interviewer to give you a better idea of how they are used to the job being performed, and thus, will better answer your question of what your actual role at the company will be. If you are filling a new position, ask what they think your process will be. This can help set a more realistic idea of what can be done in a day if they are way overboard, or you can give them some insight into why you think a different process would be better, which will usually impress them.

What are your favorite questions to ask during an interview? Post yours in the comments to get the conversation started.

Look Stupid To Get Ahead

This article will take a brief look at how appearing stupid on occasion is actually a good thing.

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So, how can being stupid help you get ahead at work? Simple, looking stupid is only a momentary state and not having a fear of being looked at as a stupid person for a few moments helps you to keep good, creative ideas flowing so that you don’t hold back any good ideas.

Most of us have a fear of being seen as stupid by our peers when doing certain things such as presenting new ideas or even just dancing in front of your friends. This fear can make people hold back a significant amount of their talents and ideas, even when these things may be considered great by the people around the person. People who can get past this fear of momentarily looking stupid in front of their peers are often able to bring a lot of great talent and ideas to the table. They are not afraid to that they might look stupid for five minutes if they present this idea, instead, they just present it.

Fear is one of the only human limitations. This emotion and state of mind have some of the most damaging control of the entire human species and is often responsible for the majority of our set backs and other bad parts about human nature in general. People who can get past their fears can get past anything.

“Fear is the mind killer.”
– Dune

Next time you are at work and you have an idea, don’t be afraid to share it, no matter how stupid you may think you’ll look. Even if your idea is stupid, you might inspire someone else to have an idea that is great. At the very least, you will know that the idea is stupid and you can examine why it is in order to come up with more ideas that aren’t as stupid. Letting fear get in your way of sharing ideas, information, and talents is attributable to some of the most significant amounts of lost productivity and creativity in the work place.

Don’t be stupid, share your ideas even if they may make you look stupid every now and then.

How To Land Your First Paid Design Gig

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As a freelance designer and advertising student, I often get asked by other students how I find work. The truth is, I have lots of ways I find freelance work, but it’s been a journey getting to where I am today. I suppose the best way to tell any students (or anyone) seeking to find their first gig, is to introduce you to some ways to start out.

Since you haven’t had a paid gig yet, chances are your portfolio isn’t to sharp either, if you even have one. With that said, your target audience for clients is obviously not going to be Apple or Nike, so where should you start?

Talk with your friends. Let them all know that you do design, you will be surprised with some of the responses you will get. Are any of your friends in a band? Design a logo, posters, t-shirts, CD covers, or whatever else they might need. I know people who have done work for a church or similar group they are with. It might not necessarily be paid work, but you can usually get a nice dinner or something similar out of it. Just let your friends know what you do and that you are looking for design projects. Make sure you post your new designs to your Facebook, Twitter, and/or blog so that your friends can see them, it will help keep your name in the back of their minds in case an opportunity ever arises.

The next place I started was 99Designs. It’s not a great way to get consistently paid work, but it certainly can put you in your place. As a student, you often think you are much better than you actually are. Enter a few contests here and see if you can win. I can almost guarantee that you won’t win your first few (or 20), but you will definitely learn how to gauge your experience and skill level. It can also help you make some nice things to put in your portfolio that can help you land paid gigs down the road. The point here is that you can gain real experience and see where your skills might be lacking, all with the chance to get paid if you are actually any good.

The next place I went to after that was Craigslist. It doesn’t seem like the ideal place to look for design work, but as a student or someone who is just starting out it can be the perfect place to look for work. Most people who use craigslist to find designers are usually very concerned about their budget, and therefore more willing to use students to do their designs. This is perfect for you. Here you can take your first baby steps into the freelance design world. You will learn how to negotiate prices, deal with clients, experience the real world design process, and even make a little money.

After all of this you should have a decent portfolio worked up. Set up a website or check some other sites to host your work. Start promoting it through social media and real life networking (now that you have experience doing that already it shouldn’t be to hard to take it to the next level). Touch base with some of your past clients on occasion to see if they ever need any more design work like business cards, logos, web sites, promotional items, or whatever else you can help them with. Keep working at it and more clients will come.

See how some other designers found their first clients.

or

Check out this great list of other websites to find design work!

Now that you have heard how I started out getting paid design work, it’s time for you to start sharing your experiences below in the comments section.

Get Clients To Take You Seriously As A Professional Design Student

serious-designer

As a design student myself, I understand the frustrations students can have with getting clients to take us seriously. So often, they want you to do a project for free (which you should if you don’t have a solid portfolio) and then add more and more to the project to the point that it never seems to end. It’s not fair for them to expect so much for nothing. So how do you get these clients to treat you more like a professional, and pay you?

Have professional work.

This means that, at first, you need to take those free projects that we are trying to avoid. Also, take advantage of the projects you do in school and make sure all of your work is top notch. Talk with your teacher and see if you can do something slightly different in order to fill a void or add more work to a certain style of work you want in your portfolio. Most teachers in a design school will be willing to let you do this, just ask. Partner up with other students at your school who can bring something else to the table. If you are great at making designs and layouts, but not so good at crafting beautiful headlines, team up with another student who is great at making copy and headlines. Doing this will help both of you out, and can often lead to more, and better, work in both of your portfolios as you bounce ideas off of one another.

Take yourself seriously.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “fake it till you make it?” Well, faking or fooling people into thinking you are a worthy designer is certainly not a good idea and you will get exposed for it. The lesson to take from this is to know that while in the beginning, when you are getting your first paying clients, it’s ok to pretend (a little) like it isn’t your first time. Doing this will often help ease the clients mind, and it should help make everything run smoother for you.

Act professional.

This means dressing appropriately for a client meeting. Sure, some clients won’t mind if you show up at the local sandwich joint wearing some ripped jeans and band t-shirt, but many would likely prefer you to show up at the local Starbucks wearing a nice pair of pants and button up shirt. Make sure you know your client and what kind of demeanor they are going to expect, this will help you start things off in the right direction. Once you get passed the initial handshake, your stunningly good looks won’t be able to get you through the rest of the meeting. Make sure you speak professionally when talking with your clients, this is not a game of Halo 3 online where you can say whatever you feel like at the moment. Know the industry lingo, but also know that your client won’t know everything (or anything) that you are saying to them and be prepared to simplify what you mean. Do your research before the meeting and try to come up with answers ahead of time for any questions you think your client might have.

Business Cards.

These are something that can really make your client feel like you aren’t a just a student, but rather, a professional designer who takes themselves seriously. How many students do you know with business cards? Probably not many. How many professionals do you know with business cards? Just about all of them. It may seem like something so little and insignificant, but it really can help you make your impact on the client. Make sure you include at least the basic information on your business cards such as your name, phone number, and email. As design students, I would recommend that you do something extra to really spice up your business card and leave an impression.

Show them the goods.

This means create a good-looking portfolio site. You spent all that time making all that great work, now you need to show the world! Well, let’s at least make sure we show your (potential) clients first. If you know web design and some coding, I really recommend that you build your own site, it’s another portfolio piece that doubles as your portfolio. If you are a student that doesn’t know much about web design, I suggest that you network through your school and find someone that can help build you a worthy site. If you aren’t someone who is web savvy and you can’t find another student that’s willing to help you, it’s ok, just make sure that you find a good template to work with. Also, instead of making your own site you could try sites such as Behance or deviantART. Remember this is where a lot of your clients and potential clients are going to judge you as a designer, so make sure that your site shows off your work in the best possible way. Your site should have an about section as well as a contact page with a simple contact form. Doing this can really help reassure your clients that you are the right pick and it makes it easy for them to get a hold of you to take the next step.

Use questionnaires.

Send these to your clients before you start working on your projects. It saves you a bunch of time doing research, and it helps the client really think about what they want. Asking the right questions can show the client that you are taking the project seriously and can help convey that you actually care about what you are doing in a professional manor.

Contracts.

These can be your lifesaver. Do you remember those clients who love to add on more requirements as the projects go on just because you are doing free work? Well, having a contract can help save you from having to deal with that, or at least make sure that you are getting compensated for it. Having a contract lets your client know that you are serious and you mean business.

Charge appropriately.

Since you are just starting out, realize that you aren’t going to make the big bucks right away, so don’t charge $500/hr for your first project. It is your time, charge what you are worth. If you really don’t have a clue what to charge, check out some of the links below.

Set up a payment system.

After you have figured out how much you are going to charge, it’s time to figure out how you are going to collect that money. Unless it’s a close friend or family, you will rarely get cash as a form of payment. Many designers are using Paypal to accept payments, because it is simple, instant, and hassle free. Still others prefer checks or bank transfers to avoid the Paypal fees. Find something that will compliment your workflow and style of business. When charging a client for your work, it’s best practice to collect 50% upfront before you start the project. This can help save your butt if something happens to the client or they change their mind. How you collect the rest of the money depends on the situation and how you want to handle your business.

Other Tips for Design Students