Editor’s note: Site links were updated in May 2011, but please let us know if additional information is out of date or inaccurate.
If you're looking for a design staff position, you'll be
researching opportunities in a number of different ways. In
addition to active personal networking and portfolio drop-offs at
local agencies, you'll be spending a lot of time checking for job
listings on the Internet. Here are some tips to help you with that
online research. Obviously, these tips also provide guidance for
studios posting positions.
Start by visiting the sites of specific companies that you'd
like to join. This is an especially good way to find out about
in-house positions because corporate hiring policies often dictate
that job openings be publicly posted. Simultaneously, these notices
may appear as classified ads in industry publications. To stay on
top of such listings, haunt the sites of the companies you're
interested in and watch the newsstand for the latest issues of key
The next step is to visit online job boards. This can be a
frustrating experience. Large, general interest sites are often
cluttered with out-of-date listings for positions that have already
been filled, and very few of the listings on the largest job sites
are for design positions. When an appropriate listing does come
along on one of the major sites, the competition can be
overwhelming-you may be one of several hundred people responding.
When you spot a new listing, it's important to respond promptly.
Send your information within one week of the posting date. If more
time than that has passed, the employer will have moved on their
hiring process. The typical cycle for employers looks like this: a
week or two of advertising, then a week or two spent screening
applicants and conducting telephone interviews, followed by a
couple of weeks of in-person interviews and negotiations, after
which the hire is completed.
When you submit applications online, often you won't receive any
acknowledgment that your information was received. Many large
sites use software to screen candidates, so it's very important for
each application to incorporate the keywords used in the job
listing itself. Most online job boards are free, but they require
candidates to go through a registration process. Instead of
allowing you to simply post your résumé, many require you to
complete a questionnaire. This allows them to standardize all
candidate information in a searchable database. Be cautious about
the personal information that you provide. To protect yourself
against hackers and the possibility of identity theft, do not give
your Social Security number, date of birth, or any personal
financial data. After registering with job sites, you may begin to
receive marketing messages and spam. To minimize this, you may want
to give job sites an e-mail address that you can later cancel after
you've landed a job. Also, some sites have a limited posting period
for candidate information. If you're still on the job market after
several months, you'll need to re-register if your original listing
Some job sites are general, while others are industry-specific.
For creative positions, it's best to start with sites that are
specific to design. Here are several that are hosted by industry
publications and professional organizations:
AIGA members can search this national job bank by state and by category. (Member portfolios are now hosted at porfolios.aiga.org)
This site is hosted by Communication Arts magazine. You can
search design jobs by region, category, and industry. You can also
post portfolio files.
This site features many industrial design job listings.
The listings here focus on environmental graphic design.
This is a searchable database of jobs in design, advertising,
and public relations.
HOW magazine hosts this searchable database of national
This is a searchable database of U.S. and international job
listings, primarily for industrial designers. You can also post
This publication has classified listings, mostly for advertising, marketing
and public relations.
This site features advertising jobs and industry news.
At this point in your job search, if you haven't found any
listings that interest you, the next step might be to begin
visiting large, general job sites. If you do, keep in mind the
drawbacks mentioned above. General sites include the following:
This site promotes itself as having more than one million job
postings and tens of thousands of résumés. You can set up automatic
notification of new listings that meet criteria you define.
This site has some listings for advertising and graphics. You
can block particular companies from seeing your résumé. This is a
great feature if you don't want your current employer to know that
you're thinking of leaving.
This is more of an online community, with lots of people looking
for apartments and romance. It does include chronological job
listings by area and category, but few are design-related.
This specialized search engine indexes help-wanted listings from
hundreds of sources. You can filter the results using many
This is another specialized search engine that checks for
listings on other sites.
When you spot a job listing that interests you, your next step
should be to research that employer. Visit their own site for
background information including their size, services, and clients.
Do a search on Google for recent news stories about them. Many
design firms also have profiles in online business directories such
as the following:
Profiles can be searched by name, location, or design
This is an international directory of Web design and development
You can search marketing and advertising agencies by type,
location, size, or client industries.
Limited information is available for free. Payment is required
for the full directory, which contains detailed profiles of 6,400
agencies, PR firms, and media buying services.
Learning more about the employer will help you to customize the
cover letter and résumé that you send. It will also give you a
better sense of how you might edit the contents of your portfolio
to match the firm's activities. Finally, learning more about the
company is great preparation for an interview. Not only can online
research turn up a job opportunity, it can make you a stronger
Shel Perkins is a graphic designer, management consultant and educator with more than twenty years of experience in managing the operations of leading design firms in the U.S. and the U.K. He has served on the national boards of AIGA and the Association
of Professional Design Firms. He has been honored as an AIGA Fellow "in recognition of significant personal and professional contributions to raising the standards of excellence within the design community." The third edition of his best-selling book, Talent
Is Not Enough: Business Secrets For Designers, is available from New Riders.
This article addresses some basic issues related to employment agreements, as well as extra components that you may encounter.
Section: Tools and Resources -
compensation, human resources
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As the largest professional association
of designers in the world, AIGA is committed to advancing the value and
impact of design, both locally and globally, and working together to
inspire, support and learn from each other, at every stage of our
careers. Whether you're an established designer looking to give back or a
student just starting out, there's a membership level for you.
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