2008/07: Ask Me
Q&A 14 years ago No Comments

I am graduating from design school and am ready to start the interviewing process (very excited)! What is your suggestion on how to go about the process” I am interested in residential design. Do you typically call or go in person to talk to these potential employers” And what do you say” I don’t simply want to say, “Are you hiring”” Also, my city is having a parade of homes and I plan to go. Is this the appropriate time to ask the designers about job openings”

(submitted by Jeanna G.)

First off, congratulations on graduating! I know you are relieved, but maybe a little scared. As far as your questions go, my advice is this…

It’s always a risk to show up unannounced and expect to speak to someone who will be in charge of hiring – i.e., a designer in charge or a hiring manager. It will annoy them and they probably won’t be able to see you anyway. Plus, many residential designers work out of home offices, so it’s weird just showing up at their house. If you are looking at a firm that has an office, then you can definitely stop by, telling the receptionist, office manager, or whomever that you just wanted to drop off a copy of your résumé, electronic portfolio, etc.

Try to think of a way that it will stand out – either by the way that you package what you leave or a little trinket / gesture that you can leave behind. Be careful with this, though – you don’t want it to be too "cutesy" or over the top, and you definitely don’t want to spend much money. You may want to reserve this type of thing for a firm that you are really, really interested in.

The best thing to do is to call the designers/firms and ask if you can send a résumé. Be up front about it. Don’t be embarrassed to say that you’re looking for a job – that’s normal and expected. If they say “yes” to your sending the résumé, then ask to whom it should be addressed and confirm the address (that you’ve probably found on the Internet or in the phone book).

*. If you end up doing this, be sure that you’ve read every word on their website so that you can ask intelligent questions and not waste their time. If you make a good impression, then they’ll tag your résumé before they put it in their résumé file and reach for it when something becomes available.

*For good information on informational interviewing, look at the following links:
About.com: What is an Informational Interview and How it Can Help Your Career
About.com: Getting the Inside Scoop on an Occupation
Quintessential Careers: Questions to ask at the Informational Interview

When emailing, don’t just send a blind email with an attachment. People will think that it’s spam and either won’t open the email at all or will be afraid to open the attachment once they open the email. If, after you have spoken to the designer/firm to ask if you can send a résumé and they ask that you email it, then be sure to confirm the email address.

When you do send it, in the subject line put something like "résumé of Jane Doe," and in the body of the email refer to the conversation that you had with the person who said that you should send the résumé via email (i.e., "As per instructions from John Smith, whom I spoke to on May 31 at 3:30p, I am submitting my résumé…").

And, finally: Yes, you can definitely ask designers about job openings at the parade of homes. I would ease into it a little – i.e., introduce yourself, make a little chit chat, compliment them on something of theirs that you like (be sincere!), and then explain that you are a new grad and looking to land a position.

In fact, the more events and meetings that you can go to where you will be around designers, the better. Think professional organizations, tradeshows, design districts, lectures on architectural and design topics, and special interest groups, (like preservation and historical societies, museum / arts events and gallery openings, etc.).

Here’s a little secret: Ask lots of questions first and find out in what areas they are needing help – e.g., CAD, staying organized, writing and/or graphics help for marketing and/or presentations, keeping their library up to date, etc. – and then positively and casually explain to them how you can "solve their pain" by handling those items, freeing them up to handle other things. Everyone wants their pain relieved, so present yourself as human ibuprofen, and you’ll be sure to win them over.