Questions about the Ethics of the Job Interview

I earned a BFA in Graphic Design many years ago (late 80s) at a very good school. I have had an eclectic career, including web design, illustration, logo design, print design, photography, videography and video editing, motion graphics, 3D modeling and animation.

Only a small portion (20%?) has been doing print design in a client based environment. Most of the past 20 years I have worked on my own as a freelancer, primarily web design and video with a little bit of print work.

I’m in the process of applying for a job as an in house graphic designer at a large non-profit. There would be a good deal of print work as well as presentations to in-house clients. I have just had the second interview and was asked about my approach to presentations. I fumbled a bit because I really have done very little formal or even informal presenting since my University days. I did not volunteer this fact and was not asked directly, but the interviewer (my prospective supervisor) clearly assumed I do have extensive presentation experience.

My questions:

  1. Since presentations are a significant part of the job, should I have explained my lack of experience in this?
  2. Since I did not reveal this, should I let the interviewer know after the fact by email that this skill feels like a weakness of mine? Or that I am not very experienced in it?
  3. Are there resources to learn/polish the skills of presentation of concepts and design ideas?

The position includes video work, motion graphics, illustration. I’m very well suited to Misty aspects of the job. But am worried about this one aspect and fulfilling expectations if I were to get the job. I don’t want to start under false pretenses, if I accept an offer.

By presentations are you talking about a) you personally making presentations or b) you designing presentations (e.g. PowerPoints)?

I mean me personally doing presentations to stakeholders within the organization. I.e. standing at the front of the room and presenting directions and ideas about the annual report design.

All you are doing is talking about the design of the annual report? What’s the difference between presenting an idea to a group as opposed to a single art director or client?

Well, Annual Report was just an example. There would be multiple presentations to various departments and others at the non-profit.

My graphic design work has been mostly solo since 2003 or so. And has often not included any presentations. What I’m talking about, and feel very rusty with, is the presentation of various design directions, Orr trying to educate stakeholders about design principles or potential approaches to a particular project or even overall concept:

“We chose this font to suggest the _____ of this and this color choice supports the tone and appeals to the target demographic.”

I’m not very skilled at such things. I have typically been the designer executing the work while someone else is the person at the front of the room selling the design.

I’m afraid you will be setting yourself up trying to preach to a committee. Hope you’re well compensated for.

Lots of people have a real fear of standing up and making presentations. I certainly do, but most presentations of the kind you’ve described are not like giving a TED talk or speaking to an audience behind a podium with a microphone.

The kind of presentation you’re referring to is unlikely to be a stand-up performance (I could be wrong of course, not knowing the exact situation). Most design presentations at the agencies and in-house situations where I’ve worked are a whole lot less dramatic than that.

Typically, it’s a group of people sitting around a conference table talking informally about various things. There’s usually someone in charge of the meeting (not typically the creative people). When it comes time in the meeting, the presentation is typically just a matter of showing the ideas you’ve developed (usually comped-up art boards or PowerPoint), explaining why you think your ideas will work and answering questions that people have. The questions are typically pretty basic, and since you will be answering questions about your work, they’re never difficult.

If you feel comfortable in that sort of a sitting-around-a-table setting, you’ll do fine if you prepare for it. You can’t just toss a bunch of stuff out onto the table and ask, “So, what do you think?”

Instead, you need to put your ideas into a format that looks like you’ve spent time on them, as in uniformly and neatly spray mounting your ideas onto coordinated matt boards or taking some time making a flashy PowerPoint deck or video (you mentioned having created videos).

Then it’s a matter of you checking off the list (seriously, it’s good to write down a list) of why your work is the practical and strategic solution to their problem and their concerns. For example, how it will engage and resonate with their specific target audience, how it will be within budget, or how it will successfully do other things related to the specifics of job. If you’ve done your job right as a designer putting time into solving the design problem, you’ll already have thought through all these things while designing the project. If you write down a bullet list of points you want to make, it’ll keep you from stumbling your way through it because you’ll always have that next thing on the list that you’re ready to say.

The biggest problem I’ve found with these types of presentations is managing to say everything I need to say before all the questions start being asked. Once the questions start, though, it gets easy and becomes just a matter of a back-and-forth discussion that enables you to develop a rapport with everyone and enables them to see you as a friendly, talented person whose judgment they can trust. Honestly, it’s not as difficult as you might imagine and will get easier the more you do it.

Thank you very much for this thorough answer. This is very helpful and reassuring.

My concern is also for having allowed the interviewer’s misinterpretation / misunderstanding / assumptions about my current skill set to stand without objection or clarification. I am pretty novice / rusty at doing those kinds of presentations, even casual ones, and I think I’m expected to hit the ground running.

So part of my question was: Do I owe the interviewer an admission that I’m rusty and inexperienced with such things. I understand what you mean about them getting easier over time, but the expectation is that I’m already comfortable with them.

I guess my implication, without explicitly stating it, was that you can probably successfully work your way through the first couple of presentations if your anxiety doesn’t get the best of you. If you’re reasonably articulate, can look people in the eye and speak with a confident voice, honestly, you should be fine. It’s just a matter of thinking it through, writing down a bulleted list for reference, and working your way through the presentation while answering questions. You don’t need to come across as a slick salesperson — just a competent designer.

If you think you can do that, I probably wouldn’t suggest bringing it up in a way that signals to the employer that there will be a problem. Casually mentioning being a little rusty might be fine, but make it seem like it’s not a big deal (unless, of course, you really think you’ll have a problem with it).

The job interview is a very similar sort of presentation, and it sounds like you’ve done OK there, right? Maybe the entire reason the employer brought it up is because you seemed a bit hesitant or timid during the interview. Could that be the case? If so, don’t do that at the next interview (practice).

The more likely case is that you’ve shown your work, made a convincing argument why you’re a good fit and answered their questions well enough that they’re still interested. I mean, it sounds like you’ve already sort of passed the presentation test.

1 Like

Thank you so much for your supportive and helpful reply. I’m sure I can make it work.

©2021 Graphic Design Forum | Contact | Legal | Twitter | Facebook