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Any company concerned with boosting conversion rates on their website, increasing brand awareness, and enhancing user experience knows that a great design intern is worth his or her weight in salt. That said, employers struggle to locate top design students who come equipped with the perfect storm of technical skill, marketing sensibility, and cultural fit. Here are some tips for impressing a design company’s hiring manager:
Take Center Stage
In lieu of traditional cover letters and resumes, your application materials should be vehicles for your design talent. One of our employers, Zoli Honig of Chalkable promised, “If you are applying for a design internship, and your resume is a word document in Times New Roman, I won’t even consider you.”
Sounds harsh, but taken in a wider context of creative cover letters, it’s sage advice. Last year, thirty companies from 500 startups banded together to “Kill the Cover Letter“. This challenge asked for students to use blogs, social media, personal websites, and other platforms to express why they were the best candidates for the job. If you need inspiration, look no further than “Dear Instagram,” one design hopeful’s sleek and informative website-cum-resume.
Be a Winner
Some employers also host contests to gauge their candidates’ design aptitude. This may entail anything from creating a promotional flyer to building a new landing page. For a more interactive experience, brands may make these entries available for the public to see, vote, and comment on. The upside of these contests is that–in contrast to a portfolio–the employer sees how students fare on interpreting instructions, working on a deadline, and designing with the company’s branding in mind.
One prominent example of this is the Society of Publication Designer’s Student Design Contest. Each year, SPD challenges students to create magazine spreads in several categories for the chance to win cash, Adobe software, publication, and a summer internship at a top New York City magazine like Sports Illustrated or Martha Stewart Living.
Savvy employers network with the arts department at local universities to reach talented students enrolled in design classes or supporting design clubs. It ups your chances of being recruited if you’re involved off campus, as well: companies maintain a presence at local galleries, workshops, and studios for sponsorship opportunities.
To keep you plugged into the arts community, some employers offer a professional development fund that you can put towards purchasing new tools or programs, attending conferences, or subscribing to design magazines. This is an alternative to hourly compensation that feeds into your creative cycle—take it as a company investment on your continued growth!
As a design intern, you have a lot to bring to the table. Make sure you arrive at that table by monitoring job boards, tailoring your resume, entering design contests, and participating in your local arts organizations.
This article was written by guest blogger Jenny Xie. Jenny is a writer, blogger, and content marketer for InternMatch. If you have any questions for Jenny, you can write them in the comments section.