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6 Tips every creative should know when job hunting

6 Tips every creative should know when job hunting

At EF Education First, we take being creative very seriously. While education is our mission, creativity is the fuel for everything we do to achieve it. With studios, product teams, research and innovation labs worldwide, our creatives work to define what the future of language, education, travel, and culture exchange looks and feels like. This work is never ending, and that is exactly why we are constantly pushing boundaries to innovate and create.

How do we do it? It all comes down to our people. Our global creative teams are multitalented and multicultural, and work together across time zones to transform vision into action. Fueled by our mission of opening the world through education, all EF creatives have their own individual stories and paths to joining the company – and each have their own lessons they’ve learned along the way. We chatted with some of our creative leadership and asked them to share what tips they think every creative should know when looking for a job. Here is what they had to say:

Present your work clearly

1. Present work clearly

Jo, Head of the Hong Kong Creative Studio, says she screens candidates by viewing their work online to determine who she will invite in for an interview

“The resume will be your first impression to a hiring manager who most likely has been reviewing hundreds of other resumes at the same time. Make sure you devote your time, attention, and personality into them. If I see typos, rough kerning, bad alignment, or just generic templates—I generally have to pass so I can focus on the candidates that put in the time and effort.” – Adam, Associate Creative Director, EF Educational Tours, Boston

“When you are seeking a creative role, your portfolio is everything. In fact, it is almost the ONLY thing. I am looking for an online portfolio (no PDFs or dropbox links to huge files) that’s clean, well-organized, thoughtfully curated, and gives me a full view into who you are, the work you’ve done, and how you approach what you do.” – Andrew, Vice President, Marketing & Creative, EF Gap Year, Boston

“Don’t cram everything you have ever done into your portfolio. Get a lot of outside opinions on your work, both fellow designers and non-designers. Just because you designed something, doesn’t mean it’s the best showcase of your work. Go into a job interview with a portfolio that suits the job you are going after and is a good reflection of you.” – Rachel, Publications manager, EF Language, Taipei

“Sweat the details like thumbnails. If they look well designed – simple, clean, interesting – I then begin to dive down into the work. If the thumbnails are covered in text or are boring and un-interesting, I skip over it. Remember, I’m looking at a list of candidates that can be over 100 people long so I’m ripping through the work. Good work rises to the top and just like good marketing/advertising out in the world, it should stand out visually and conceptually. If your work isn’t standing out in a field of 100 people, how can I expect what you’re going to do for our company to stand out.” – Randy, Executive Creative Director, EF Educational Tours, Boston

“I’m curious to see what you do when you’re your own Creative Director. Across your website, if I don’t get a sense of who you are, then I assume you don’t actually like advertising, because that’s a missed opportunity to brand the heck out of a product I assume you believe in: yourself.” – Kim, Associate Creative Director, EF Educational Tours & EF Explore America, Boston

Be comfortable talking about yourself (and your work)

2. Talk about your work and yourself

Helena, Managing Director of EF’s Global Creative team encourages candidates to “do something to stand out and make me interested in you as a person not just as a professional”

“The art of an interview is as much as a skill to learn as your creative skills. Practice, do your research, and come prepared.” – Adam

“I’m often more interested in what drives people personally, their interests and passions, over their commercial work. Often, that’s what makes them stand out.” – Jo, Head of Hong Kong Creative Studio, Hong Kong “I like dialogue, not a one-sided conversation, so I always try to break the ice first and if I see that person I am interviewing is stressed. Interviews can be hard and awkward, and many designers are introverts, so I always try to help them to open up.” -Lukasz, Integrated Art Director, EF Global Creative, Lucerne

“Assuming the portfolio is there, you have the practical skills, and the work is demonstrably good, then it’s all about your creative DNA and how you think. Great creatives are often voracious consumers of ideas and culture and information and experiences because they know that the vaster and more varied their library of mental reference points, the more effective they will be at seeing the shape of a problem and finding a great creative solution. In interviews, I am always trying to get a sense of how they consume and how they stay inspired. What do they read, watch, or listen to? What are they passionate about or geek out about? The more spiky and layered a person and their interests are, the better they will be as a creative.” – Andrew

“So many times I see books or portfolios of people who claim to be a writer and a designer and a photographer. NOPE. NOPE. NOPE. I know immediately, after years of looking at books that if a candidate claims to do all of these things, they are typically below average at all of these roles. I’m an art director by trade. I can write headlines and copy but I would never claim that I am a writer. I have an understanding of what’s needed for great copy, but I don’t practice that craft enough to reliably be called a writer. I am an art director. That is my focus and I make it my craft. My advice: Pick a lane. Take a stand. Claim a space. Lead with who you are and what you do. And then if you are good at photography, great, feature it in your book, but don’t tell me you’re a photographer /copywriter… I will immediately be suspect.” – Randy

Show what you are passionate about

3. Show what you are passionate about

One of EF’s video teams out at a shoot in Peru

“Talent gets you in the door, but passion is what will get you the job. Someone who truly loves what they do and are passionate about growing, learning, and pushing every project is infectious. It’s not only great for that role but makes the health of the whole team that much better.” – Adam

“Learn how to tell your story better. It’s a more natural thing to do for some than others, and there is not a magical universal formula to follow. It is something that wasn’t taught to me in-depth at the time, but I’ve continued to grow this ability over the years.” – Jason, Design Director, EF EdTech, London

“For me, it’s passion and positivity that is most important. Even if there are some gaps in your knowledge, with the passion for what you do, you will be motivated to learn and fun to work with. With that – when you talk about your experiences, don’t just talk about what you did but why it was meaningful for you. What was exciting, painful, scary? We want to understand you as a person. -Tim, Creative Director, EF EdTech, London

A good attitude goes a long way

4. A good attitude goes a long way

Reviewing images during some downtime on set in Hong Kong

“The number one thing I look out for, is how humble is a person. You can have incredibly strong opinions but be humble in how you deliver them. You can be a team leader, but humble in your team receiving the praise. You can be just starting out your career, fully embracing any and all design challenges, but be humble to say, “I don’t know, can you help me?”. You can be a great visionary, but be humble and say, “hey, actually, you’re right.” I know you’ll be a great add to the culture and the team.” – Jason

“Failing is part of the creative job description – by trial and error, you can get to great places. If you keep too safe and always know what you are doing, you will only end up where you have already been. Let the process and method guide your work, and even if you don’t know where you will end up, you know it is a place where you eventually want to be. Be open about what you don’t know, but be clear on how you can acquire knowledge and solve problems.” -Stefan, Product Lead, EF Global Creative, Lucerne

“What types of values a person can bring to the team, what type of cultural impact they would have on it. How the alignment of values, beliefs, and behaviors looks like between our company and the person we want to hire. If we share them, that it’s a match. If we want to build a great TEAM, we need to focus on this strongly.” – Lukasz

“I look for passion and curiosity. If you are a creative who loves what you do, you will always look for ways to improve and be curious about other people’s opinions and methods. With these people on board, magic happens.” – Helena, Managing Director, EF Global Creative, Lucerne

What drives managers crazy?

5. What drives managers crazy

Colleagues from Boston, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Lucerne came together for a Design Jam in 2019 to work on a creative challenge for 3 days

“Lack of attention to detail (i.e. getting my name, title right in the cover letter). Someone who monopolizes the conversation and doesn’t ask questions.” – Jo

“I think the biggest turnoff for me is arrogance. And I don’t want to mix that up with confidence. When someone gives off the impression that they have nothing left to learn, it’s an immediate turnoff. Creative is an ever-evolving art and science. In order to succeed, you need to be a student for life.” – Adam

“My biggest pet-peeve when it comes to hiring is not getting a feel, or understanding, for a person’s purpose for design (and how that relates to broader parts of their life) and their desire to continue to learn and be curious about the world around them. We really do have an amazing job, to imagine, craft and create a better world or to ‘simply’ make someone smile. It is infuriating if someone doesn’t demonstrate this in any way – I want to ask them ‘what stopped you from realizing this?!’ – Jason

“Be honest – if it’s a big project, we don’t expect you to have done everything – so tell us the part you played. I have had portfolios come through that I categorically know are highlighting someone else’s work – that’s an instant black mark.” -Tim “Again, be as personal as possible. Don’t tell me you like reading and travel, tell me the book or city that profoundly changed the way you think. Don’t be just another good candidate – do something to stand out and make me interested in you as a person and not only as a professional. Talk about what you want to do and where you want to go, not only where you have been.” – Stefan

Final advice?

6. Final advice

Across our creative locations worldwide you’ll find product teams, studios, research and innovation labs

“Good advice for young designers: work hard. Learn from your colleagues and managers, absorb as much you can. Look around and analyze. Everything is designed and we can always improve it.” – Lukasz

“Ask for feedback. If something hasn’t worked out this time, it’s a great opportunity to learn and iterate on how you show up.” – Tim

“Don’t think the only way you can be a great designer is if you have a degree. You can demonstrate your results, drive, determination, and experience in other ways a certificate can’t. ” – Jason

“Be hungry. Be curious. Be yourself. Don’t be static for a moment.” – Rachel