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6 Reasons You’ll Never Get That Design Job

6 Reasons You'll Never Get that Design Job

I run my own business and I’ve been receiving unsolicited curriculum vitaes (aka resumés) almost every day for over a decade. I’ve seen it all, and as a potential employer, I can tell you where you’re going wrong. Read on to make sure you aren’t making these mistakes, or you’ll never get that design job…or any job for that matter.

1. You’re sending your email to the wrong person

If, for example, you’re applying for a graphic design job, and your email lands in the current graphic designer’s inbox…well, they’re not going to be particularly motivated to forward it on to their boss, are they? After all, you could end up stealing their job. More likely your email will end up in the same place they file their e-toll bills and ‘please outsource to us’ mails from India. That’s right – the trash…destined to become ones and zeros in digital oblivion.

So, who should I send my resumé to?

Ideally you want your resumé to go to the HR department, or if it’s a small company without such a department, to the actual head of the company. So, it’s worth scouring the company’s website for an appropriate email address. If you can’t find one on their website, a good idea is to search Google for vacancies for that particular company. If they’re currently advertising a position (or at some point in the past advertised a position), there’s a good chance said advert will have an appropriate email address attached.

Example of good sleuthing:

If the company you want to work for is Ogilvy (a well known advertising firm), then you would search Google for ‘Ogilvy jobs’ or ‘Ogilvy vacancies’. You’re likely to have a couple of hits from career and job search sites with past or present job listings. Check those out and grab the email address they used for those. Who knows, maybe you even get lucky and find a specific vacancy you can apply for. Failing that, if the company has a phone number listed, you could also phone and ask for an appropriate email address. Just don’t make a pest of yourself – an unsolicited phone call is a form of spam.

An unsolicited phone call is a form of spam. Click To Tweet

2. Your email is empty with just a c.v. attachment

This is like those guys who come to your gate and scream ‘JOB’. I don’t know if that’s a thing in other countries, but South Africans know what I’m talking about. They’re like the Jehova’s Witnesses of job seekers. I don’t begrudge them that. Times are tough. You gotta do what you gotta do, but if you can afford to send an email, you can afford to take 5 minutes and draft a polite intro for your resumé attachment.

If I get an attachment c.v. with no introduction letter, my first thought is ‘Um, who the hell do you think you are?’, and then I delete it. Your introduction doesn’t need to be a polished piece of literature, just polite, truthful and to the point. Something like the following might suffice:

Resumé introduction letter example

Dear Sir/Mam

Notice I did not say ‘Dear Sir’, like a chauvinist twat who can’t fathom his potential employer having a ‘gina.

I’m not sure if you have any openings, but if so, I would like to apply for a position as an xyz, or wherever I could fit into your company and help you with your workload.

Notice I did not say “I saw your position for xyz that I am applying for”. If no such job listing was placed, you look like a real chop by unnecessarily lying straight off the bat. You won’t believe how many people do this.

I am a hard worker, a fast learner, and I’m reliable.

It probably goes without saying that if you’re not those things, or at least don’t plan on trying to be those things, leave this sentence out. If you are, then absolutely add it. Apart from talent, these are the most important things a design employer wants, but saying you’re talented can come off narcissistic. Your work should speak for itself.

I’ve attached my resumé for your perusal. Please let me know if you require anything else.

Your Full Name

No beating around the bush there. Nice and polite. Also ‘perusal’ is a lovely word, is it not?

That’s all you need, but if you really want to be a classy arse-creeper, you could study their website and see if you have any skills they don’t offer. If so, you could mention the possibility of this new service they could offer their clients if they hire you. Just keep it polite and humble.

3. You include the wrong type or too many attachments

The other day I got an unsolicited job application that featured a menagerie of html and mp4 files totaling 34mb. I did not look at any of them, and here’s why:

aint nobody got time for dat

Also, viruses can be transmitted via html attachments, and why are you even sending me video clips?

For the best chance of having someone look at your resumé:

1. Limit File Size

Firstly ensure that the total sending size of the email is reasonable. I’m not going to say ‘use your discretion’ because apparently discretion, along with ‘common sense’, is a super power. Keep it under 5mb, preferably much smaller. Not everybody has high speed internet, and many web hosts limit the attachment size that an individual mailbox can receive. That means your intended recipient may never even receive your email if it’s on the larger size.

2. Send a Single PDF

Secondly ensure you attach only one file, preferably a pdf. Most people have neither the time nor the desire to look at your c.v., even less so if there are multiple files. The single file you attach also needs to be in a file format that most people can open. Word docs used to be the most common format for c.v.s but some design companies use exclusively Apple computers. I would imagine that many of these companies don’t have a means of opening Word docs, so at this time, the most accessible file type would be a pdf. Yes, everyone can open an html file, but most people won’t even get it because many web hosts automatically block them due to the risk of viruses.

3. Include Links to your portfolio – not your actual portfolio

Lastly, refrain from attaching or embedding examples of your work. This will drive the file size up and annoy your potential employer. You can always (and should) include links to an online portfolio instead. If you’re just starting out, you might not be able to afford your own hosted website or might not now how to go about obtaining a domain. The latter is not unusual – many design institutions don’t teach their students basic necessities like this…but that’s okay, there are many easy alternatives to hosting your own portfolio site:

  • Deviant Art is the largest online social network for artists and art enthusiasts, and a platform for emerging and established artists to exhibit, promote, and share their works.
  • Bēhance is the leading online platform to showcase & discover creative work. The creative world updates their work in one place to broadcast it widely and efficiently. Companies explore the work and access talent on a global scale.
  • Dribbble is a community of Web designers, graphic designers, illustrators, icon artists, typographers, logo designers, and other creative types that share small screenshots (shots) that show their work, process, and current projects.

4. You send a bulk mail c.v.

If I get a job request that is sent to ‘unspecified recipients’, I know your BCC field is full of email addresses, not just mine. If you’re applying for a job at five, ten or a hundred other agencies, I don’t really feel like you are that excited to work at mine. In turn, I’m in no great hurry to reply. In fact, I may not even see it, because your email has a much higher chance of being flagged for spam with multiple recipients.

Also the fact that you’re being blatant about casting your net wide tells me that you’re too lazy to send out individual emails. As the Bible says “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”. If you’re too lazy to put effort into your job search, it’s a given that you will be too lazy to do your actual job.

I Will Literally Stab You

Worse still are those who are yet to discover the BCC field and just dump my email address in the To or CC field with hundreds of others. Thanks for that moron, now a whole bunch of strangers with varying morals have a ready-to-go email list they can sell to some spamming cretins. You’re definitely not working for me…and I will cut you.

5. Your CV is poorly put together

You can tell a lot about a person by glancing at their resumé. I don’t mean actually reading it – I mean just looking at how it’s put together. What font they chose; How text is spaced and lined up; what extraneous decorative elements they’ve used, and so on. I’ve seen thousands of c.v.s from so called designers. Most of them are horrendous. You’d think it would go without saying that Comic Sans and any font that could be used for a child’s birthday party or taco stall is not appropriate for a resumé. Think again. Also…flowery clipart borders. I’m not even joking. If you’re guilty of this type of thing, you need to first get a design education before applying for a design job.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have those that put zero effort into it. Times New Roman; Headings the same size as the body copy, just bold; Misaligned bullets; Spelling mistakes. Come on! Don’t be a slapgat!

Make a better resumé

As a designer, you can either go with:

  1. Something professional, neat, clean, and understated.
    This speaks to your conscientiousness and attention to detail. There’s no excuse here because even if you’re too busy (I’m being nice and not assuming ‘lazy’) to design your own, there’s plenty of free templates available:
  2. Fully designed like a digital brochure.
    You’re a designer, so design your c.v. just like you would design a digital brochure for a client

6. You lied on your resumé

Back in the 1800’s when we still used telephones, I once got a call from another design agency who wanted to check a reference on someone’s resumé. The candidate had claimed in his c.v. that he had previously worked for my company…only he was a lying little shite. I had never heard of this person, let alone employed him. I told the other agency as much and I could hear they were pretty ticked off. I almost felt sorry for the applicant, but you know – you make your bed, you better be prepared to lie in it.

If you lack relevant work experience, you don’t need to resort to deviousness – just freelance for a while. If you can’t find clients, do free work for charities. Even though they never paid you a dime, these charities are now ‘clients’ that you can use as legitimate references. Don’t be a lying shite. As the well known French Proverb goes “Une bonne conscience est un doux oreiller” – there is no pillow as soft as a clear conscience.

There's no pillow as soft as a clear conscience. Click To Tweet


In South Africa, where I live, almost a third of the country is out of work. That means there’s a lot of competition for the same jobs. You can’t just send out a bulk mail c.v. and sit back thinking the offers are going to come rolling in. You need to ask yourself how are you a better candidate than someone else?

Maybe you’re not as educated or not as talented as your competition, but being polite, humble and willing to learn goes a long way. It starts right at the beginning with how you introduce yourself via email. Fortunately for you, lazy people probably won’t read this article, so if you’ve gotten this far, you at least have an edge over them. Good luck with the job hunt!

Article by Roxane Lapa of .COZA Web Design

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