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Things to consider when applying for a job at Initiate

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    Jennifer Herman

Hint: it involves some initiative

Having recently reviewed countless résumés with spelling mistakes along with portfolios, the ability to focus or pay attention to detail is becoming one of the most attractive skill sets to me as an employer. I’m sharing from the perspective of what Michael and I are looking for from people joining this team. These are some examples of simple things that are seemingly becoming less common but still relevant and will likely make your job-seeking easier.


Boring. I know. Old school? Not at all. As a designer, you need to be able to communicate. Be it Slack, email, text, or other means, be it internally or externally, the ability to communicate is one of the essentials. It also highlights another important skill, attention to detail. Catching your spelling mistakes, and having someone review your CV,  showcases that you care. Caring about the integrity of your work matters.

Research either the position or the company but preferably both

I appreciate the idea that you can ask questions in the interview, but I want to feel like you actively want to be a part of the team and a part of the culture. Wouldn’t you want to know who you’re working with or what might be expected of you? What kinds of projects you might be working on and for which clients? 

Be able to talk about the pieces in your portfolio

Seems obvious or maybe too simple. Tricky if you’re coming right out of school, I know, but you can be more creative with your response than “I created this because it’s what the prof asked for.” I get that. Talk about how you approached the assignment, was it difficult? Did you learn anything? And if your portfolio pieces are made up from other jobs, an answer beyond “The client asked for a website” is the answer we are really looking for. What problem did you help them solve? You’ve been given the chance to interview because of the caliber of your design. Your future success, particularly at a small agency like ours, is tied to your ability to communicate beyond colour and styling, what your designs can do for our clients, and how they meet their needs. Even if you never have the desire to be client-facing, you need to be able to communicate what you’re putting forth to other designers in-house or our creative director.

Ask questions. Please.

Benefits. Yes. Pay. For sure. This is your chance to assess us and see if you’d be a great fit. Does the culture jive? Who would you be working with? What would be your potential for growth? Do you get a say in what projects you work on? Training? Education? We’d really love for you to want to know and I, in particular, am looking for individuals who care about all this because it matters to us too.


As someone who gets used as a reference a lot, give the person the heads up that someone might be emailing/calling about your qualifications. I hate being caught unaware, particularly if it isn’t someone I’ve worked with recently. Give your references the chance to be prepared, or to let you know they can’t or don’t feel comfortable being a reference. The last thing you want is a potential new employer contacting someone who might not have the most glowing things to say about you. 

After over 25 years, I’ve interviewed plenty of people and have interviewed plenty of times as well. It’s so much easier when you’re prepared. A little homework upfront makes an already fraught situation that much more bearable. Best of luck in your search!