Algy Batten — Fivefootsix
A good CV may help you get attention in the first instance, especially if you have worked at, or had placements with good agencies. But the typographic attention to detail in the CV can often let people down, and a lot of candidates now feel the need to ‘jazz’ up the CV and over-design it. But as we all know good design can be as much about what you decide to leave out as well as put in. Personally I prefer a very clear, concise CV, and the same goes for the portfolio. I think the work should be what stands out.
But to be honest, the portfolio PDFs that we are sent are generally where I look first (assuming I've been sent both), then if the work excites me I’ll look at the CV to check their experience; as long as it’s not in Word!
We’re actually recruiting for a middle weight and senior designer at the moment and, ironically, even though there is probably a greater wealth of info on the CV at that stage in one’s career, it’s still the portfolio I’m more interested in.
I’m not sure I’m aware of a common mistake people make when applying for jobs, but a generic email that looks like it’s had the send button hit numerous times does't usually get a response. I have had a few of those where they've forgotten to change the name too!
As for during the interview itself, I believe a little bit of attention to your personal presentation is still relevant even in today's more relaxed environment. We had one chap turn up chewing gum, not the end of the world perhaps, but in talking us through his portfolio it shot out of his mouth and landed on his laptop! Maybe only Alex Ferguson should be allowed to chew gum in a professional arena?
I would say overselling is worse than underselling. Overselling, if your design skills can't live up to the promise suggested by ‘your’ portfolio, will always end in disappointment for both parties. If someone joined us through overselling it would soon become apparent, and then everyone’s time has been wasted. If you undersell, the work speaks for itself, and will do the selling for you. By underselling I don't mean having a poorly produced portfolio though, there's no excuse for that.
I'm always impressed by people who are eager to improve themselves. As designers we should never stop learning and developing our skills, we should be as passionate about this as when we were at college. Although these days for me it’s my business skills as much as the design that I'm learning about, and so this year I'm sending myself to Cranfield School of Business. Watch this space Richard Branson!
Would I give feedback on interviews? Yes if asked, but if there was something that really stood out that we thought would benefit that candidate in the future we would definitely say something. I think it's important to be honest. In today’s world we can all be a little too tactful and it doesn’t always benefit, and if delivered with a little compassion talking straight can be much more positive. I think Noel Gallagher has a good quote on that, but I can't remember it!
Fivefootsix is an independent design consultancy of 9 people founded by Directors Algy Batten and Mark McConnachie in 2005. We’re based in London and we work across a diverse range of sectors, including, retail, technology, leisure and charities, providing creative solutions across a broad range of disciplines such as brand identity and communications, print, packaging, environmental and web design.
We have worked with household names like Ben & Jerry’s, Nokia, Yahoo!, PlayStation, Unilever and the BBC, as well as start-ups, boutique businesses and charities. In addition, we have substantial experience working with professional organisations and corporations including the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD) and University Partnerships Programme (UPP).