On the last week of term here in the UK, the resounding buzz of portfolio-time frenzy has reduced to a more comforting hum of satisfaction, as the students proudly hold their portfolios; all that passion, graft and creativity manifested in one precious object.

On graduating they experience a flurry of emotions; pride, exhaustion, jubilation but often tinged with slight trepidation of where to turn next. We appreciate that searching for jobs and attending interviews can be daunting—even for the most experienced designers, so to help soften the blow we invited some of the UK’s top creative recruitment agencies into Shillington to host a preparatory interview with the to-be graduates, giving them their first taste of industry life. 

We invited Represent, Creative Recruitment, Become and Creative Resource to speak with the students, peruse the portfolios and share with us what they really thought.

When you see hundreds of portfolios a day, what really stands out, and do Shillington graduates have what it takes?

Did you know much about Shillington before looking at the portfolios? Was the work what you expected it to be and do you think the quality met a standard expected from agencies hiring interns or junior designers?

Represent: Previous to the meeting, not a huge amount other than general course advertisements. Overall, the standard of work was higher than I expected, and much more sensitive to what a junior designer should be equipped with to join the industry than most University courses. I think most were at the right level for at least an internship. On a personal level they were all definitely the type of people you’d want to have in a studio, and did really demonstrate the right mentality to become a junior designer.

Creative Resource: I’ve met plenty of Shillington grads before so the work was what I expected it to be.

Become: As a company we have been actively attending Shillington exhibitions and events since 2013. We have also successfully assisted a number of past Shillington Graduates with their job hunt (both freelance and full time positions). Last year we teamed up with Shillington and held a student branding competition with three finalists and one overall winner who gained the chance to work with our client Havas Lynx for a paid placement.

We have enjoyed working with the Shillington staff and students and see a lot of talent coming from Shillington. 

The standard of the work coming out of Shillington is very strong. The course gives the students a taste of real life within the design industry which I think is key! I think the mix of projects is also a real selling point for prospective employers. The graduates from Shillington come away with experience in tackling projects from branding and print through to packaging, brochures, annual reports, outdoor advertising, web and apps! 

Creative Recruitment: In general I always find the standard high at Shillington. All the students were prepared and very articulate when presenting their work. They presented their work like telling a story, explaining where their research and inspiration came from. Some students included their rough sketches, “scamp ideas”, which I believe is an important part of the process. The final executions were polished and demonstrated good technical skills also. I have met students at Shillington on various occasions over the past 10 years.

In my opinion Shillington prepares their students for real life in the design world. It gives them a sense of deadlines and how the briefing/creative process really works.

They seem more confident in their presentation and have good technical mac skills too. Each student I met brought something to the table, some displayed strong creative thinking but lacked slightly on the execution. Others showed their whole thinking process in the presentation and I really bought into their campaigns. They had good commercial ideas which you could see displayed across a print campaign or a packaging product within a store.


Are there any tips you could give to our graduates when entering a real interview context? 

Represent: They need to really consider the mental points to tick off as they’re explaining each project, starting with helping someone understand the brief, challenges, considerations made and ultimately the final outcome. They should also go into the smaller details where necessary on each project too; why they chose a particular font, colour palette, etc.

Creative Resource: They need to understand that the big benefit of Shillington grads is their real world experience prior to Shillington and often their previous careers. If you have a PR background for instance, I’m sure you would find interest from PR agencies with design teams.

Creative Recruitment: One of the biggest tips I could give a graduate at interview is to show their working methods. It’s really important that they are able to show where their creative inspiration comes from and what drives them.

Keep the folio relevant to the type of work the agency/company are looking for and do your research on the company—I can’t stress this enough.

Ultimately be yourself and if you are genuinely interested in the position it will show.

Become: I noticed that most of the students had business cards and many of them also had websites available online which is great. I would suggest for all students to get some work online. This can be easily achieved with sites like Behance but can also massively improve your chances of securing a role. 


Lastly, what do you expect to receive from an applicant and are there any key skills you look for in a junior? 

Represent: Depending on the role itself, I’d be looking for a few short paragraphs emailed about who they are and why they’re applying, followed by a really clear PDF portfolio with work tailored to the needs of the organisation/role. A website can look half-arsed, and anyone viewing it can really miss the key projects you’d like to get across. In a PDF you can really fine tune your work to the studio you’re applying to, as well as having control over the pace of the work and what appears where. I’d look for good ideas, first and foremost, with a good understanding of the client and the brief for each project, with well considered executions. Also, confidence, Adobe Creative Suite knowledge and attention to detail.

Become: Many Junior creatives we meet show a fantastic portfolio of design work but on many occasions have very little experience in taking projects from start to completion (finished artwork stage).

I like the fact that all Shillington Grads come away with a good understanding of the art-working process.

This can be a vital factor if you are joining a smaller team or an in-house role where designers are involved at every level. 

Creative Resource: Depends on the role, sometimes ideas, sometimes craft, layout, etc. A personalised application is what I expect. I like to see some process in the portfolios, they shouldn’t be afraid to show some initial sketches and how they have journeyed from their starting point to finished design.

Huge thanks to the recruitment agencies for taking to time to meet with our students and follow up with their tips and feedback. All the recruiters are active on Twitter, so remember to follow them for ongoing job alerts. We’ve listed their personal Twitter handles below as well as our own Shillington jobs Twitter feed.

Creative Recruitment—@Creative_Rec
Creative Resource—@Cr8tiveResource
Shillington Jobs—@ShillingtonJobs

Curious to see the portfolios for yourself? Our Summer Graduation Exhibitions are just around the corner in London, Manchester and New York. Come on down and celebrate with us!