You get a call and someone has a potential job for you to do on a freelance basis. What do you do? This article talks about the basics of the freelance job. (Look for our other article that talks about the business aspects of freelancing, this is geared towards working on a specific project.)

As always, we are not offering legal advice. Consult with a qualified attorney for your own personal circumstances.

Freelancer vs Employee?

First of all, let’s figure out the different types of work scenarios where you are considered a freelancer. It’s been known for businesses to hire people to do projects, employing them as a freelancer, but later running into trouble because they actually were treating the freelancer as an employee. 

There are advantages to a business hiring a person as a freelancer instead of being an employee, so some will try to take advantage of the situation.

Here are some of the basic ways to figure out if the freelancer is actually an employee or not:

1) The freelancer is the boss of their work schedule. They get to pick when they work and where they work. If the hiring party dictates that the freelancer must work at their location, or must work during certain hours, the freelance status is in jeopardy. (Not to go overboard on this, if there is a meeting to go over a details of a project, or set time where others are involved, like a photoshoot, that is a reasonable expectation to comply with a set schedule.)

2) The freelancer maintains a business that works for others. If a freelancer only has one client, their freelance status may be in jeopardy. In addition, if the hiring party dictates who else they can work for, that may turn someone into an employee. However, non-disclosures and some limited non-competes are reasonable. (This is a gray area that may require expert legal advice.)

What about work for hire? A work for hire situation maintains a freelance status. Work for hire means that the hiring company is paying you as a contracted laborer to do a job, but they are maintaining ownership of the work that you do under that contract. So all copyrights transfers to them as if you were an employee. (More on copyright later in this article.) There is nothing wrong with accepting a project under a work-for-hire basis, just be aware of the legal ramifications that goes with it.

The Project Parameters (in writing)

It is essential for the freelancer to get in writing the project parameters and expectations. This can be a formal contract, but often is just a written document that doesn’t go into extreme ‘legalese’. Courts have found that emails can serve as binding contractual documents so just an email outlining the project with a reply confirmation should be sufficient in many cases.

Items that need to be in that written overview include:

1) Deliverables. What is it that the freelancer is supplying to the hiring party? Is it a file that is emailed? Is it a physical project that is delivered? Are there rough drafts that are approved during the process? 

2) Timelines. When does the freelancer need to supply the deliverables? Is it just one final deadline where as long as the freelancer meets that due date they are fine? Or are there steps along the way that must be met and a schedule maintained?

3) What is the agreed upon payment? Freelancers can set up a set price, a pre-determined number that does not fluctuate. Freelancers can also give a range based certain parameters. Or they can set up an hourly charge and keep track of the time spent on a project. A quote for a project means that the price is determined in advance. An estimate for a project means that this is a reasonable expectation of a final cost, but that could fluctuate. If you are giving an estimate on a project, make sure that everyone agrees on the definition of an estimate and that the final price may vary. (Many people don’t understand the difference between a quote and an estimate and think they are synonymous.)

4) What are payment terms? This will depend a lot on the company that the freelancer is working with. Some larger corporations that have purchasing departments will dictate terms that typically aren’t favorable to the freelancer. In most cases, however, freelancers can be paid in installments. A common approach is 1/3-1/3-1/3 on larger projects where the freelancer gets 1/3 up front, 1/3 when delivering the final project, and 1/3 in 30 days.

5) Who owns the copyright when done? Legally, the artists owns the copyright until they turn it over to the hiring party in writing. A savvy business will make sure to get this copyright transferred in writing. Most simply ignore this part of the transaction and assume that they will own the copyright. Here are two recommendations for the freelancer when it comes to copyright:

A) Copyright transfers when the final bill is paid. This little caveat to a contract can help a freelancer get paid if there are any controversies down the road. 

B) Copyright is only transferred for the final accepted piece. All of the ideas and work leading up to the final piece remains the copyright of the creator. Many times creative artists will come up with several ideas while trying to find their client’s solution. An idea for one company, that is never produced, can spark an idea for another client down the road. By putting this stipulation in the written agreement, that the company is only getting the final accepted piece for their use, it allows the freelancer flexibility to re-use and modify their development ideas for other clients. (A really depressing situation for a creative person is to come up with a brilliant idea and not ever seeing it produced. This allows options down the road.)

Remember, copyrights have values that can be more complex than just who owns it. A freelancer can grant copyrights that have geographic restrictions (United States only), time frame restrictions (for one year), usage restrictions (for print reproduction only, not web or TV), and other predetermined usage restrictions.

In addition, a freelancer needs to be aware of other usage restrictions and copyrights if they use outside sources. If they hire a photographer or illustrator for a project, what rights are granted by the photographer? If they hire models, did they get releases and are there any limitations on those copyrights? All of this information must be passed on to the client so they know if there are usage restrictions.

6) Negotiate promotional rights. When a freelancer sells the copyright to the hiring party, it is recommended that they maintain rights to still use the works in their own promotional materials. (To show others their abilities for future work.) This may be considered one of those “fair usage” items (a part of the copyright law that allows usage of materials in limited circumstances to non-owners of the copyright), but just to be safe, it is best to get this as part of the agreement. Always check with the client about when showing the work in our portfolio is appropriate. It is a major faux pas to reveal work before the client makes the work public.

7) Liability on supplied materials. Many times the hiring party might supply the freelancer with materials. This could include photos, logos, etc. A line stating that the hiring party is responsible for copyrights on all supplied materials is a good safety net to include in an agreement.

8) Who owns the tangible items when done? Some freelance projects involve the creation of a physical piece. For example, a freelancer may develop a painting for a project and will send that painting to the hiring party to be reproduced. It is a good idea to have in writing who owns that painting afterwards. Should it be returned to the artist? Does it become the property of the hiring party? (And it is possible that a freelancer may sell a physical item to someone but not sell the copyrights to it. So the buyer may hang the painting up in their corporate headquarters but the freelancer still maintains the rights to the image for other purposes.)

9) Revisions and scope creep. Many times a project will have changes needed. How this is handled needs to be determined in advance. Many contracts will include one set of changes as part of the agreement, but other changes are billed in addition to the original agreement. Many projects will also change in progress. This is often referred to as “scope creep”, where the more someone gets into a project, the more is determined to be needed. This can destroy a predetermined budget. It is always good to have a line in an agreement that says “based on pre-determined parameters”. In other words, if something is not included in this agreed upon document outlining the projects deliverables, or if something changes that wasn’t discussed in advance, it is allowable and expected that the freelancer can adjust their bill accordingly. 

It is recommended if changes in the project require a change in direction and billing, that a “change order” is written up that talks about the changes and is signed by the hiring company. In a change order, it will state that additional charges may apply. (If you know what those additional charges will be, you may put that right in the change order.) Always get change orders signed prior to spending the extra time making changes.


An invoice should be sent for every payment needed. Each bill should show all agreed upon payments, what has already been paid, what is due for payment with that particular bill (now due, or due in 30 days, etc) and what will be due in the future. To help clarify billing, refer to billing in installments. (Installment #1, downpayment, due now.) Make sure to include the terms that was agreed upon. (Due now, due in 15 days, due in 30 days, etc.)

If future payments are unknown, for instance they are based on an hourly amount and the number of hours have not been determined yet, you can put TBD (To Be Determined.)

Remember to include appropriate taxes in the invoice. (See the other freelancing as a business article for more information about taxes.)

You should list the items that you are billing for in each invoice. It is recommended to put the items in list form, but do not itemize the amounts for each element (do not line item the invoice.) In other words, don’t put $1,000 for photography, $1,500 for design, $500 for copyrighting. Instead, put $3,000 total, includes photography, design and copyrighting. 

The reason for this is simple, it keeps the client from questioning your bill. They may think that the photography should cost $1,500 but you should have only charged $1,00 for the design. If you itemize it, they may argue with you about your design charge. If it is all added together, and it works in their head for the total, no problem. (Remember, they won’t argue with you if they think they are being under billed on an item.)

Determining Price

And of the hardest things to do when starting out is determining your billing rates. If you’re just beginning in your career, you probably won’t be charging the same rate as some one more tenured in their position. Often a company will give someone a chance on a project because they know that the rate is lower. This allows them to test a person out with lower risk. (If it doesn’t work, well the price isn’t going to cause too much pain.) 

To determine a pricing structure, a freelancer simply has to ask around. What are other people getting? Does the location change that price? (Hint: a business in downtown Chicago expects to pay more for everything compared to a business located in downtown DeKalb.) Does the type of company, or the size of company, change that price? Does the negotiated rights (see copyrights above) change the price?

Don’t be afraid to ask a potential client what their expectations are. If it is someone that hires a number of freelancers, they might already know what they want to pay. But don’t be surprised if they expect you to tell them what you charge.

And, at some point, you just have to go for it and don’t look back. If you misquote a job and you realize it after the fact that you didn’t quote enough, you still need to do an outstanding job. Your reputation is more important than the money you make on any one job. It doesn’t hurt to let the client know after the fact that you misquoted it and undercharged, setting up an expectation that next time you will be asking for more. And who knows, maybe the client will suggest that you charge more on the job itself. But never charge more than you originally quoted unless there were extenuating circumstances and the client agrees to  the additional costs prior to receiving your final bill.


The more you freelance, the easier it is to figure out these items. Seek out professionals for accounting, tax and legal advice. Freelancing is a business and to be successful, you have to understand the business components of the job. It is just as important as the work itself. 

Look for the other article about the business side of freelancing.

About the author…

Randy Gunter is a thirty year advertising agency veteran and agency owner. The Gunter Agency has worked on national and international projects for companies that include Charter Business, Firestone, Fiskars, John Deere, Kimberly-Clark, Oscar Mayer, OshKosh B’Gosh, Rayovac, and others. Randy and his agency have received Adweek’s Media Plan of the Year award, NAMA Best of PR award, and hundreds of creative awards and recognitions.

Randy still consults with companies on marketing, but today his main concentration is CEO of Sugar River Trading Company. Sugar River is best known as the manufacturer and distributor of McNess home products.

Date posted: March 8, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on The Freelance Job

Categories: Articles

The freelance component:

For many creative people, freelancing becomes part of their world. Whether as a way to make money while looking for a more permanent position or as a preferred choice of how to earn a living, freelancing offers a lot of benefits. 

A freelancer is someone who works for themselves. They have no employer, they have no employees. They are a business solely onto themselves that works for other businesses. (Sometimes a freelancer works for a consumer audience, like a fine arts painter that sells their art direct to customers. But, for the most part, the freelancers we are writing about do work for other businesses.) As a freelancer, this person is running a business. Sometimes the business component is more important than the creative component in deciding whether the freelancer will be successful or not.

The world of freelancing and business is not something that can be covered in an article. What we are going to cover here is just scratching the surface of what is involved, but hopefully it will steer individuals in the right direction looking for more answers. Or maybe it will steer those same individuals away from freelancing entirely. It is not something that everyone can do. This article is not a “how to”, but more so, it is a list of items to be aware of and a primer to point the way to learning more. As such, anyone reading this article should be aware that legal, financial, and tax decisions should be made with the advice of trusted counsel. Do not use this article to substitute for professional advice that is needed for your individual circumstances. 

The three types of freelancers

The interim freelancer
This is the person that is in-between jobs. They really aren’t looking to have a freelance business, but are using their talents to do some projects in the interim. These projects are done to (a) create income, (b) add samples to the portfolio, or (c) showcase the talent to potential employers. Many employers will hire creative personnel that they have first used as freelancers. It gives the employer the opportunity to test out the potential employee in a real life situation, but without any of the obligations that come from hiring the person.

The true freelancer 
This is the person that wants to freelance as their job. They like the independence of being their own boss and are enthralled with the gig economy. Freelancing has a lot of advantages over a regular job working for someone else. The freelancer gets to pick the hours they work, the types of jobs they want to work on, and often the location where they want to work. In today’s connected society, you don’t have to live in the same city (or country for that matter) with the person that you are doing the work for. There is a lot of freedom in freelancing. A good freelancer can earn a significant income as well. 

The entrepreneur
This is the person that actually wants to build a bigger business with employees. The first step in getting that type of business may simply be bootstrapping the business with themselves as the first employee. Until they hire that next employee, they are for all practical purposes a freelancer. Yet, the attitude of an entrepreneur is different than that of a freelancer. They look at things on what is best for the business, not necessarily what is best for themselves as an employee. 

There are businesses that came out of freelancing without the intent of that happening. Michael E. Gerber’s breakthrough book The E-Myth discusses this accidental entrepreneur who originally just started as a freelancer but the business grew regardless.

The type of person that is successful at freelancing
Freelancers need three skills to be successful. The first skill is the ability to do the work. So if this is someone that is hired to design brand identities, they better be good at designing brand identities. You might get a trial on a job one time, but if you don’t deliver, in the business world you won’t get a second chance from the same place. 

The second skill is the business skill set. A good business person will run their business like a business. That means showing up on time for meetings, have clear communications about project details, hitting deadlines, and taking care of the money aspects (estimates, invoicing, etc.) Those are the “up front” parts of the business, the interaction with the clients. There are also items “behind the door” that are important: business structure, insurance, etc. (More on that later.) 

We can say these business skills are more than just skills, they are responsibilities. A person can find themselves in legal jeopardy if they don’t follow local, state and federal business laws, as well as the tax obligations that goes with running a business. All individuals need to realize that they become a business when they accept their first check for work that they’ve done for another business (that is not their employer.)

Third, a successful freelancer needs to be able to market and sell themselves. This can mean building a Rolodex of contacts by interacting with industry groups. It could mean creating marketing materials and websites and thought leadership programs to get their name out. It can mean picking up the phone and calling someone they don’t know. If a freelancer isn’t willing or able to do the things to get the jobs, it doesn’t matter how talented they are in doing the work. A business without sales is a former business. (In some cases this can be outsourced to someone else, but it is difficult to find the right person to do that.)

The business entity
In the United States, businesses are typically sole proprietorships, corporations, LLCs, and partnerships. Most freelancers will start out as a sole proprietorship and will use their social security number to fill out appropriate business identification and tax components, later updating to a Federal tax ID number. (Also referred to as a FEIN: Federal Employer Identification Number, given from the IRS.) If someone falls in the interim freelancer category, they may never go beyond this designation of a sole proprietorship. 

If someone is looking at a more permanent business structure, they probably want to look at becoming an LLC or similar legal entity. The idea of having the freelance business under a legal framework like an LLC is to separate the personal property from the business property. So in a legal action against you, it is possible for the business to lose business assets, but your personal property is still protected. (So you might lose business assets, but you personally are not responsible and won’t lose personal property, like your home or your personal savings.)

There are two types of taxes that a freelancer needs to be well-versed in (or hire someone to take care of these issues for them), collecting taxes from your clients and paying personal/business income tax.

Collecting sales tax
Many states require businesses to collect sales taxes on the work they do or the products that they sell. They then are obligated to send the state the moneys they collected. Different states have different rules and tax rates. Even different counties within a state can have their own tax rates. Some businesses reside in special tax districts. As an example, some larger metropolitan areas have a stadium tax to pay for their professional sports team’s stadium. If you are in that zone, or do work for someone within that zone, you may have to collect that tax.

You might be collecting different taxes based based on the type of work that you’ve done. You might be collecting different taxes based on whether the work was delivered online or a physical items was delivered. Along with this is different organizations might have exemptions based on who they are or how they are using what you are selling them. Some businesses are exempt, at least some of the time. These are just items that the freelancer will need to investigate and learn. 

Confused? You are not alone. It can be extremely confusing and tax laws change often and different laws can seemingly contradict each other. You either need to learn all of this or hire someone to take care of it for you.

Paying income tax
As a freelancer, no one is withholding taxes out of the checks they are sending you to pay the government. It is your responsibility to do that. You need to figure out how much income you are generating and pay both your federal taxes and your state taxes. And as the business owner, you also need to pay things like FICA taxes that you wouldn’t be paying if you were employed by another company. (They would pay it for you.) And there will be a point where you have to pay this quarterly, not just at the end of the year. 

The good news is that as a business owner you do get a lot of tax advantages in that you can write-off a lot of expenses. New camera? Is it used for business? Write it off. Do you work from home and your internet service is primarily for business? Write it off. Going on a business trip that just happens to be in a warm weather state in the middle of winter? Write it off.  There are some perks to being a business owner. But to sound like a broken record, you need to learn what you can (and can’t do) or hire someone that knows it. Don’t guess at it. Learn it before you get too far into your business.

It is always advisable to have business insurance when running a business. Often larger companies will require that a freelancer have insurance simply in order to pick up jobs on location. There are different types of insurance. Liability insurance protects the business from accidents (someone slipping on ice on the sidewalk.) Errors and omissions insurance protects the business from making mistakes in the business dealings. (Listing a wrong price on an ad that costs the client money, for example.) As an independent business, it is also advised that freelancers get appropriate health insurance. And what happens if you get sick and can’t work? Disability insurance can help cover lost wages during downtown and for medical bills not covered by health insurance. 

Every freelancer needs to learn basic bookkeeping. This is how the freelancer gets paid. They need to know what to charge and how to bill their clients. What to charge is typically figured out by project or by number of hours spent on a project. The freelancer also needs to include outside costs that are associated with each job, if those are billed to the client. (Photography, printing, etc., that the freelancer hires or buys from an outside service or vendor—and of course the freelancer needs to pay these people when invoiced!) 

It is the freelancer’s responsibility to negotiate the rate with the client in advance of accepting the job and then to bill the client according to terms. It is also the freelancer’s responsibility to charge appropriate taxes and pay those taxes to the state or other municipality. 

Bookkeeping also includes the process of keeping records of all expenses. Every business needs these records for tax purposes. (See taxes, mentioned previously.)

Now it is possible for the freelancer to hire someone else to do this bookkeeping for them. However, this does not abdicate their responsibility to learn the fundamentals of bookkeeping. Every business owner should have a basic knowledge of the billing process.

Sales and Promotion
No business survives without sales. If no one hires the freelancer, that freelancer is going to be out of business in a hurry. Getting work is as important as doing the work. Often times the best way to get work is to inquire directly. Send an email and follow up with a phone call. Sending an email by itself isn’t going to be an effective strategy for getting business. Remember that the person that hires freelancers have a lot of other job responsibilities. Most probably get over a thousand emails in a week’s time. 

So emails get looked through at jet speeds, if they are seen at all. Junk filtering software may mean that your email never get to its intended recipient. Never rely on an email to get through. Always have a follow-up method for reaching the person. That typically is the phone. 

Having a portfolio and website are essential components for most freelancers. If someone is looking for you, you have to be able to be found.

Marketing and advertising are things serious freelancers engage. Once again, this is a business. Having a marketing campaign for a business can separate the success stories from the failures. Often it helps to get an outside opinion on creating that marketing program. Often creative people don’t see their own value in the same way that their potential clients might. Bringing in outside help, especially someone from the client side or who works with those clients, can be invaluable. 

Uniqueness in product and service offerings can make a freelancer stand out. Often people shy away from the specialization approach because they are afraid that limiting their offerings will limit the amount of jobs they receive. However, in a competitive environment, specializing in one area probably will increase recognition and opportunities. Having a specialization implies a level of expertise. (And, if you don’t have that expertise yet, if you continue to work within a special genre you probably will gain that expertise within a reasonable amount of time.)

Once again, to be clear, this is the tip of the iceberg. Freelancing means running a business. Each of these quick subjects above could probably be written up in their own books. Also please note that none of this should be construed as legal or tax advise, everyone’s situation is going to be unique and it is essential to seek out the professional advisors that are best qualified for the individuals’ circumstances. Most creatives will find themselves at one point or another in the freelancer’s shoes. It can be a very rewarding occupation, or an opportunity that leads to bigger and better opportunities. 

Also look for an article (coming soon) about the “Freelance Project”. This discussion will be about an actual project, how to write up a basic contract, who owns the copyright, what is “work for hire”, and more.

About the author…

Randy Gunter is a thirty year advertising agency veteran and agency owner. The Gunter Agency has worked on national and international projects for companies that include Charter Business, Firestone, Fiskars, John Deere, Kimberly-Clark, Oscar Mayer, OshKosh B’Gosh, Rayovac, and others. Randy and his agency have received Adweek’s Media Plan of the Year award, NAMA Best of PR award, and hundreds of creative awards and recognitions.

Randy still consults with companies on marketing, but today his main concentration is CEO of Sugar River Trading Company. Sugar River is best known as the manufacturer and distributor of McNess home products.

Date posted: March 8, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on The Business of Freelancing

Categories: Articles

A well-written resume will stand-out and demonstrate your ability to communicate, one of the top skills required in nearly all jobs.  

Resume Writing: Guidance for College Graduates
If you are a college graduate and preparing to enter the job market, then crafting a resume will be an essential step in your career search process.

Before you anxiously dive into writing a draft, vision the purpose of this document.  A resume should communicate your achievements and skills that will be relevant in bringing value to the prospective employer.  

What does this mean?
You do not need to include any information that isn’t pertinent to the job you are applying for.  If you pursue a social media specialist position but the context of the resume highlights your customer service or finance degree, then an employer isn’t going to correlate the fit.

Don’t expect the employer to connect the dots.

Choosing the right formatting is the first step in resume creation.   College graduates should choose a chronological formatting, with your most recent or current experience listed first.  

(Functional is another option, but this is more appropriate for someone making a career path switch or a tenured professional condensing their experience.)

I highly suggest keeping the resume to one page, especially as a college graduate.  Choose only the pertinent content.  I have seen professionals with 15-20 years of experience who have been able to achieve one page resumes.  

When selecting a font, opt for a mainstream font . San-serifs tend to be modern and contemporary. Think legible and easy to read, and keep it consistent through the resume. 

Do not use bold or italics unless using titles or sections.  

Although some countries advocate to include a photo on the resume, I would not advocate to use a photo if you are applying to a position in the United States.  The reason for not including a photo is because an employer can inflict bias (age, gender, ethnicity) and may impose issues towards labor laws.

The order of the resume for a college graduate should be:
Personal information

Certifications/Projects (if not worked into other sections)
The creative and marketing fields lend the forgiveness (or opportunity) to build a visually appealing format other than just a single column with text.   I have seen infographics, charts, cartoons, and colors.  Just remember to be thinking of the employer and that you are balancing aesthetic with content.  A crowded resume is overwhelming for the reader.

If you choose to utilize an online resume builder, keep in mind that some software will not permit you to edit or save in a Word document.  The input is a template so the result may look similar to others, which may or may not be important to you.  The perks?  The tools are quick and easy. 

PDF or .doc?
Have both available.  If the company doesn’t specifically request a particular type, default to PDF (other’s won’t be able to make edits and the document will be consistent).

Some ATS systems aren’t able to parse the information from a PDF document, so I would advise to use a Word document when applying to larger companies if they are utilizing an online portal.

Contact Information
This is your identification and best source to contact you.
Email (professional)
Address.  You do not need to include your street address.  City and State are sufficient.  If you are targeting a different geographic location or are open to relocation, consider “willing to relocate to….”
LinkedIn URL (optional)
Online portfolio URL (optional) 

A summary statement is your targeted elevator pitch to the employer to highlight your value.  

First, ditch the “Objective” and use a summary.  Why?  Simply put, an employer won’t care about your goals.  The employer needs to understand how you will solve their pain-point. Even if you may not have years of experience. 

What Not to do: “Seeking a challenging position in marketing allowing me to use the skills I learned from my Bachelor of Art degree in journalism.”

Better: “Google-certified Marketing graduate with 4 months of experience as an Audience Development intern at a nationally recognized publication firm. Grew audience engagement on Facebook by 30% by developing social strategy and initiatives.”

Your skills and experience NEED to match the responsibilities of the job, while bringing your relevant achievement to the forefront.

How to jazz-up (not snoozefest) the summary:

Do you want to be considered for a Graphic Designer position? Include the targeted job title. 

2-5 sentences long

Incorporate keywords from the job description, soft and hard. (back these up with examples in the experience section).

Storytell! List your top achievement(s) relevant to the job, and metrics if possible.

Don’t duplicate summary details in the experience section.  Prove soft-skills in your summary in your experience section.

Recent graduates will want to follow the summary with the education section, and there is no need to include your high school experience if you received a higher-ed degree.  

List the name of the school, location, graduation date, and degree (majors and minors).

Add any honors, awards, and publications.  4.0 GPA or Cum Laude honors should be listed.  3.5 GPA or higher is optional.

If you are considering the details of coursework if your experience is light, make sure you include details that are relevant to the job.  A Geology course isn’t necessarily applicable for a Web Design job.  

Capstone projects or other academic projects can be added here as well. Ex: Created pro-bono ad campaign for Catalyte.

As a graduate entering into the workforce, you will be light on skills and experience.  Luckily, candidates vying for the same positions are all on an equal playing field.   

Beyond full or part-time work, other types of experience can include student groups or clubs, internships, non-profit, pro-bono work, sports, or any extra curricular activities.

When you are planning for the experience section, refer back to the job description to understand what hard and soft skills the employer is seeking.   

Your goal is to transfer any skills you earned or learned during “experiences” and apply them to the 


Examples of both:

Hard Skills:   Google Analytics,  Excel, SEO, Social Media

Soft Skills:  Communication, Adaptability, Organization, Leadership, Decision Making, Collaboration.

Hard skills can easily be developed in our current digital landscape, with the availability of online certifications. 

Soft-skills can be extracted from nearly every experience, and transferable skills are these abilities that you can take into any career path.

Review the job description or tasks from each experience and think about the soft skills that are necessary to complete those tasks. 

Did you tutor peers or students?   Communication, active listening, and teaching are a few soft skills.

Treasurer of the Student Government?   Organization, attention-to-detail, and analytical skills are typical with this responsibility.

Resident Assistance (RA)?  Leadership, patience, and management. 

Now that you identified your experiences with tasks, achievements, and skills, it’s time to organize the information into this section.

There are several options when titling this section.  “Experience” is all encompassing, or you can segregate into several sections such as “work experience”, “internships”, “volunteer”, or “activities.”   Think about the ease of reading the information.

Think about customizing the details of the information of each experience with bullet-points that are pertinent to the job you are applying for.

Go back and pluck out the top keywords from the targeted job, but DO NOT add skills that you can’t back-up.  You will put yourself into a predicament if you stumble over the lack of that skill during an interview process.  

When you are writing the bullet points, focus on writing them to be achievement driven (rather than function).   Basically, this shouldn’t look like you copied and pasted your job description.   Describe the outcome and results from the task.

A simple formula to follow:

Verb + Responsibility = Results.  

What not to do:  Assisted with social media for multiple channels

Better example that is results-driven:  Increased social media engagement by increasing Facebook likes 200% and Twitter followers 80% in two months

Instead of “Have experience with Google Analytics”  

Try “Used Google Analytics to recommend changes to website and digital products.

If you can quantify or include specific metrics, then work those numbers into the bullet-points.  There are other ways to convey impact.

Use verbs like increase/decrease

Frequency like 2x a week, 50% of the time, hours per week

Years of experience

Team size led or mentored

For a list of action verbs, check out 

Consider adding this to list specific software, technical, or language skills that you are competent to use.

These can be divided into categories, such as “Certifications”, “Digital Marketing”, or “Programming.”

A separate section can be created to list awards, scholarships, certifications, or honors if you chose not to include them in the other sections.  Do limit to around  2-5 achievements.


Reference contact information should not be included in a resume.  I have seen resume database tools aggregate reference data as the actual applicant.  You want to take control of who and when a potential employer will be contacting your references, or else your point of references may be bombarded with unwanted calls.

“References available upon request” is redundant and is a waste of space on the resume. 

Don’t Keyword Stuff
Do not insert keywords that you can’t backup or that have no context.  When you show a keyword in your summary or skills, explain how you executed that skill.  Teamwork, communication, and problem-solving are very common (and important) soft skills to see, so translate:

Communication is broad–  Written, verbal, nonverbal?  Examples can include presentation, emotional intelligence, social media content.

Examples of teamwork may include being a player on a team sport during college, or member of a debate club or extracurricular activity.

Do you really need to tailor each resume specific to each job?  Unless all the positions you are applying to are the same title and skills, not necessarily.  However, if you want to stand out from the competition then I would highly suggest taking five minutes to make the edits.

Align skills/keywords with your experience.  I would advise keeping a running list in a document of most popular skills and your achievement/experience correlated.  Sub in and out, depending upon job.

Remove irrelevant experience
Consider working the title of the target job title into your resume, either in the summary or in your contact information

If you have space in the resume, consider adding personal interests or hobbies. This can be a conversation starter in an interview, and some personal interests can translate to the position (photography for creative role).

One of the most important pieces of advice I can give regarding your resume:  Pass-it off to a trusted colleague or friend to proofread.  

A grammatical or spelling error will be an immediate knock-out factor if an employer spots one on your resume.  Trust me, I have seen it happen numerous times over the years.   

A well-written resume will stand-out and demonstrate your ability to communicate, one of the top skills required in nearly all jobs.

About the author…

Kelli Hrivnak is the president of Knak Digital, a firm that specializes in executive recruitment for technology, digital marketing, and creative talent for companies serving the Mid Atlantic region.


Date posted: February 28, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on Resumes

Categories: Articles

A portfolio for graphic designers, art directors, photographers, illustrators, industrial designers, interior designers, fine artists and other visual creators (and let’s not forget copywriters) is the one key component of showing a potential employer a job candidate’s capabilities. Resumes are still needed, but they simply don’t carry the same weight in the mind of the employer as a good resume. A great resume and a so-so portfolio gets a so-so response. (And so-so job offers.)

Portfolios are the visual representation of what that designer can do. (From this point on, we’ll lump all of the above into the phrase “designer”, even for the photographers and copywriters.) There was a time when this meant a physical carrying case with printed samples in it. Back in the day, designers would have leather cases to showcase samples on mounted boards, or oversized “books” with vinyl sheets where the samples slid in place. Often designers would have duplicates of their portfolios that they would drop off at different businesses and pick back up a few days later. (Or arrange courier services to do that for them.) 

Today, everything is done on a computer screen. (See number 1 from our list below.) This article won’t get into the details of making a digital portfolio, but instead will talk about the subjective nature of what is in the portfolio and the interactions between the job applicant and the potential employer. 

The list below is based on opinions and advice from someone who has spent years showing portfolios, then later reviewing hundreds (perhaps thousands) of portfolios as an ad agency owner hiring creative talent, as well as a portfolio advisor to several colleges and universities, and also as an instructor at a portfolio school.

1) Your portfolio needs to be viewed online, but also able to share.

This is probably obvious to everyone, but we’ll go ahead and state the obvious. Your portfolio could be hosted on your own website (preferred) or on a portfolio site. 

A portfolio site is a place where your portfolio is among other portfolios. The NIU BS/BA Capstone website is an example. from Adobe is a popular portfolio site for creative design professionals. 

There are pros and cons with being on a portfolio site. Having your portfolio on a portfolio site can be a good thing where people might find you on their own. At the same time, if you are replying to an ad for a position, if your portfolio is only available on a portfolio site, then you are leading that prospective employer to the place where they can look at all of the other candidates.

The best option would be to have both, your personal site and put your work up on the portfolio sites, but always direct people to your own personal website.

2) Your portfolio needs to fit the audience.

If you are looking to interview with a corporate design department, your portfolio should show examples that relate to corporate design needs. If you are looking to interview with a skate board company, then your portfolio might be a little wilder in its samples. (But remember, the skate board companies also need legible brochures and communications, it’s not all crazy graphics.)

Do your homework. Look at the website of the company that you are applying to. If your portfolio doesn’t match what they are doing, why are you bothering? You are wasting your time and your chances of even getting an interview are slim to none. That doesn’t mean you can’t show some breadth to your work. It’s okay to show diverse ideas and styles. Just make sure that a majority of the work relates directly to the company you are applying with. If you are applying to a company that does package design, you better have some pieces of package design in your portfolio, even if it is totally made up work.

Is your portfolio customizable? Can you create multiple versions?

If you have enough quality samples that you can customize a portfolio directly to the company that you are presenting to, that is the ideal approach.

3) Your portfolio should be able to be sent to others where they can print it out.

Create a pdf version of your website that prints on an 8-1/2 x 11 page. Keep it clean. Use white backgrounds, not colored backgrounds. (You don’t know what kind of paper and ink someone is going to print it out with, a large colored area can bleed on cheap paper and an oversaturated page can wrinkle.) Design it in a way that it has a white margin on all four sides.

Once again, as mentioned in number 2 above, it is best to be able to customize this to your audience. 

4) Your portfolio should also be a presentation.

Before hiring someone in a creative role, employers want to hear you tell your story about your work. Why did you do what you did? How did you do it? Primarily this is done in the interview process. Can you create a presentation that you can present over a Zoom meeting? Perhaps you can create a video presentation where you talk about your thought processes and technical procedures in a video that you put up on your website and on YouTube? It’s more than just the work, it’s the process of starting with a problem and finding a solution. That’s what employers are actually hiring: problem solvers.

Your job is to tell a story, not just show your work.

5) Identify who you are in an easy way. 

Always have easy contact information included. Use an email or phone number that you plan on having for some time. Don’t use a college email address. You might not be thinking about it now, everything you put out can have a shelf life beyond what you originally intended and someone might want to reach you a few years down the line. You want to keep that possibility open.

Then, always make sure your file names have your name included. Never, ever, send a pdf called simply “portfolio” (or likewise a resume called “resume”.) Always include your name in the titles of anything you send out or anything that can be downloaded. 

6) The make up of the portfolio.

A question that is often asked is how many pieces should be in a portfolio? The answer is simply enough to show your talent. It is better to leave someone wanting more than to try to pad a portfolio with inferior pieces. One bad example can erase the goodwill created by a number of strong pieces. 

It is always best to lead with one of your strongest pieces. And then it is always good to close with one of your stronger pieces too. 

If you have enough samples, break it out by category. In a recent survey that we took, we learned that many employers find a job candidates ability to perform multiple functions (design, illustration, animation, photography, video, web design, etc.) as highly desirable. In fact, you might actually have multiple mini portfolios under an umbrella heading. 

7) Get advice.

Get opinions from people that are respected in the industry. Your opinion actually doesn’t matter when it comes to getting a job. What the people on the other side of the desk thinks is the only thing that matters. Find out. One of the best ways to get in front of people is to simply ask for their opinion. Stroke the ego of the person that you want to learn from: tell them that you value their opinion as a leader in the industry and that you are hoping they can review your portfolio so you can get their professional assessment with the intent of improving your portfolio. 

And then do exactly that. If you get an opportunity to get in front of someone in the scope of reviewing your portfolio, don’t ruin it by talking about jobs at their company. If they bring it up, that’s great. But remember the premise of how you got in the door. You can always get in contact later showing how you followed their advice! (And always send a thank you note afterwards.)

8a) Real vs Fake

It’s perfectly fine to show work that isn’t “real”. We’ll lump in any work that is speculative (spec), class project, work that simply didn’t get picked, etc.

In a public forum, if you are using a real company and it wasn’t a real project (where the company literally paid for the work), it is probably best to get permission to show anything that uses a company name, logo, product, etc. At the very least, make sure to label it as a class project, spec, etc. 

Please note, we are not giving legal advice on this website. The use of a company’s logo, name, product, etc., is a gray area that may fall into fair use, it may not. It is always recommended to get permission.

At the same time, real projects have issues that a spec project don’t have. You have to work within the constraints of the creative brief, you have to work within the comfort level of the client, and you have to have someone that was willing to spend some money for the media. All professionals that are hiring talent understand this. If you are showing work that was out in public, it doesn’t hurt to share how it was used.

8b) Real vs Fake, Part 2: Volunteer

If you don’t have a lot of “real” projects, which students just graduating from college might not have had that opportunity, consider volunteering your time to a non-profit organization. They’ll appreciate your support and more often than not will give a lot of latitude on the creative approach. Not only do you get to showcase your talent, it also showcases your willingness to help others. That is a big positive to potential employers looking for team players. 

9) Show the work.

Remember in math class in grade school your teacher told you to show the work. They wanted to see how you came up with the answer that you did. This is absolutely true in the world of getting hired for a creative position. It is highly recommended to demonstrate at least one project as the process of how you got from start to finish. (Remember, it is always about problem solving.) Share what the creative brief was (the problem), show the steps in coming up with a solution. This could be rough drafts, different versions, different color schemes, etc. Create a timeline of the process and then reveal the final piece. This exercise will be invaluable to the person looking to hire. 

10) Your portfolio should never be finished.

If you are continuing to grow (and you should be), new projects should easily be the best project that you’ve done yet. Revise your portfolio constantly. This requires thinking through an easy way to make changes to your portfolio, whether it is page to be printed (pdf) or a website or other way of presentation. And if you’ve made several changes to your portfolio, announce this to people. “I’ve updated my portfolio and you’ll find a new project for XYZ company and several other new projects, here’s a link…” Remember, your portfolio is a tool that helps you get a job. Make it work for you.

Last note:

Number 8 on the list talks about the use of projects for your portfolio. There are copyright and trademark issues at play when working with real companies. Even if you got paid to work on a project, you potentially may not have permission to show that work in your portfolio. In a freelance situation, it is always recommended that you work out an agreement, in writing, that states that any component of the project that you work on for a company that you are allowed to show it for self-promotional purposes. This is pretty standard in the industry and most companies are obliging. There are times where a company may have a legitimate reason to not allow the work to be shown. You then must decide whether that is an issue for you or not. Have this conversation before the project starts, not afterwards. Likewise, if you are hired by a company, discuss the use of the work in your portfolio in advance of taking the job. As an employee, you do not own the copyrights to the work, your employer does. 

We will discuss copyright ownership, work for hire clauses, etc. in a separate article.

Content on this site should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult with an attorney on any legal questions. 

About the author…

Randy Gunter is a thirty year advertising agency veteran and agency owner. The Gunter Agency has worked on national and international projects for companies that include Charter Business, Firestone, Fiskars, John Deere, Kimberly-Clark, Oscar Mayer, OshKosh B’Gosh, Rayovac, and others. Randy and his agency have received Adweek’s Media Plan of the Year award, NAMA Best of PR award, and hundreds of creative awards and recognitions.

Randy still consults with companies on marketing, but today his main concentration is CEO of Sugar River Trading Company. Sugar River is best known as the manufacturer and distributor of McNess home products.

Date posted: February 27, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on The Portfolio

Categories: Articles

You’ve sent your resume off with a link to your portfolio. Now you get an email or call asking to set up an interview. What should you expect from an interview and how do you prepare for it?

This is being written in early 2021, so an assumption will be made that your first interview will be done via a web call (Zoom, Google Meet, Windows GoToMeeting, etc.) This may change over time where in-person interviews will become normal again, but as businesses realize the ease that an online interview can be performed, the common thought is the first interview will be made online even after the Covid pandemic is controlled.

So if the interview is online, there are actually two parts of the interview that you need to prepare for:

1) How to set up an online interview
2) How to perform in that interview

An Online Interview

An online interview means having the equipment (computer, tablet or phone with a camera and microphone), the software, and the internet connection. The equipment typically is a laptop with a built-in camera, the software can be downloaded from the appropriate source (go to;; Most meetings require an app or software download or using the appropriate web browser. For instance, can connect directly if using a Chrome browser.

A few helpful hints on setting up your video camera…

1) Camera Angle – if you just set up a laptop (or tablet or smart phone) in front of you, the camera lens will probably be below your chin. This is an unattractive angle. Try to bring the angle more to eye level. Literally take your laptop and place it on a box to bring it up higher. The camera lens on your laptop should be at eye level, or at the very least, be pointing at the middle of your face.

Set up your camera close enough that you are the main focal point, but far enough away that people can see your shoulders (at the very least.) When people get too close to the camera it creates an uncomfortable feeling. (Think of someone getting right up into your face in real life. We don’t like people invading our private space and, on a subconscious level, being too close to the camera creates this same type of anxiety.) Plus most these camera lenses are designed to be a wide angle, and as you get closer to the lens it will distort your face making it wider. 

2) Lighting – make sure you have some light on you, typically not just a light from above. Even if it is just setting up a lamp behind the laptop, that will help. Experiment with how far away the light should be, if it is too close, it may make you look like a ghost (if you are light skinned.) Positioning of the lamp is important too, don’t let your laptop block the light. 

Natural light from a window can be a solution if it is in the right place. However, try to avoid having a window behind you. Your laptop typically has a hard time adjusting for this and often if you move slightly the computer’s camera will try to adjust on the fly and mess up the settings. (Casting you in a backlit shadow for example.)

3) Make the background neutral, avoiding distractions. A bookshelf, a plant, etc., create a non-cluttered background. (Absolutely pick up anything laying around: soda cans, plates, shoes on the floor, etc.) You want the attention on you, not on what is in the background. If there is something in the background, be prepared to comment on it if asked. (“What books are on the bookshelf?”)

Although it may be tempting, it is recommended not to use a virtual background. (Where the computer determines where your face is and then places a different background in place of the real background.) The technology is getting better, but for most software and apps, is not quite good enough yet. Having part of your face (especially your hair) turn into the background for a few seconds here and there can be extremely distracting for the viewer.

4) Do a test. Find someone that can help and go online with them. Let them see and hear you talk. It’s always easier doing something a second time, make your first time setting up your call not be the one that is most important. 

How to Dress

Knowing something about the culture of the company you are applying with is always a good thing. Does the boss show up in blue jeans and t-shirts, or does she dress a little nicer? A good rule of thumb is to always dress up nicer than you think you should for your interview.

Jeans, t-shirts, etc., are almost always a bad idea for an interview. Even if that is the way people dress at their day-to-day job for the position you are interviewing for. There are some established protocols in business and one is that you show respect to the person and company that is interviewing you by the way you dress. 

There are exceptions to this rule. Our advice is to err on the side of dressing nicer. 

Interview Questions

The bigger the company, the more formal and ritualized the interview process can become. If you are being interviewed by someone from an Human Resources department, the questions may be different than if you are being interviewed from someone in Creative Services. Depending on the company you are interviewing with, you may be interviewed multiple times from different people. 

We like to categorize questions as typically exploring how you answer and show and tell

Now it is our position that questions like “tell us one time that you excelled in a work situation” or “what would you say are your weakest attributes” are just plain stupid questions and designed to see if you have figured out the game of how to answer these questions. Unfortunately, depending on who you are interviewing with, you may have to answer those questions. (And replying that your weakest attribute is that you are “too honest and get annoyed by stupid questions” doesn’t really go over well if you actually want the job.)

If you are being interviewed by someone that actually has intelligent questions, pay attention closely to the question and answer to the best of your ability. A good questioner isn’t trying to “trip you up”, they are trying to learn about you. It’s okay to pause and think before you form your answer. It is also okay to not have an answer. Explain why it is difficult to answer. 

The show and tell part is you talking about yourself. Typically in a creative field, this is you talking about the work you’ve done, the experience you have, where your passions are. We highly recommend that you have a way to present and talk about your work. Either you need to send over a file in advance with items clearly labelled (“the item labelled no. 1 on the page I sent is a logo that I created for a non-profit organization. Their goal was to…”) 

Or, another approach is simply to show the work through the program that you are using, most online programs have a button to share your screen. Have this figured out in advance! Clean up your desktop. Have a file ready to open. (Pdf, powerpoint, etc.) 

The Next Level

Of course you need to be ready to answer the questions that are asked of you in the interview. But to excel in the interview, you should be willing to go the next step.

You need to prepare some of your own questions. Ask questions about the position open (if you are interviewing for a specific position), ask questions about the work environment, ask about the road to advancement, ask about company goals. An astute question from you often is more important to the interviewer than the answers you give to their questions.

And then there are some questions that you definitely do not want to ask. Salary, time off, etc., are seldom appropriate in the first interview. (More on salary later in this article.) Often this will turn off the interviewer as you are labelled as someone who is only interested in the money, not in the job itself.

It’s Not About You , It’s About How You Can Help 

During recent years, jobs were plentiful and the people to fill some positions were in short supply. It was a employee’s market and employer’s had to offer more to attract and retain good employees. 

Now after Covid, this probably will be flipped for some time. Jobs will probably be in shorter supply and concessions from employees may be in the future.

A recent employer survey listed the idea of “entitlement” as a key turn-off for employers. Simply put, if you feel that you have the rights to something in the work place, you may need to rethink that thought process.

The question of training and advancement may come into play in this new scenario. For a number of years prior to Covid, there was an expection for employers to supply their employees with training so they could elevate their positions and stature. Complaints by employers included that they would train their employees only to see them go work somewhere else. The could possibly be a backlash now that we perceive that there will be more job applicants available than positions.

With this, it may be advised to tread lightly on the question of “training” in the workplace. A better question to ask the employer may be what can you do to advance in your career if hired with their company. This shows that you are willing to be the impetus of your advancement and don’t have expections of the employer to do this for you.

In the end, how you can address the needs of the employer is what will get you hired. This is tougher to do for someone without a few years of experience. You can make up for that with enthusiasm and a willingness to work hard and prove yourself.

Practice Interviewing

Before you get to an interview, consider practicing. FInd someone you trust that can roll-play with you. Have them ask typical interview questions. (They are easy to find online.) Do it online using your computer set-up. Like everything else in life, the first time you do something is easier than the first and it just gets increasingly easier the more you do it. It may seem silly, but it will prepare you for interview success.

After The Interview

Send a thank you note. Yes, you can email one if you want to take the easy way out. But it makes a much better impression to find something appropriate (perhaps something that you designed?), hand-write a well written note, and drop it in the mail. Don’t wait, do it right away. (The same day as the interview.) Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference.

The Question of Negotiating Salary

If the interview process goes well, you may be getting a job offer.

Often, the salary that someone receives is something that is negotiated. The potential employee wanting the job typically wants to get the highest salary they can imagine for the position, while the employer would rather pay less. And each wants the other to name their number first. 

With any negotiation, you have to weigh in a lot of factors beyond just the amount in the paycheck. Are their benefits? Healthcare benefits are a big selling point. If it includes things like dental or optical, that is pretty rare. Matching 401K benefits are really nice if you can start socking money away. (Not always easy to do for someone right out of school that might be paying back student loans.) Where the job is located can play into negotiating. A job downtown Chicago is more expensive for commuting and living than in a small town like Sycamore. 

And the prestige of the company is important. Let’s face it, most employees are not looking to land their first job and stay there until retirement. The first job you land may help you get the second one that will be even better. Working for a top brand or top agency does have some cachet.

If you feel like you need to name a salary expection, you might consider giving a two-step number. Name a number that fits what you are willing to work for to start, to prove yourself, but then also name a number where you expect to be once you prove yourself. 

“I want to prove myself in the position, so I would be willing to start out at $100,000. But, once I prove myself, and I would expect to do that within my first year, I would expect a more competitive salary would be at $150,000.” (Obviously these are numbers that are simply made up for illustration purposes and relate to a senior position, not an entry level one. But the idea is there.) You would then go on to state that together with your boss you would lay out the expectations to meet that higher salary.

This creates a win-win scenario where the employer can take a chance on you, but at the same time a more competitive salary is established in the near future. (You can get it in writing as part of a contract if you feel strongly about that.)


We hope this gives you some insights on the interview process. On this website is an employer survey that will share thoughts directly from the people that hire creative talent. There is a lot of helpful advice about what you should do as well as the mistakes you want to avoid when meeting up with these employers. Read up.

And good luck!

About the author…

Randy Gunter is a thirty year advertising agency veteran and agency owner. The Gunter Agency has worked on national and international projects for companies that include Charter Business, Firestone, Fiskars, John Deere, Kimberly-Clark, Oscar Mayer, OshKosh B’Gosh, Rayovac, and others. Randy and his agency have received Adweek’s Media Plan of the Year award, NAMA Best of PR award, and hundreds of creative awards and recognitions.

Randy still consults with companies on marketing, but today his main concentration is CEO of Sugar River Trading Company. Sugar River is best known as the manufacturer and distributor of McNess home products.

Date posted: February 26, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on The Interview

Categories: Articles

A video with recommendations on how to set up your space and laptop for an online video.

Date posted: February 9, 2021 | Author: | Comments Off on Online Interview

Categories: Video

Creative Employment Survey Overview

Survey Conducted by Randy Gunter, November 2020

Creative employment survey geared towards recent college graduates

Review the survey results pdf.

In November of 2020, we sent out an online survey to employers that hire creative people. In our definition, we are looking at the creatives as people who create communication materials. This would include graphic designers, art directors, photographers, videographers, copywriters, etc. Although most of the questions could be interpretted in general terms, the respondents knew we were specifically asking the questions as it related to hiring college graduates looking for their first job in the industry.

We received 36 responses. Half of the responses were from ad agency presidents or owners, the rest were from company executives who hired new employees. Five of the respondents worked in the corporate world, the rest worked at marketing/advertising agencies or design studios. Half of the respondents worked at companies that had under 20 employees, approximately a quarter ranged from 20 to 100, the rest had over 100 employees with one larger firm with over 500 . 

All respondents answered the questions voluntarily, no compensation was offered. As such, we wanted to keep the survey short. We were pleasantly surprised with some of the detail that respondents added to the “fill in the blank” questions.

An important note with this survey is that we took into account the changes in the way businesses function in 2020 due to the pandemic. The survey was written prior to announcements of any vaccine approvals. We are not sure that this information would have changed any responses. Our personal opinion is that some protocols established during the pandemic, interviewing via online video connections for example, could easily carry over even after things get back to “normal”. But most of the takeaways that are important for the job hunter will be pertinent regardless.


We felt that question number 6 that asked the respondents to rate importance of a candidate’s traits and abilities was revealing. We weren’t surprised that a candidate’s portfolio/samples were very important in getting the foot in the door, but even more important to the employer was whether the candidate would fit the culture of the firm. The candidate’s tenacity and desire also weighed right up there on the scale. Knowledge of the job, extra-curricular achievements, and the candidate’s resume did not weigh in as much in the process. 

The toughest question to answer was Question 9, where we asked how does the employer evaluate a candidate’s ability to work off-site. This question was obviously asked with the Covid environment where a lot of employees are working remotely. Many of our employers simply stated that they will not hire new employees at this time, even though they are busy and could use the help. A number also responded by stating that they would first hire candidates on a freelance basis. Along those same lines, a candidate might expect to have a “test assignment” to prove capabilities.

Questions 10 and 11 were open ended, simply asking the employer was a candidate can do to impress them in question 10 and what common mistakes candidates make in question 11. 

It is important to emphasize to students that the little things make a difference. Make sure there are not typos on a resume. Write a thank you note and then follow up. Understand the work that the company does. These items were mentioned over and over.

The mistakes question also included the same items mentioned above, just responding in the inverse. In addition, underdressing for the interview, not acting professionally, being too informal were mentioned.

As a side note, whether this is appropriate from an employer or not, employers will research candidates and look at their social media posts. If a candidate wants to be a professional, they need to carry that over into their private life too. 

The last question was an open-ended what else? question that interestingly had a lot of common themes and similar responses from our employers. A lot of the responses were keying in on attitude rather than ability. A candidate that acts like they know it all definitely gets negative feedback. Those that feel they are entitled will not be looked upon highly either.

Along with the attitude, the ability to present capabilities are certainly important. Job candidates need to know the software and having a good website to show off their work is essential. Being able to articulate the “why” is important, having a reason for what was done. If a candidate doesn’t have the samples they need from the classes they took, they need to take the initiative and create the samples themselves. Similarly, having multiple capabilities (graphic design plus web plus animation, for example) is a big plus in getting a first job. Anytime a student can get an internship, that is a plus (and sometimes a prerequisite.)

Several respondents also talked about networking. Candidates need to figure out how get involved in their industry, meet influencers, find networking events, etc. Last, but not least, a number of respondents talked about whether the candidate was enthusiastic or not. Wanting to learn and having a passion for the industry is important.

As an ad agency owner for over 20 years, and someone in the industry for over 30 years, I did not find anything that surprised me in the responses. I did not fill out the survey, but my own responses would have been right in line with what we saw from our participants. The actual survey is included for review, unedited. (Including the comment that I had a typo in the questions! Good thing I don’t need a job.)

About the author…

Randy Gunter is a thirty year advertising agency veteran and agency owner. The Gunter Agency has worked on national and international projects for companies that include Charter Business, Firestone, Fiskars, John Deere, Kimberly-Clark, Oscar Mayer, OshKosh B’Gosh, Rayovac, and others. Randy and his agency have received Adweek’s Media Plan of the Year award, NAMA Best of PR award, and hundreds of creative awards and recognitions.

Randy still consults with companies on marketing, but today his main concentration is CEO of Sugar River Trading Company. Sugar River is best known as the manufacturer and distributor of McNess home products.

Date posted: October 30, 2020 | Author: | Comments Off on Survey: Employers discuss hiring in the creative fields…

Categories: Articles