Why Sometimes Your Graphic Design CV and Portfolio Are Not Enough to Get Hired

Getting a job as a graphic designer is not exactly a piece of cake. This is why so many designers go the freelancing route or even open they own design agencies after a few years in the industry.

What is it that makes getting a job so hard anyway? Even if your CV and portfolio are amazing, when you apply for a graphic design job, you are most definitely also going to be asked to do a test task.

How can these test tasks make or break your interview process? There are some factors that can either land you the job in a jiffy or throw you for a complete loop leaving you feeling like a total fool.


The test task’s purpose

The essential purpose of a design task is for the company to see some of your skills:

  • If you know the systems
  • How long you take to create something worthwhile
  • What your design process looks like under pressure

Sometimes employers will give tasks to do at home, while others will give a timed in-office task. It’s actually commonplace that some tasks are completely unnecessary, but how do you know when that is?

When a company asks for an at home task before you even get an in-person interview, it should be a huge red flag:

  • They don’t really know what they need from a designer
  • They need designs done cheaply and will do sneaky at home test to get free work
  • They haven’t really looked at your portfolio OR your portfolio isn’t good enough

If the test task is given after an in-person interview, it still makes more sense when it’s given to an entry-level designer. A senior designer could potentially be offended, but then again they might not know how to use new systems. An experienced and creative designer could easily fail a test task if the company uses an OS they aren’t familiar with for example.

When to accept the test task

Knowing what you know now, should you accept the test tasks? It depends.

For example, let’s say you are applying for a designer position in a company you really admire and would love to work for. They send you a test task after your in-person interview, do you do it? Of course! They have already looked at your portfolio, you have already had a conversation. The test task is probably to see how you can handle their systems and brand style etc. If you want that job, then you do their test task without a second thought.

If you are applying for a company you know nothing about and they send you an at-home test task without even meeting you in person, something along the lines of “recreate our homepage, brochure, logo,” etc, do you do it? Not without thinking about it really well first.

Is it work your time to do that test task? If you are a junior designer and can’t land interviews anywhere else, then you might have no choice!

Will employers always ask for a test task?

Yes, the test task is like a thorn in the side of the designer workforce. Not only for graphic designers. UX designers and even product designers are given test tasks during the interview process as well. Senior designers are sometimes not given test tasks because their work is already well known.

What differs is who is giving the test task.

Some employers will give it because they literally have no clue how to look at your CV and portfolio. In other cases, they just don’t believe you are as good as you seem in your portfolio.

The main difference is when a company has an established design department or not. If they don’t, the test tasks could be about anything, with no real purpose. If they do have a design department then they might just want to see a specific ability or knowledge of a system.

Can you prepare for test tasks? Not really, because you will never know what they will ask you to do. What you can do, is prepare yourself mentally for anything they throw at you.

Either way, always keep improving your portfolio

Even though you know that you will probably be given a test task anyway, you should never disregard the importance of your portfolio. Always add new projects, no matter if they are paid or personal. Organize the work by topic, that way you can adapt the portfolio for any client.

If you do go ahead with a test task for a company, use that for your portfolio too!

We have lots of resources here in the Freepik Blog to help you create amazing portfolios.

How To Build Your Design Portfolio When You Don’t Have Clients Yet

How Creating a Personal Blog Can Improve Your Portfolio and Get You New Clients

High profile trends in graphic design portfolios for the modern designer

10 Best Ideas for Graphic Designer’s Portfolio

Do’s and Don’ts of Creating a Stunning Portfolio

Over to you

Have you been given test tasks as part of an interview process? Tell us your experience in the comments!