Mikhail asked a great question about leave-behinds when interviewing for a new job, “The leave behind still eludes me. Mainly, I can’t get a straight answer on it. Sometimes they’re totally vital, sometimes they’re totally optional, depending on who I’ve asked. I’ve also heard they can take just about any form, from mini portfolios to a bomber of beer. My question is, what do you guys looks for in a leave behind, and is there any advice you’d have for someone trying to get one together?”

We thought we’d answer this question from the perspective of a employer and employee. So, Joey and I will both offer our comments on this element of the interview process, and how it plays a role in decision making when hiring a new employee.

Chad’s Thoughts

Getting a new job is tough. Especially when you’re a green-horn. You’ve got little to no real-word experience and getting yourself noticed amongst a sea of other designers is daunting. I was there too at one point, and it was rough. And I too remember feeling like I needed all of these “things” to get hired; I needed a bunch of stuff, a recipe of items, that would knock my interviewer’s socks off. The reality is, however, most of that “stuff” isn’t needed. A strong book and a nice resume is sufficient.

What will show through, and what people remember, is you. Sure, you’ve gotta have some skill and talent. Don’t get me wrong. Those things are important. But, the most important thing you can have in your corner…is you. If you’ve got some talent and show a drive and hunger for the world of design, and show how willing you are to bust your ass and learn, they’ll remember you. I promise.

At the end of the day, it’s not about the things you bring, or what you leave behind for me to remember you by. If you walk in and show me who you are, and how much you want the job, I’ll remember you. I would rather hire a potential employee that has good stuff and is ready to learn and work hard, then somebody with amazing stuff who has an ego or is a jerk. As an employer, I’m defined by the people around me. And I’d rather have a team of people who give a shit and are willing to bust ass than some dude who can make pretty stuff and is a punk to my clients.

Joey’s Thoughts

I’ll preface my advice with this: Take everyone’s advice and take no advice. At the end of the day you should trust your gut. It seems there are a lot of absolutist design articles online that stress “YOU NEED THIS THING!” You should look at leave behinds as a tool that should only be used when appropriate.

That being said, I have never produced a leave behind. My goal has always been to work at a smaller, more intimate firm. So I catered my interview strategy for that environment. I wanted to focus on an authentic, unique interaction that was informed by my work but wasn’t necessarily limited to it.  For instance when I first met Chad, we met at a coffee shop for an hour. Maybe 15 minutes was spent talking about my work, with the rest spent talking about design as a whole, website pitfalls, horror stories, and favorite illustrators. I followed up a few days later with a phone call. Now I work here.

My goal was to be authentic and illustrate that I was engaged and wanted the job. So I felt a leave behind wasn’t necessary.