Next weekend is the ninth instalment of London’s Silicon Milkroundabout (after that they're every six months). It's the biggest fair for tech jobs in Europe and something I’ve had a bit of history with. I attended as a candidate looking for a job the second time it ran in 2011, which was where I first met onefinestay and sealed a full-time role there a few weeks later. I then attended at least four (I forget exactly) of them from the company side, working on the onefinestay stand.
Here’s my three stage advice for how you, as a designer, can maximise your chances of getting hired.
The key to an event like this is doing some work up front. Don’t just turn up on the day and wander round. There are hundreds of companies there and tons of people milling about. You’ll end up dazed by the whole thing.
At a minimum, you have to register before the event on their site. Then be precise and target some companies who are looking for your skills. Luckily the organisers have made this dead easy for you: just go to the companies page and filter by UX design (for example) to see the companies hiring for UX. Then read up on them to find out if the company mission excites and interests you. Also read up on the actual job description to see if it matches your skills and level (junior, mid, senior). When reading up on them note down any questions you have about anything that’s unclear. Now form a shortlist of no more than eight companies to go and speak to on the day—any more and you’ll be knackered.
The other thing to do beforehand is get something to leave the companies with. At a minimum that should be a business card. If you want to be more useful then create a CV. Though make sure it’s well designed and considered, you’re a designer, something rushed off on Word is going to give a poor impression. When I attended as a job hunter I created an infographic CV, something that stood out as different and got commented on. It’s an idea I’ve seen several times since so perhaps try something more original—just don’t make it too novelty. The other key is to make sure your business card or CV has a clear link to your portfolio, as ultimately that’s what they’re going to want to see from a designer.
The first thing to say is if you’re looking for design roles then turn up on the Saturday, that’s when the majority of those companies will be there. When I went as a punter there was only the one day and it was focussed around development so I had minimal competition for UX roles. This time it seems some of the companies looking for designers are only turning up on the Sunday so it could be a good idea to pop along then too—just be aware you’ll mostly be talking to developers so they may not be the best informed to tell you about the role.
The whole thing runs for six hours a day. Don’t attempt to do it all, it’s exhausting. Having manned a stand for a whole day, I can tell you six hours straight of talking/sales-pitching leaves you ready for a lie down. Target a two hour period and work through your shortlist. Be prepared to be flexible, some of them will be popular and there will be queues (it should be quieter right at the beginning and the end). Once you’re in try and chat to someone on the stand who knows about the role you’re going for. I know when I worked it I was happy to 'hand over' candidates to more relevant colleagues. Other than that don’t spend more than 10-15 minutes chatting with someone, you don’t want to test their patience. Be to the point and ask your questions, give them your CV and get their card/email address.
Now have one of the free beers—you’ve earned it.
After the event, what we did at onefinestay was go through the massive pile of CVs on a Monday and sort them into ‘yes', ‘maybe' or ‘no' piles. Whoever spoke to someone would have highlighted particularly good ones on the day too. We did tell everyone we’d get back to them but CVs get lost, processes break down at times and there were always surprisingly few candidates who followed up themselves. If it’s somewhere you’re really keen on don’t be afraid to fire over an email reminding them who you are and providing links to your site and work examples. Do it early though—the Monday or Tuesday. You’ll certainly stand out and force them to give you an answer. Even if it’s a no, you have the opportunity to find out why so you know what you need to work on.
If they are interested in you, well done! However the hiring process has now probably only just begun as many in the tech world are fans of multi-round interviews before they take the big decision to offer a job. So expect that but try and understand what their process is at the start and don’t let them mess you around for weeks on end.
Other than that, good luck!
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