Whether you’re graduating from art school and looking for a position with an established firm or hanging your own shingle, you need to know how to perfect your résumé. The tricky part of this is that so much of interior design is visual, not verbal, but if you rely solely on your portfolio, you’ll miss a great opportunity to sell your potential employer or client on your skills and past experience.
Begin with a cover letter where you explain to someone what you’re going to do for them and their company, why the job is of interest to you, and what unique skills you bring to the table.
A great cover letter will not just talk about what you’ve accomplished, it will focus mostly on what you are going to do specifically for your client or employer. You should touch on how you respond to challenges, what your strengths and weaknesses are, what your niche is, and why you’re interested in the specific position available.
Though the content of the letter is important, it is equally as important to focus on your voice. The way you write can often say more about you than the words themselves. You want to sound coherent, intelligent, focused, and straightforward. Avoid using words you wouldn’t use in normal conversation, because you don’t want to come across as though you are trying too hard.
Start by addressing the letter to the individual at the company where you are applying or the name of the client with whom you are trying to work. Personalizing the letter will be important, because you don’t want it to come across as generic or something you reuse for multiple jobs, even if you repurpose some parts of it. Here are a few more guidelines:
- Open by explaining the specific position for which you’re qualified.
- Focus in the first paragraph how you’re going to innovate, change, or in some way improve the interior design experience for that client.
- Instead of rattling off all of the information your résumé lists, try to describe one impressive project you’ve worked on, explain your unique approach to collaborating, or share one specific challenge you had to be extremely creative to overcome.
- Close with your intentions, explaining what you would like the end result to be for the client or employer.
Here’s a sample of an interior design cover letter from Job Hero:
Dear Mr. Lusby:
Upon review of your posting for an Interior Designer, I felt compelled to submit my resume for your review. With my education and experience in interior design, as well as my proven commitment to dynamic, forward-focused residential and commercial space planning, I feel confident that I would significantly benefit your organization.
With expertise in design subjects spanning color theory and furniture design to contemporary and historical styles and drafting / rendering, I am prepared to excel in this role. Along with my impressive professional achievements in interior design and planning, my additional strengths in design concepts and presentations, project scheduling and budgeting, and superior client service position will enable me to thrive in this challenging and creative position with Goldcane Design.
Highlights of my background include:
Excelling in residential planning and interior design educational programs while generating a high-impact portfolio and project board and earning a reputation for successfully completing outstanding design projects above their required scope.
Achieving in-depth expertise in a variety of interior design elements, including color schemes, furnishings, materials, textures, and floor plans.
Orchestrating construction and installation projects while communicating consistently with vendors, suppliers, traders, and contractors to ensure successful project execution.
Utilizing organizational, interpersonal, and motivational skills to propel projects and teams to peak results.
Currently pursuing NKBA and AutoCAD certification; possessing dual degrees in Interior Design and Fashion Design.
With my previous experience in interior design, coupled with my enthusiasm and dedication to achieving success, I believe I could swiftly surpass your expectations for this role. I look forward to discussing the position in further detail.
Thank you for your consideration.
Different from your cover letter and portfolio, your résumé is going to serve as a debriefer on what you’ve done in your career. It is more or less a testament to your experience and proof that you are as competent as you say you are.
Even if you’re not a graphic designer by trade, consider hiring someone to put together your résumé, or at the very least, use sleek fonts and balanced spacing. As a designer, you want everything that you do to be a testament to your taste and skill. Remember that with a résumé, less is often more. You don’t want the design to be distracting from the content; rather, it should enhance it.
As in your cover letter, be as clear as possible. Use this as an opportunity to articulate the previous roles you’ve had and what your responsibilities were while you had them. You can do this by first listing the title of your former position and then the company that you worked for. When you list the responsibilities that you had, start each sentence with a strong verb. Here are some examples:
- Worked within
In addition, be sure to use numbers and metrics whenever possible to show what you accomplished. This is a way to emphasize the gravity of some projects you’ve done. Metrics can include the budget you were given, the size of the company you worked for, how much you earned/saved/created for the company, or the size of the space you were responsible for designing.
Take A Holistic Approach
Chances are you aren’t only going to have interior design experience in your background. Most people hold multiple positions throughout their lives, but just because it isn’t in the same field, doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. In fact, you can often complement your skill set with experience in other fields. For example, anything to do with communication, team-leading or building, problem-solving and creativity would be an asset to your interior design résumé.
Be Consistent & Double-Check Your Work
You want your résumé to be as clean as possible and to flow as well as possible. This means you should double- and triple-check that everything is spelled correctly, there aren’t any grammatical errors, and that the entire document is balanced.
This means that if you began listing each position you’ve had as: “Job, years held, company, city,” you won’t want to switch to: “Job, company, city, years held” in the middle. You should also check that your bold and italicized fonts and the phrasing of your experience statements are consistent. This means that if you start some points with a verb, don’t start others differently.
Classic Résumé Items
Even though you are in a field that relies more on visual experience than textual, make sure you have covered all the bases of a typical résumé. Remember, it’s okay if not all of this experience is in the field of interior design as long as you can find a way to show that it is relevant to the position in question.
At the top or bottom of your résumé should be your education section. You should explain what school(s) you attended, the degrees you earned, your major projects or extracurricular activities you were involved in, what honors you earned, or what your thesis was in. Though it shouldn’t be the bulk of the résumé, make sure you note your formal education and training.
On top of your degrees, take note of who you studied with or under, especially if they were your mentor. You can even ask this person for a letter of recommendation and note that it’s attached. In other cases, be sure to mention if you were the one who mentored someone else, as that displays great leadership.
If you have any certifications that aren’t specifically a degree but nonetheless apply directly to your field, make mention of those. You can put your “certification” section right beneath your education.
If you belong to any groups or organizations that are specific to the design community — like American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), for example — be sure you list it to illustrate that you’re active in the community and connected to other people in the field.
Though interior design is a largely physical job, your soft skills — and particularly, software skills — are going to be pertinent when it comes to your résumé. Note whether you are proficient in certain tools such as CAD, XactRemodel, Photoshop, or Illustrator, as these will be essential in designing spaces.
Client & Service Provider Experience
Unique to fields like interior design, you should note if you’ve worked with a larger company or any specific big-name clients. If not, note if you’ve worked with dozens or even hundreds within a certain area, focusing on a certain type of style.
Your portfolio should be a complement to, not a replacement for, your résumé. Whereas your résumé is going to explain your formal experience, your portfolio is going to display what you’ve done while you were there. You can make a digital portfolio, but make it easily shareable so that the client can show friends, family, or coworkers. When it comes to making a great portfolio, these are the main elements you will need:
Before & After Shots
Before and after shots allow the client to see the scope and depth of your work. Yes, well-staged and high-quality photos are important no matter what, but if you can show them what a space looked like before you transformed it, they will have more confidence that you can do something similar to their own. You want to show that you can not only walk into a space that seems totally drab and out-of-date and envision something new, but that you can execute that vision as well.
Explain Your Process
Though photos are the bulk of a portfolio, adding a narrative to them makes them even more powerful. Use this as an opportunity to explain — perhaps in the captions below the images — how you worked with the client at hand, how you collaborate, what your step-by-step process looks like, or how you overcame a specific challenge with that room to make it look the way it does today.
Try to get a review from the person whose room or home you are showing in your portfolio. You should be able to not only show other clients how good your work is, but prove that those whom you work with are very happy with the results as well.
Consider making your portfolio digital. Use a website or use Google Slides so that if someone reaches out to you via that site or social media, you can easily link them. The more integrative and technologically savvy you seem, the more convincing you’re going to be. In addition, having tools like an iPad on which you can sketch, draw, or show your work will help you look as professional and polished as possible.
Putting It All Together
Once you have everything you need, you might want to start with either Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign if you have the software. Remember that you want your résumé to be simple and yet accessible. There are templates on Word that you can use, but being a designer, it’s always recommended that you do something unique and distinctly to your taste.
You’ll want to start your résumé off with an “elevator pitch,” which is the way you sum up your work in just a few words. Start by writing down what you think makes your experience so unique, and then try to synthesize that down to a few brief points, and put them together into one sentence or two. You can also come up with a catchphrase, or moniker, that will help you be remembered. Something to the effect of: “Home Is Where The Heart Is,” but feel free to use your creativity.