Images and drawings give life to each marketing campaign. The creative touch lends the words another dimension, something an audience can connect with, not in their mind but subconsciously, with their emotions and values. Hence an excellent illustrator is an indispensable member of each creative team.

Graphic studios and advertising agency are ready to pay you a well-deserved salary for your work, often exceeding $50,000 annually (at least in the United States). Your former experience plays a pivotal role in the hiring process, but it’s not the only thing which matters… Let’s have a look at questions you may face while interviewing for this amazing job.


Can you tell us something more about your previous experience with illustrating?

Two words to start with: professional portfolio. Do not even dare going to this interview without having your best works in a simple collection, one you can show to the interviewers in any moment of your meeting.

But it’s not enough showing them some drawings and images and saying that you’ve done them, in your best years. You should be able clarify the goal of each drawing, what you tried to achieve with it, in this or that campaign. It’s important to demonstrate that you do not only draw pictures that are original or amusing. You illustrate things with a purpose on your mind, trying to achieve something, be it a certain emotion, association in the mind of the viewer, or any other goal.

Now, you do not necessarily need five years of working for a design studio to succeed in this interview. Your portfolio can consist of works of art you prepared for your personal projects, or for friends’ websites, local competition, whatever. As long as you can demonstrate your skills and the fact that you illustrate with purpose, they do not care whether you got paid thousands for your designs or did them for free…


Why employment and not freelancing? Best illustrators are freelancers, aren’t they?

I’d say you have two options for a good answer to this one. First one is saying that you are just starting out your pro career. It’s too early to work on your own. And while you have plenty of skills and creative ideas, you also still want to learn a lot, and there’s no better place to do so than an established advertising agency, publishing house, or graphic studio. You may consider freelancing in five years from now, but at the moment you prefer job security to freedom without money (or at least without a guaranteed income).

Second option is simply saying that you hate the “business” part of freelancing. You love sitting at your table, letting creative inspiration to do the magic through your fingers. Playing with colors, shades, trying innovative stuff both on paper and on computer–that’s what you enjoy the most.

But taking care of building your brand, trying to acquire clients, dealing with accounting, taxes, and spending hours each day just bidding for projects, instead of drawing, is not attractive to you at all. Hence you prefer employment, but understand that many illustrators decide for the freelancing path. It just isn’t your cup of coffee. Maybe you gave it a shot in the past, but quickly understood it’s not your path.

* May also interest you: Graphic Design Interview – What are your strengths and weaknesses?

What software products do you use in your work?

Everything is computerized nowadays, and each of your drawings will eventually end up on a screen of a computer, TV, or a mobile phone. It’s important naming a variety of programs here, and if not variety than at least two robust solutions, one for computer-aided design, and another one for drawing and editing.

Going with obvious choices of AutoCAD and Adobe Photoshop is okay, but you can also call out freeware alternatives, such as FreeCAD or BriscCAD, and GIMP. You can also explain how long you’ve been working with each software, and what version you’ve been using.

Of course if you’ve worked with some specialty software, for example something for special effects, you can mention it at this point. Ensure them that you are tech savvy, and do not mind spending a significant time in front of your computer screen.


What is your way of coming up with image ideas for various campaigns?

They want you to come up with ideas, instead of expecting them to tell you exactly what you should draw. You probably have your own way–maybe things come naturally to you, and you simply sit and produce some magic. It’s fine referring to creative inspiration (which often results from experience), but you should not stop there.

I’d suggest mentioning brainstorming ideas with other members of the marketing and design team. Talking about goals of the campaign, emotions you try to create, brand you try to build, message you try to convey, you can come up with something special.

You can also name a few designers you follow, on Behance, or on another platform. Not that you steal their ideas, but it’s fine seeing what the others are creating, as it inspires you to come up with your own ideas for this or that campaign…


How do you define budget or time limitation for your projects?

Great illustrator is as an artist at heart, but manager (or businessman) in their mind. Ensure the hiring managers that you have enough experience to calculate how long it will take you to finish this or that drawing, and how much this or that will cost the company.

You try to have system in your work, and with goals and deadlines clearly specified, it should not happen that you miss your deadlines. You can talk about breaking the design project into smallest possible tasks, and allocating time and expenses to each one of them. Then, counting everything together, you come up with an accurate time frame and budget for any project.


Imagine that a client rejects all the drafts you present them. What will you do?

Most likely you will send them to devil, especially if it took you several days to come up with those drafts. Needless to say, you should opt for a different answer in your interview.

The logical thing is asking them what they don’t like about the designs, or in which way they differ from their expectations. In some cases you may have to return back to the drawing board, and ensure that the goals they set for the campaign are still in tact, that you have a correct understanding of what they try to achieve with their ad, cover, leaflet, or any other promotional material you are working on together.

As always, communication is the key. Ensure the hiring managers that you won’t start pointless conflicts with the client. You will try to identify what went wrong, verify the priorities and goals, and simply make another draft–one they will approve… The key is to show them that you can handle rejection, and won’t overreact.


Other questions you may face in your illustrator job interview

  • Which work from your portfolio do you consider the best one, and why?
  • Is there any designer or illustrator you follow or admire? If you should pick one role model, who will it be?
  • How do you overcome a creative block?
  • What are your salary expectations and how would you like us to pay you (monthly, per hour, per project, etc)?
  • Tell us about a time when you struggled to meet a tight deadline with one of your drawings.
  • What does quality mean to you?

* You can also download the full list of questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later, even when offline:

illustrator interview questions, PDF

Conclusion, next steps

Your portfolio, or, said more precisely, how well you can demonstrate your skills with the help of your portfolio, plays a pivotal role in this hiring process. Pay special attention while preparing it, and think about your works from both design and business point of view. How did the pictures help the particular campaign or client? What did they change for them?

But portfolio isn’t everything. You have to show right attitude to communication with the clients, budgeting, bringing new ideas onboard, and also to managing your time at work–something many creative people struggle to do well.

Read the questions once again, and try to write a short answer to each one. And do not forget to check the campaigns/design works of your prospective employer, because they may ask you about them (what you would do differently as an illustrator, what you like or don’t like about them, etc). I hope you will succeed and wish you best of luck!


May also interest you:

  • Graphic design interview questions – It’s not the same field, but some questions do overlap. Continue your interview preparation with this piece of writing.
  • How to overcome interview nerves – If you keep thinking about all possible outcomes of your interview (including the negative ones), you should read this post.
  • Salary negotiation tips – Illustrators can earn anything from $10/hour to $50/hours. Which rate will you negotiate in your interview?
Matthew Chulaw
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