How to explain design management in a job interview

Design management applies to several different fields, disciplines, and industries. The attempt to narrow it down and box it into a one-sentence-definition will lead to confusion and will not do the complex term any justice. Yet, the Design Management Institute gave it a try and defined design management as follows: “Simply put, design management is the business side of design.” (n.d.)

Well, this does not really help us making the terms more feasible and understandable, does it? The 10-words definition does not express any practical applications – design management remains hard to grasp. One common situation in which you as design management international (later referred to as DMI) students or graduates will be asked to explain design management, or rather the value of it, is during a job interview. And usually, you will be talking to HR specialists or recruiters who typically do not have any background in design. So, how can we explain design management in a job interview to such interviewers who do not have any prior knowledge? By the end of this blog article, you will know the answer.

Before sharing a collection of hands-on examples and explanations, I would like to emphasize that these recommendations are based upon my personal experience. While looking for an internship position in summer 2019 as well as 2020, I completed several assessments stages and was invited to various job interviews. This led to the realization that there are no right or wrong answers to such a question; however, effective answers highly depend on the job you are applying for. Hereinafter, I will share my personal recommendation on how to explain design management in a job interview, highlighting general benefits that are of value to any company.

Sell, don’t explain

First and foremost, be aware that you are in a job interview – in a situation where you aim to convince the person in front of you of your skills. This means, of course, you need to explain to them what design management is but more importantly, why your knowledge is of value and benefit to their organization.

This is why I recommend you to put yourself in the shoes of your (possible) future employer. What is relevant to them? What do they need? How does design management add value to them? According to this information, adjust your explanation of benefits tailored to the organization. This could be done for instance by researching about the organizational culture. Let us say at the core of the company’s values lies an innovative spirit. In that case, I would suggest finding concrete examples of why you would fit into such an organization that stands for innovation. In this example, one approach could be to mention what products or services you have innovated as part of your DMI degree – maybe during the course “innovation lab”? In any case, you should always remember that whatever you say should not just explaining how you fit into the organization but confirming the recruiter that you are the exact right fit for the job, beyond any doubt.

Describe the courses you completed

One way to make design management more tangible to someone from a different field is by concretely mentioning courses that form part of your DMI Bachelor’s degree. Again, I propose to mention the courses that are most relevant to the desired position. Let us assume you are applying for the role of a marketing intern. In that case, I would recommend stating that the undergraduate program involves courses such as marketing, communication design, trend research, user research, campaign management or project management. All of these courses are highly relevant in marketing and enhance the interpretation of what your skillset as a DMI student or graduate consists of. In that case, any person even without prior knowledge in design will gain a clear understanding of your qualifications by knowing what courses you successfully completed. This is why I propose to introduce the individual courses that are part of the DMI program during a job interview.

Emphasize your design background/experience

The DMI Bachelor’s degree program is open to students from almost any background, whether in management or design. Regardless of the individual experiences, any student will be taught a basic design understanding throughout the program. From my very own experience, I can tell how much appreciated such a design understanding is. After the first year of DMI, when I was in the position of a “creative marketing intern” at a beauty company in Singapore, my supervisor was impressed by the way I was able to collaborate with the inhouse designers as I understood their daily business. I knew how to use the Adobe programs and was able to work with the graphic designers instead of just giving them a brief to implement. Also, the way I created design briefs for marketing campaigns set me apart from other interns who came from a solely business background. Trust me, you are not even aware of how much you know about design (from a technical perspective) until you work with business graduates. Consequently, I am convinced that in any role, having a basic understanding of design is of great value to any organization – and definitely something you should mention during a job interview.

The best of both worlds

The most basic explanation of design management that you could possibly share at a job interview is describing that it is the “best of both worlds” – meaning that you were taught design skills as well as business and management skills. In other words, you know how to solve business matters in a more creative and human-centred way. I am aware that design management is a lot more than just the mixture of “design” and “management” but it might be one of the most effective means to make it feasible to people who have not been introduced to the topic before. For instance, you could explain to your interviewer that you know how to set up a financial plan for a business, and at the same time, you know how to develop the service that is part of generating the revenue of that business. For this reason, depending on your interview partner, I suggest describing the value of design management as bringing in both a design as well as a management perspective into the team, the organization or the tasks you will be faced with.

Soft skills, soft skills, soft skills!

Soft skills are people’s abilities to communicate with each other and work well together (Cambridge Dictionary, n.d.). The Forbes Magazine shared that soft skills training boosts productivity and retention 12 per cent and delivers a 250 per cent return on investment as a result. Also, Deloitte’s 2016 Global Human Capital Trends report states that executives identify these skills as crucial to fostering employee retention, improving leadership, and building a meaningful culture. Even 92 per cent of all respondents rated soft skills as an essential priority (Bruce, 2017). Long story short: companies out there know how integral soft skills are. And the DMI undergraduate program provides you with such. At the core of design management lies creativity and effective problem solving, two of the most valued soft skills. Besides, DMI students learn to work in teams and collaborate with various stakeholders – another soft skill recognised as essential. Equally important are communication skills, which are also taught along with the Bachelor’s program. And last but not least: Adaptability. Design management encourages you to be curious and to navigate confidently through uncertainty. This teaches you to adapt quickly to various scenarios. As a result, I strongly recommend explaining the value of design management in a job interview by pointing out how the program develops its students’ soft skills.

Conclusion

You as a DMI student or graduate have now read about various suggestions of how to explain design management in a job interview. I invite you to use these ideas and truly “sell” your value, tailor your answer to the organization, describe the courses of the program, emphasize your design background, outline the mixture between design and management, and highlight your soft skills such as effective problem solving or creativity. Still, I understand that regardless of your individual circumstances, you might appreciate a short, concise and “universally applicable” answer that you can keep in mind for your next job interview. The companies Amazon, Wolff Olins and Vodafone all asked me at least one question around what skills the Bachelor’s program equipped me with. And I propose the following exemplary answer:

“The DMI Bachelor’s program taught me a fundamental mindset that enables me to approach business matters with creative and human-centred strategies. Design management enlightened my understanding of design and my eye for aesthetics while considering underlying business aspects. The program consists of courses such as marketing, user research, communication design, creative problem solving or organisational behaviour. These inputs along with various real-life projects in teams strengthened my soft skills as the success of all of our projects heavily relies on effective collaboration in teams. Design management has enhanced my communication skills, spurred my curiosity, and further built on my problem-solving skills.”

So, what else are you waiting for? Send out your applications for internships or graduate jobs! And feel confident to explain design management in a job interview by keeping this article always close at hand.

Sources:

What is Design Management? (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2020, from https://www.dmi.org/page/What_is_Design_Manag

SOFT SKILLS: meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2020, from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/soft-skills

Bruce, J. (2017, March 10). Why Soft Skills Matter And The Top 3 You Need. Retrieved March 13, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/janbruce/2017/03/10/why-soft-skills-matter-and-the-top-3-you-need/#3631a11a76f3

2 Replies to “How to explain design management in a job interview”

  1. Thank you very much Tammy for your valuable feedback! I’m happy to take these inputs into consideration for my next blog article 🙂

  2. All in all a very interesting, insightful and well-written article. A highly relevant and well-chosen topic on that matter, not only for students like us but also graduates in our field. Especially as this could not only account for job interviews but also in many other situations such as networking or any other kind of future scenario in the industry. As widely known in the world of design management, it is not an easy topic – and I, therefore, appreciate your consistent efforts in underlying your findings by sharing your own experiences in those exact interview situations and proposing practical examples on how to go about it.

    The chosen language for the post is a good fit. I consistently felt advised and guided-trough by a young and competent voice. Your points came across explicit and seemed close to reality, which, in this topic, is an absolute must – so well-done! This underlines how you ensured to, not only, claim, but also support your suggestions like the reference to external sources in the section “soft skills”, if needed. I found that extremely helpful and notable, as the subject itself is assumed to be a rather debatable one, but now, as you provided us with relevant facts and figures from numerous sources, we can counter any skeptic!

    Furthermore, your subheadings were on-point and made use of wordings which represent the essence of the paragraph to follow (e.g. where you introduce the most crucial point to highlight in an interview like this: soft skills, soft skills, soft skills!).

    A point, where I would suggest something to improve, would be at the end of your paragraphs. As I started to perceive the endings as slightly repetitive with you, finishing sentences of your suggestion quite some times with “I propose” and “I suggest”, even though you argued very well above already and I did not see the need for the reader to be reminded again in that form.

    What I also found especially interesting was the differentiation of your design briefs to the ones of other individuals with a background in business. A very interesting point, to which I therefore almost longed for some concrete details in terms of what was the actual differentiation. On top of that, it would have also been a chance to underline its validity even more.

    However, I could follow your thoughts almost effortlessly throughout the article. The introduction states clear evidence on the difficulties and its relevance with your perspective on who will ultimately interview us: The HR specialist. An authorized person with little to no knowledge in your particular field. An argument I really liked. Additionally, I would like to applaud your conclusion: Your personal definition of how to explain design management. Not only does it set an empathic tone, but it also perfectly draws back to the introduction and precisely answers your claim in the title – you clearly uphold what you promised.

    Overall, your personal experiences and gained knowledge of job interviews shines through the whole text and it was a pleasure to read. Definitely one I will come back to when I find myself in this tricky situation – Thank you! 🙂

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