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If you’re looking for some good news to start your week then look no further! As a follow up to our article “Skills Designers Need Now” we asked Donna Farrugia, executive director of well known and highly regarded staffing agency The Creative Group to weigh in on graphic design hiring trends and positions in demand for 2012, as well as new portfolio and résumé standards. In addition to answering our questions, Donna, who manages operations for the firm’s locations in major markets throughout the United States and Canada shared several excellent resources made available free from The Creative Group. Our questions followed by Donna’s responses follow below.

1. What sort of hiring trends are you seeing this year?

“The employment outlook for creative professionals is expected to remain strong in the second quarter of 2012, according to the most recent The Creative Group Hiring Index. A net 10 percent of marketing and advertising executives surveyed said they plan to hire in the coming three months. In addition, web design and production ranked among the top areas that executives plan to hire in the second quarter.”

“As business picks up and creative teams and agencies take on more projects and clients, employers recognize a need to bring in extra support. They are filling full-time positions that were eliminated during the downturn and hiring freelancers to access specialized skills and help with heavy workloads.”

“We see continued demand for creative professionals with extensive digital skills, which suggests that finding candidates with this skill set remains a challenge. In fact, about four in 10 (41 percent) executives surveyed for our Hiring Index said it’s challenging to find skilled creative professionals today.”

TCG-Hiring-Report.jpgHiring Index for 4th Quarter: Image courtesy of The Creative Group

2. What types of positions are in demand now? In which sectors?

“According to research we conducted for The Creative Group 2012 Salary Guide, creative professionals with interactive or digital expertise are in strongest demand. We see continued demand for positions including user experience (UX) designers, web designers and developers, online project managers and video producers.”

“Our Salary Guide research also revealed a handful of industries or areas expected to see continued demand for creative professionals. These include, in no particular order, healthcare, mobile, gaming, education, technology, financial services and manufacturing. We also are seeing a lot of hiring action among agencies.”

3. What type of positions do you think will be in demand going forward?

“As organizations invest more money into online marketing and web-based initiatives, the demand for those with interactive skills will continue to intensify. In fact, according to our Salary Guide, those with expertise in this area can expect above-average salary increases in 2012. While starting salaries for creative professionals are projected to rise 3.5 percent over 2011 levels, professionals with digital expertise can expect base compensation to increase an average of 4 percent in 2012.”

4. Is there a new standard for graphic design portfolios and resumes? For example, do clients still want to see physical portfolios?

“A resume and portfolio are a creative’s two strongest job-search tools as they can help get a foot in a prospective employer’s or client’s door. While online portfolios are becoming more common among creatives as a way to display their work – particularly given the many portfolio sites available that make it easy to upload your work and reach a large audience – a printed portfolio can be just as effective when presenting work to hiring managers.”

“The key to impressing potential employers is doing your research and tailoring your portfolio to each opportunity. Find out how the interviewer likes to see candidates’ work. Then make sure you’ve customized the content to address the company’s specific needs. Also be prepared to speak intelligently about how your experience and skills can benefit the firm.”

“We recently published a useful guide, Creating and Presenting a Powerful Portfolio, which offers tons of great ideas for assembling a strong print and online book. You can download it for free at http://creativegroup.com/portfolioguide.”

5. In TCG’s “Hiring Trends for the Q4” video, Brett Good touches on “leveraging a specialized network of recruiters.” Can you elaborate on what this means?

Looking for work is rarely a task people relish, but it can be made easier with the help of a specialized staffing agency. These organizations often have extensive networks in the business community and can open doors to freelance or full-time jobs that you might not otherwise hear about. They also can match your unique skills to assignments that suit your work preferences.”

“For example, our account executives – most of whom are former designers or marketers themselves – spend every day lining up projects for job seekers who partner with us to find work. Their industry backgrounds and extensive professional networks in the creative industry enable them to quickly find projects matched to each person’s skills and job requirements. And they take care of all the administrative details, like billing and collecting.”

“We also provide free access to thousands of online training courses on popular technical and business topics to help creative professionals build their skill sets and become more marketable. A good recruiter can basically be another tool in your job-search tool belt.”

DonnaF.jpgSo there you have it. In a nutshell, the overall outlook for graphic design jobs appears positive but we designers need to stay on the ball and keep current with skills the industry needs. Also, a note for active job seekers — tailor your portfolio and résumé to the types of positions you are looking for. This series of articles focusing on graphic design jobs, hiring and market trends are inspired by your direct feedback as well as posts on industry forums, so please keep your comments coming.