How to get your first B2B design job

About 90% of my ADPList mentees have the exact same question. “How do I get my first design job?” I figured it would be easiest for me to just write it all down here.

This post is not for marketing design where you will mostly be making websites and brochures. Also it is not for B2C design, like apps or e-commerce. I have done all three, but this post will focus on B2B enterprise application design.

Landing your first job takes 4 steps.

  1. Be a good designer
  2. Have a good digital presence (LinkedIn, Resume, and Website)
  3. Apply to jobs
  4. Do well in the interviews

Some are easier than others. I’ll go in order of the list.

Be a good designer

Bootcamps and HCI degrees are honestly doing a terrible job of teaching the actual craft of user interface design. It’s so bad, I actually suggest skipping it all together. Instead, read About Face by Alan Cooper. It is a dense, long book. Every paragraph could be its own book.

Caveat: Cooper is a consultant/agency. Sometimes, the book goes too far and only makes sense if you are trying to pad your hours. However, it is still all the right subject matter.

Despite me suggesting this for years, very few designers read this book because it is daunting. You can leapfrog many designers if you read it.

Another book that is highly suggested is Fundamentals of Data Visualization. It is free and an excellent primer on different ways to display data.


The next part of being a good designer is mastering Figma. It is the most essential tool and you must be a power user. It is not enough to be decent. You have to know it inside and out. If you can’t do this, you will not succeed in becoming a designer. There are countless resources to learn the tool for free online.

There is no substitute for Figma proficiency. It is crucial to success.


The easiest way to get better at Figma and designing is to have a good design exercise. I have a long list of them, but the one I would suggest is the last one on redesigning the GMail settings UI.

Note: Landing your first design job is a full time job. You should be working 6+ hours every single workday to get it. If you expect to just apply and land a job, you may be disappointed. There are many designers competing for a few spots.

Read these books and do this exercise and you will find you will surpass 95% of candidates.

Have a good digital presence

Most designers I meet put in the least amount of effort possible. This is not how you get the job. You need to put design thought into your resume, LinkedIn, and your personal website.

The goal of your digital presence is simple: After you apply, you want the recruiter or hiring manager to click the button that schedules a zoom call with you.


All hiring managers have a similar experience and it is good for you to understand it, so that you can design for success.

First thing to know about hiring managers is that they are under tremendous pressure to hire people quickly. Open headcounts have a way of disappearing, so you have to fill them when you can. Plus, the reason for hiring is that you have too much work to do, so until they fill the spot, the pressure of work is enormous.

All hiring managers us something called an ATS (Applicant Tracking System). Companies like Lever and Greenhouse are common. I think I have used 5 different systems over the years, but they are all basically the same.

Mainly, there is a list with applicants. There are links to the resume, LinkedIn, and Portfolio. A hiring manager might go through 30-50 applicants in a single day. This means each applicant gets very little time in the mind of the hiring manager. (Often less than a minute)

The hiring manager has two buttons they can click. “Proceed” and “Reject”. Each will send an automated email to you.

The goal of your digital presence is to get them to click Proceed. If they do, your digital presence succeeded. If not, that is a fail.

Imagine you are number 23 in a list of 40 designers. Every single designer for the day has exactly the same presentation. Same boring resume, same boring LinkedIn, same template, minimalist site. After a while, it is truly mind numbing.

A candidate who is 10% different feels like a breath of fresh air. Any difference can feel great. However, if your site is the same, your likelihood of getting “Proceed” drops dramatically.

Please read my differentiation post.


Many designers think they need to make a resume that a computer will read. I honestly do not why they think this. I look at each resume with my eyeballs. I don’t know any hiring managers who are using AI or a computer to sort through resumes. This would be really strange.

Instead, make a resume that you think is well designed and beautiful. I make mine in Figma. I find it easy to control the layout with Figma and you can easily export it to PDF.

Again, do not make resumes for computers. Make them for human beings.


Your LinkedIn is actually pretty important. Make sure you have recommendations and skills listed. Pay attention to the details. Even your background image can help make a positive impression. Don’t skimp on the effort here.

Additionally, make sure the text is well written. NO TYPOS! My advice is to get someone who is detail oriented to proof read all of your text. The text itself should not be too short nor too long. You need to make it readable and understandable with a quick skim read.

If you do not have recommendations, ask a friend to do one for each other. They are a major indicator for many hiring managers.


This is the most important element of your digital presence. You must spend time on this. Too many design portfolios are exactly the same.

I don’t want to completely rehash everything in the posts above. Please read them. I’ll try and summarize a few key points though.

Put Hotjar (or equivalent) on your site right now. It’s free and the session recordings are absolute gold. I can not believe that people don’t have this. It is so easy and so important. Don’t trust anyone when it comes to your actual users. Watch them interact with your site! Trust your own eyes.

Clicking is not the enemy of design. We click all the time on the web. It is not uncomfortable or bad. Rather than make super simplistic pages, make more links with shorter content. The about page should have more links. Don’t just say you like photography, put sample pictures on your site. Don’t just say you read books on design, put links to your thoughts on each one.

The bottom line is that interactivity is a good thing. You want to let the user choose their own adventure.

Again, read the sub posts above.

Apply to Jobs

This is fairly simple. You go on LinkedIn and apply. It’s annoying because many companies use proprietary application technology which means you have to put in the same information over and over and over again. There are some chrome features and extensions that help with this somewhat. I used to keep a txt file open with all of the things so I can easily cut and paste.

A good practice is to keep a database of where you applied. I find it hard to keep track, but if you do, you can analyze your journey better. I typically use a spreadsheet, but there are different kinds of software out there too.

Do well in the Interview

This step also takes practice. The good news is that there is a free resource to get good at this. It’s called ADPList and it’s free. You sign up and book time with mentors. When you start the zoom you tell them that you want a “mock interview”. Here is what you say…

“Hi, I am practicing interviewing for a B2B junior design position for a tech company. Please interview me the way you would normally interview someone. We will set a timer for 20 minutes. After that, I would like you to tell me where I could have answered better and where I did well. Also, I will let you know how YOU compared to others as an interviewer.”

That last part is important. It will make them take the exercise seriously. You need to do this exercise at least a dozen (12) times. The first few will be rough. Then you will gain confidence as you see the patterns of the questions. After 10-20, you will feel like you have heard every question and know exactly how to answer.


Do these steps and within 6 months you should land your first job. Many mentees do not do all of the steps. Their site is minimalist and boring. The work is not presented well. They do not know Figma well enough.

No one owes you a job. You have to earn it by beating your competition. Other designers are your competition. It is true that there are many designers for every position, but I can tell you there are not too many good designers. If you can improve 10%, you will be surprised how you can surpass 80% or more of candidates.

I literally go through this entire set of steps with candidates over and over. I wonder if they will read it. Time will tell.


Whatya think?