An Interview with Facebook's Jami Hoffman

For almost a decade Jami has been hiring top-notch designers for companies like Razorfish, Warner Bros, Yahoo!, & Microsoft. With a creative background, Jami's a natural match-maker having placed designers of nearly every level & specialty. Currently recruiting creatives for Facebook in California, she's the sweetest powerhouse you'll ever meet. We were fortunate enough recently to catch up with Jami and get her thoughts on finding a job during some very bizarre times.

Just about everyone is feeling some effect from the troubled economy. Have you seen an effect on salaries?

Companies that value design think differently about design and understand they can't afford to cut corners around pay wages when trying to hire high-caliber talent. There is an awareness that rock star designers have options and if the salary is below market they will either look elsewhere or decide not to make a move at all.

Rather than cutting base salaries, many companies have become more selective in their decision making process and are willing to hold out longer for the right candidate to come along. Because there are fewer opportunities, the candidate pool has grown and many companies aren't feeling the pressure to hire as quickly as they once did. That being said, we're hiring like crazy right now! :)

Year-end bonuses have also been affected by the current economy. Because most bonus plans are measured partially based on company performance, the percentage offered may not be as high as it once was.

There is a lot of debate amongst creatives regarding college. What's your take? Where does higher education sit with you in level of importance when considering a candidate? Have you seen it prevent any great designers from getting hired? Have you seen it help a mediocre designer get hired?

While a college degree has significant merit, I have yet to see a solid designer get denied if they don't have one and a mediocre designer get hired because they do. That said, a majority of designers do have degrees and when you see a reputable school listed on a resume it makes you look twice. Nevertheless, as a designer grows and gains more experience the focus shifts to the complexity of their work, companies they have worked for, and projects they have designed. Most consideration is given to the portfolio. It speaks volumes.

Let's talk money; What salary range would you tell a young designer to expect out of the gate? And, after 10-15 years of being a bad-ass, what salary range should they aspire for once they get the big creative director spot at the peak of their career?

There are many variables to consider when thinking about salary: region, industry, company, benefits package, professional growth development. In the tech space, an entry level salary for a strong web designer in the LA/SF/ NYC market may range from 60k-75k. Creative Directors tend be paid in the ballpark of $130k- 200k, but this may not necessarily be straight base pay and can include bonuses, restricted stock units, time off, relocation, etc.

Specific to creatives: Give us some Do's & Don'ts when they're presenting themselves and their work? What are some common mistakes? What can a candidate do to make your life easier?

---- Do: ----

  • Show your most current, relevant, mind blowing work right away; don't save it for later.
  • Indicate what your role is for each design, since often projects are done in collaboration.
  • Prepare to speak comfortably about your work and explain the rationale and reasoning behind your design decisions.

---- Don't: ----

  • Rush to get your portfolio out the door if it isn't ready to be shown. Your portfolio is a first impression and you want it to be tight. Take the time you need to get it polished, so that you feel confident presenting.
  • Go for quality over quantity. Design teams would rather see projects that can be explained deeply and thoughtfully rather then a quick scratch of the surface. Less is more.
  • Spend a majority of time verbally discussing projects you can't show.

When you're considering a candidate, do you google them? Have you ever seen an active online presence help or hurt a candidate?

Many web designers have an online presence that is easy to find, giving you an invitation to have a glimpse of who they are. For designers applying for positions in the tech and interactive space, it can work to their advantage because it shows that they are curious and engaged in the environment they want to design for. It also makes for easier and less formal conversations to take place. Of course use common sense and be wise about what gets posted.

Artists aren't known for being business-minded. This can make salary negotiation more uncomfortable for creatives than others. When a company presents a job offer; is it generally understood to be a "best-and-final" or is there usually a little room for negotiation. What would your advice be to a designer who got an offer 10-15% lower than they'd hoped for? Specifically how should they go about negotiating?

To avoid receiving an offer that is off the mark or offensive, I suggest that you discuss your salary expectations during the initial conversation. If your salary range is well above what the company can afford, you will most likely be told so, as no one wants to waste time. It is important to know the company that you are dealing with; if you sense that they are being transparent with you, do the same in return. It works to everyone's advantage.

Depending upon the company there may or may not be room for negotiation. At the end of the day it all depends on how badly they want you and how much room is left in the budget. By the offer stage, you should have a good sense of how the company feels about you. If they are pushing, it never hurts to ask if there is room to go higher, but only do so if the salary is below what you initially asked for; otherwise you may end up sending the wrong message. When crunching numbers, keep in mind that many companies look at the total compensation package when putting together an offer (stock, restricted stock, bonuses, time off, benefits).

Thanks Jami!