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Design Thoughts

Hiring Creatives: Perfecting the Process

Posted 4 years ago by Naomi Francis
Hiring Creatives: Perfecting the Process

Hiring the right people can be a challenge. We spend around 70 per cent of our time with our colleagues, so it’s pretty imperative that they can not only deliver results but also that we can work well with them. The comfort of knowing they’re not a raging maniac that could diminish your business clientele, connections and general office morale in one swoop is an extremely desirable situation. So, how do we hire not only a good employee but the right employee?

Mark Jarecke, Creative Director of FOUR32C, has explored the difficulty in hiring creatives as he feels the word ‘creative’ itself is losing plausibility. “What bothers me is the fact that labelling oneself as a ‘creative’ has become a shorthand to bestow myriad of other ingenious traits and problem-solving skills that may or may not necessarily be inherent in the average ‘creative’. The ‘creative’ is getting confused with the ‘artist’.”

“The artists I’m talking about are those who have undergone the rigorous training and self-examination that’s required to conceive brilliant, wholly original ideas, but also possess the vision, skills, and capacity to realise them.”

There is a growing demand for the likes of UX, UI and Product Designers. The smaller talent pool of this industry means that recruitment in design is a battlefield for both candidate and company. Now if competition is strong, why are all these companies approaching recruitment in the same way?

“According to EMSI, IT related jobs (a category which includes UX/UI design) are 28 percent of all average monthly unique job postings, making this industry the second most in-demand group of professionals for 2016.” - Michelle Joseph

In this digital age, the way that people search for jobs has shifted online. People browse through endless streams of uninspired and generic job ads, in online job boards, platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter...even Gumtree has had its moments! These ads are all guilty of tossing around the same phrases, so much so, they’ve started to lose meaning. Some of the classics, for example, ‘strong verbal and interpersonal communication skills’, ‘strong attention to detail’ or ‘excels in a fast paced environment’. Fair enough these are all desirable traits from any employee but is there really any way these can be measured?

Running a generic ad like this, that just houses a short company description at the top and runs through the staple responsibilities, will not provide enough clarity for the potential applicant. As a result, you will not attract the right candidates. Jared Spool of UIE did some research into what it is designers look for in an ad before they even consider applying.

These were his findings in ranking order:

  1. How interesting and challenging will the projects be?
  2. Who will my manager be and what will I learn from them?
  3. How is design valued in the organization?
  4. How much do my future co-workers enjoy working at the company?
  5. Will I get a decent compensation and benefit package?
  6. Is the work conveniently easy to get to?

"Everyone craves purpose in their role."

This ranking shows the level of detail a designer is craving within a job description and coincides with what they are craving from the role itself. Everyone craves purpose in their job, as described eloquently by Daniel Pink. So dedicate some real time to establishing responsibilities and expectations of the new employee. Determine what kind of projects they’ll be working on, who they’ll be working with and why this will be beneficial for them. You’re hiring for a reason right? So, you should not only be able to explain it but also sell it.

Jon Lax from Facebook describes his role as Design Manager in a recent Hacking UI podcast. He explains that in his role he spends a lot of time giving his team context for the work that they're doing and what trends are affecting the product - the same attention should be given to your potential employees. Show them the context and clarity you would give your own team members.

"The impact of a good portfolio can be totally derailed by that person’s performance in interview."

Tony Santos, an Interaction Designer, has interesting views on the interview structure for designers. He explains that over the past four years, he has seen a huge trend evolve in the interviews he’s attended. For each of them, he’s been expected to carry out speculative work, homework or on the spot designs as part of the interview process. Tony highlights in his article that the most important question the employer should be trying to answer at this stage is, “is this person the best designer for us?”. Do these approaches really help determine the answer to that?

“You may think that giving someone an assignment to do is the best (or only) way to evaluate a design candidate. It might be the way you were evaluated for your job. Learning more about how someone works isn’t necessarily a bad goal, it just depends on how you go about it. Most of the time they go about this with a homework problem or occasionally an on-the-spot “design challenge” even when those things don’t actually answer the question they have about a candidate. For example, if they’re doing this work all alone — at home — how does it tell you any more about their approach to problem solving than any of the case studies in their portfolio?”

In Tony’s opinion, here are more efficient methods to draw the information you need:

"Understand the experience required for a candidate's success and ensure their values align with yours."

Finding the right candidate can sometimes require a little more digging than simply understanding the skill set of each person you meet. It’s all about understanding the experience required for a candidate to be successful in this role and ensuring that their values align with yours. To tackle the difference between hiring creatives and hiring artists, Mark came up with litmus tests whilst he was hiring, which tested the morals of the candidates.

In his article ‘Why We Don’t Hire Creatives’ he outlines these litmus tests to critique a candidate:

Rather than feeling that this article has outlined all the things you’re not doing and has made you feel like there is so much more to do. Think of hiring as a three step process:

Firstly, sit down with the team who will work closely with the new hire and establish expectations. This will help identify what skills are needed and what traits will make them successful in this role and at your company.

Secondly, put pen to paper and break all that down into an illuminating job description which provides job seekers with the clarity they need. Also post it on relevant sites, if you’re looking for designers try Dribbble, renowned for housing amazing talent.

Thirdly, really think about what will draw the information you’re looking for in the interview - make every second count.

By dedicating more time to the hiring process of designers you will actually save yourself time. It’s easy to find candidates that aren’t right, offer them the job, they leave the company shortly afterwards (which you knew deep down would always happen) and you’re stuck in the same situation you were three months ago. Remember, it’s not about finding a designer, it’s about finding the right designer.

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