How to recruit a designer?

Richard Weston
Richard Weston is Head of Strategic Design at Thought Collective, where he helps develop brands and marketing solutions. He writes and designs. Richard also curates the found type, print and stuff blog Ace Jet 170.

Shoes. In his seminal book, How to Keep Running a Successful Design Company, Marcello Minale confessed to always checking out a designer’s shoes during interviews. Marcello felt that any designer worth his or her salt would choose their footwear carefully. Everyone needs a system that works for them but finding the right one for you can be tricky.

A good start can start before you even need to recruit. Projecting a good and accurate image of your organisation can go along way to attract the right kind of designer. Building a great reputation is probably going to make great designers want to come and work for you. So an active and intelligent PR strategy is likely to not only help attract new clients but also tickle the fancies of interesting and enthusiastic potential employees.

Advertising vacancies can bring mixed results. If you’re open to recruiting graduates, degree shows are great for spotting new talent. And keeping a look out for who’s good and who’s great elsewhere can prove fruitful.

But what about once you have a prospective recruit sitting in front of you, in his or her fine shoes? What clues can be gleamed to suggest this is the right designer for you? Thankfully, unlike many professions, the designer comes to an interview equipped with a tangible expression of their talents and outlook: their portfolio. A well constructed portfolio should indicate what the candidate feels is his/her best work so far, can suggest the kind of work that they like to do and display the individual’s attention to detail, pride and their ability to present creative work in an interesting manner.

When interviewing the portfolio is a useful ice-breaker and when scrutinised closely can prompt revealing questions. Personality and attitude are, arguably, as important as examples of excellent work. I’ve know candidates with understated portfolios shine given the opportunity – largely driven by self-motivation, enthusiasm and their ability to get on well with the rest of the studio.

OK, so you’re looking at a great portfolio. The candidate is wearing a pair of exceptional shoes. They’re personable and interested in your company. Now you’re quizzing them on broader interests. I think it would be valid to say that the best designers are the one’s whose interests go far beyond what’s in the latest edition of Creative Review or what’s just been posted on the most in-touch show case blog. Interesting though those things often are, if you’re after genuine original thinkers, interest in the wider world will be a prerequisite.

Interest in the world at large, bundled with passion for their craft and empathy for the plight of others (and by others I mean clients). When these attributes manifest themselves in a driven and creative individual, there’s a pretty good chance that that person could become a valuable new part to your design team.

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