Over the years, I’ve done more than my fair share of hiring. Between my background in direct sales, where I recruited a slew of people, to my role building the creative staff at my current company, I’ve developed an eye for what makes a great hire.
One thing has become clear — traditional characteristics like solid skills and experience don’t necessarily make a great creative hire. And I’m not alone in that conclusion. According to a survey conducted by The Creative Group, executives find learning how to hire creative employees more challenging today than they have at any time since the survey began in 2010.
Where Skills Can Fall Short
There are a number of reasons why the most “skilled” or “experienced” applicant might not be the best addition to your team:
A Lack of Cultural Fit: You can teach someone digital marketing, but you can’t change his personality. Culture is important in any business, but it’s especially key early on and when your team is small. You might hire someone who is talented but who won’t fit into the company dynamic you’re trying to achieve.
The “Old Dog, New Tricks” Dilemma: Oftentimes, the most experienced person in the room is also the most inflexible. A candidate might have the longest résumé and the tightest skill set, but he also might have a stiff resistance to change. The culture at my company encourages continuous learning, experimentation, and a willingness to try new things.
Limited Perspective: Candidates with a specific, valuable set of skills can be great hires — but if that’s all they bring to the table, you’re probably limiting yourself and your team. People who live in a bubble of their own making are inherently short-sighted, whereas open-minded outsiders can broaden your company’s outlook and its growth horizons. Seek out those who can share insights from different industries or walks of life to add more perspective to your team.
So how do you avoid these pitfalls? The answer involves making the hiring process more intensive than simply looking at résumés and seeing who offers the right skill set.
How to Hire Creative Employees: The Sorting Process
An effective hiring process should make candidates jump through a few hoops — if you’re hoping to find someone who will offer more than mere skills.
Once you’ve gone through the initial steps of placing an ad and collecting résumés, it’s a good idea to send out a questionnaire to get a sense of applicants’ written skills. For one, the fact that they took the time to fill it out shows that they’re properly motivated. You don’t need it to be long — include just enough questions to make it a pain in the a** so you can separate the serious candidates from the rest.
The key is to devise essay-type questions that will not only provide examples of their writing skills, but also illustrate their personal take on the workplace and teamwork. Their answers to these questions will give you a good idea of who might integrate the most seamlessly into your culture.
From there, it’s a matter of meeting people in person and then bringing them in to sit down with their potential department head.