November 17, 2011

Ask Design B*tch

What do I ask potential creatives in an interview?

Author: Terry Lee Stone

Q. Dear Design B*tch I'm new to hiring creative talent for my firm. I can look at a portfolio, but do you have any suggestions for good interview questions that will reveal if a designer is actually a good fit for us? -Suzi

A. Whether you are hiring a staff designer or selecting a temporary collaborator for a project, you need to interview this person. Many design firms make hiring decisions based solely on portfolio excellence. That's not enough, people! Sure, a lot of relevant information is contained in a portfolio: style sensibility, attention to detail, quality, and experience are all pretty obvious. It's just that a smart firm is hiring people, not just portfolios.

What you need to uncover is who the person behind the work is. The million dollar question: are they a dreamboat or a giant pain in the butt to work with? You want to choose carefully because it will seriously impact the work environment. You've got to avoid hiring a person who isn't going to fit in, no matter how ridiculously talented they are. Therefore, you want to get a candidate talking and revealing how they think, what's important to them, and what their personality is like.

Here are some open-ended questions to ask when you are interviewing creative talent:

  • What was your last project? What did you learn from it? What did you like and dislike about it?
  • Describe your work process on a typical project. How do you approach design?
  • Which pieces in your portfolio are you most proud of? Why?
  • What kinds of clients do you prefer to work with? Why? Which clients in your portfolio were like this? Which ones were not?
  • What kind of creative direction did you have on this particular project? How do you like to be supervised? What make a good boss?
  • What are your professional goals? Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What do you think are your strong and weak points? What are your plans to improve your deficiencies and enhance your strengths?
  • What organizations or activities do you pursue which enrich you as a designer? What professional societies are you a member of and how have they helped your career?

Remember that these questions are meant to aid in discussions that reveal more about the individual you are interviewing. However, it is against the law in many countries, and definitely in the U.S., to discriminate on the basis of gender, age, ethnicity, region, sexual orientation, skin color, or national origin, so steer clear of any conversations that touch on those topics.

Please send your questions to:

Disclaimer: The general information in this column is not a substitute for personalized advice from an attorney, an insurance agent or an accountant. If you have questions regarding legal, financial or risk management issues, you should seek the services of an appropriate professional.