Last year I wrote a blog post about the staffing climate and the lack of creative talent, a situation caused in part by an almost nonexistent unemployment rate and overall talent gap in the United States. As we move into 2019, we expect this trend to continue. Creatives are in high demand, especially in the areas of user experience, front-end development, content development, project management and digital marketing - but let's assume that you've been able to recruit potential hires for these or other specialties. It's now critical for you to focus on the next most important part of the hiring process: the interview.

Understanding the Role

The first step of conducting a successful interview is to make sure you truly understand the scope of the position and develop a comprehensive job description that will guide your questions. Job descriptions should include: an overview; whom the position reports to and who reports to the position; key job responsibilities; required functional skills, competencies and education; and experience requirements. In addition, evaluate and define each position in terms of the business and creative skills that are needed. Questions to consider include:

  • Does this role require soft business skills such as relationship building, client management or team building?
  • Does it require creative skills such as concepting, brainstorming, creative direction or pitching?
  • Or does this position require hard business skills such as statistical analysis, project management, or budgeting and/or creative technical application expertise?

Prior to the actual interview, provide candidates with as many details regarding the role as possible so they can come prepared to discuss their experience that is specifically related to your position.

Interview Goals and Etiquette

The interview is your opportunity to see not only if the candidate would fit in your organization from a skills and cultural perspective, but is also (and almost more importantly) an opportunity to sell the candidate on your company, its culture and the position.

Following good interview etiquette is essential. This is the candidate's first impression of your organization. Consider it a first date. Be polite, be prepared and be on time. Do not bring your cell phone or computer to the interview, as they may distract both you and the candidate. Bring a pen, the candidate's resume and a pad for writing notes you can refer to later. Take time to engage, truly listen and ask any clarifying follow-up questions. Be candid and specific when answering the interviewee's questions - the interview is also the talent's opportunity to determine if your group is a good fit. Ultimately, your goals are to learn about the interviewees, decide if they would work well in your team, and help them understand why your company is a great place to work. At the end of the conversation, let the interviewee know when a decision will be made.

Assessing Candidates

To assess the candidate's skills, start the interview with a resume review. Note where the candidate worked in the past, what his/her roles have been, and the person's accomplishments and development potential according to past supervisors. Next, evaluate the candidate's soft skills:

  • Project Management: Is the candidate organized? Discuss how the interviewee typically received work, who ensured deadlines would be met, and how many projects were worked on at any given time. Also, discuss how the candidate knows when too much time has been spent working on a project, how that challenge is handled and the candidate's philosophy on prioritizing.
  • Client Service Ethic: Does the candidate possess a "Be of Service" mentality? Uncover how the interviewee has worked with clients in the past. Has customer service been a key component in the person's past roles?
  • Work Ethic: What kind of schedule can the candidate commit to - are flexible work hours or work from home a priority? Determine how much (if any) overtime the interviewee is able to work. This discussion can also give you an entree to selling the work/life balance opportunities your organization offers.
  • Communication/Interpersonal Skills and Culture Fit: There are no direct questions that will uncover the interviewee's ability to communicate, or reveal how well she/he will fit in your environment. Your best indicators lie in the candidate's approach to the interview and how the talent presents his/her portfolio. Most importantly - use your gut and trust your intuition!

The Portfolio Review

The next stage of the interview is the Portfolio or Reel Review, if applicable. Ensure you're the one leading this part of the interview. Ask the candidate to showcase five pieces of work and ask questions throughout. How did the candidate reach the conceptual idea (i.e., thought processes)? How much support or direction was received from others? How did the talent functionally execute the project (i.e., applying software skills)? And so forth.

Peer Interviews

The final stage is the Peer Interview. The employee chosen to participate in this step of the process should not actually interview the candidate, but rather sell the candidate on the potential role and answer any specific questions. This gives the interviewee the opportunity to hear what the role is like from someone who is actually doing the job.

A few final best practices.

  • Show your work samples. You'll want the candidate to leave the interview understanding the type of work you do.
  • Don't magnify and oversell the juicy creative work, and make sure the candidate is willing to do the more tactical work when need be.
  • Keep the interview to a maximum of two hours. And keep the process consistent for all candidates.

I can't emphasize enough that the interview is the most critical part of the hiring process. How you present yourself as a hiring manager sets the tone for the entire recruitment experience. Be prepared to sell your opportunity and make sure your hiring questions are answered by the end of the session. The steps aren't complicated, and when followed, the end result is not only a good experience for all, but more importantly, a good employee excited to start a new job.