Recruitment Advice: How to Hire and Manage Creative Talents

It’s been said that “Managing creatives is like herding cats.”

Many creatives can have different personalities than your usual corporate folks, but the challenge of pulling together a creative team can be a rewarding experience. If you succeed, creative team members will reward you with the most, well, creative ways of showing their gratitude. Ever found a sculpture built on your work desk? You might, one of these days.

So where do the true talents roam and how can you pick the right one from among these brightly-feathered cockerels? How do you hire them, and keep them satisfied?

To help you in your search, I’ve put together this guide to assist you in hiring creatives for your business.

Should you hire a creative?

If you only need limited creative effort, like designing a logo, outsourcing might be a better option. Find a person you’re comfortable working with, and sign him or her up for a one-time gig. If it goes well, you can agree on a more consistent work schedule.

But many businesses, such as tech start-ups, food brands, and entertainment companies, have an increased need for creative minds on their teams at all times. Hiring internally can save a lot of money, since it spares you from huge ad agency bills, and having creative immersed in your projects full-time can be quite fruitful. Fueled with suitable challenges, creatives can push your business forward like a diesel train.

Where do you look for creatives?

There are many places to look for creatives to hire. Network within your own community, and also consider the following online resources:

Not sure how to pick a creative? Use the following strategies to pick the qualities that will serve you best in the long run.

Explore Their Creative Thinking

That’s what you’re looking for in the first place, right?

Remember, creativity doesn’t mean shocking the customer or being like-no-other at any cost. Creativity means seeing and thinking about things in an unexpected way, and what’s even more important, having an ability to make other people see and think about them in this way.

Don’t mistake weird jokes and bright clothes for creative thinking. True creative genius can be disguised behind an introverted, quiet personality.

Ask candidates questions. What are they reading at the moment? What do they dream of? What did they give their mother for her birthday when they were seven? Look for the people with abundant and varied experience in different fields. Talk to creatives who have traveled a lot or engage in more than one hobby, and can speak about a many people who inspire them. They’re the ones you’re looking for, since true creativity is only possible with an open mind.

A good creative should also be able to recognize that their job is just one part of product success. They will never deny the power of good merchandising and business promotion, especially if they’ve previously had a marketing failure or two from their beloved projects.

Consider asking these business-focused questions:

  • What would your approach be to our brand?
  • What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your professional experience?
  • Can you suggest a marketing channel for our business which we don’t have covered yet?

Avoid these warning signs:

  • “Creativity for the sake of it.” Creative approaches should sound fresh and unexpected, but should tie back to achieving your business goals.
  • Not being able to name favorite ad campaigns. A creative mind gets impressed with big ideas done well, and should be able to name work they’ve been inspired by. Look for them to talk about that song from the Jell-O advertising they were singing all day long as kids.

Evaluate Marketing Experience

Sit with your team beforehand, and write down expectations about the new recruit. This will help to outline skill levels and areas of responsibility any candidate will need to be prepared for.

Ask the candidate about the scale of their previous marketing-related works. This should land somewhere in a range from making marketing kits (designer) to aligning budgets with marketing strategies (creative director).

Also ask about the tools they’re used to working with, and be ready to include software costs in hiring expenses. Some programs, like the Adobe bundle, can be a significant investment. For a videographer or photographer, must-have hardware also adds up quickly.

Finally, you’ll want to review their art skills. A good creative will never be afraid of working hands-on. There is no need to outdo Michelangelo, but they must be skilled enough to draft out projects before making a digital layout.

Consider asking these questions:

  • If you were to run your own brand, where would you start?
  • What amount of the brand’s success depends on the creative?
  • What was the work marketing fail of one of your projects?
  • What programs do you prefer for daily work?
  • Can we see your portfolio?

Pay attention to these warning signs:

  • “I’m not a marketer, I’m a creator. Don’t you have a separate department for this?” While it’s good to keep responsibilities separated, they will overlap, interact, and collaborate. Good creatives learn from marketers, and vice versa.
  • An outdated portfolio. Occasional and inconsistent creative works might not imply a low level of the creative’s output, but they may point to a low interest in maintaining a successful creative career and being hired.
  • Limited flexibility. Passionately sticking to ideas is good for artists. A creative should defend their work, for sure. But choosing the right angle for the sake of profit is what makes the business go on.
  • A lack of willingness to grow. Some candidates only want to stick with software they’re already used to. Try mentioning that you can provide them with the newest options, and check out the reaction. You’ll probably want to hire someone enthusiastic rather one who lacks enthusiasm to learn.

Value Self-Organization

Oh, the dream of any ad agency director – self-organized creatives. Creatives can struggle with time management, in part because many are often distracted easily – the flip-side of out-of-the-box thinking. This is one reason why many creatives need alone time to work effectively.

Discipline is a more reliable path to success than bare inspiration, and that’s why self-organized creatives get projects done, while producing great ideas. A good creative can pull ideas from the brief, produce the work, present the outcomes, and manage the process all along through its completed execution. Value this discipline when you see it!

Consider asking these questions:

  • Can you outline the creative strategy?
  • How well do you manage vendors?
  • Do you keep timesheets? (if this is something you want your employee to do)

Watch out for these warning signs:

  • Relying on account managers to keep to deadlines. While this is common at creative agencies, this may not work so well for an internal team that requires everyone to independently keep track of their deliverables and responsibilities.
  • An “it takes as long as it takes” approach, a.k.a. “You can’t rush the muse.” True, you cannot. While that may be true, find a creative who can strike a balance between the craftsmanship involved in creative work and the timelines your business needs to adhere to to make progress.

Seek Confident Performance

Like a Renaissance man, a skilled creative has knowledge in various fields. One of the staple skills should be presentation skills. Coming up with the idea is just a tiny part of the job. The next stage is to convince everyone that this idea is great, will change the world, and must be executed no later than tomorrow. That takes quite a showman.

If the job description for the position involves selling ideas in any form, you’ll want a candidate with charisma who is able to talk-the-talk in public.

Keep in mind, though, that a lot of creatives are introverts. If you feel the person you are talking to is one, don’t push. Let them get used to the interview and relax a bit. Then, when you discuss their work, ask the candidate to give a presentation on one of the pieces from their portfolio.

Ask these questions:

  • Are you comfortable with presenting your creative ideas?
  • What tools do you use for creative presentations?

Look for these signs of trouble:

  • Little to no eye contact, and poor body language. This may be excused in the beginning of the interview, but it should wear off after the first 15 minutes. If a candidate keeps freezing up, they might not feel comfortable with your proposal at all.
  • Dull presentation skills with no “extra-on-the-side.” It’s unacceptable when discussing ideas and portfolios. You want your creative to be passionate about what they are doing, and you want them to be able to communicate that passion.

Nurturing Your New Hire

So, you’ve used all these strategies and hired the perfect creative for your team. Congrats!

Don’t sit back and think your job is done. Like beautiful orchids, your creatives need the perfect balance of nutrition, water and sunshine to bloom with wonderful, high-reward ideas. Manage your creatives with these bonus tactics:

At the end of the day, you’ll “herd” these creative “cats” well – and they’ll be happy to be providing the creative momentum your business needs to move forward.