Interviewing Creatives.

How to effectively measure a candidates capability in an area of expertise or expression.

Interviewing Creatives.

Often when a team is ready to expand, new talent is required to meet the growing business demands. There can be a need for individuals that possess skills that the current team don't yet have, and here lies a key problem:

How do you effectively measure a candidates capability in an area you don't fully understand?

For example: If a team had outsourced all graphic design previously and decided to bring in a new in-house designer, there would be a need to hire someone that was capable on the right platforms and had the ability to create striking visuals that were on-brand.

The team might not understand the key differences between Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign- yet this knowledge could help bring in a focused individual that'll strive in the right areas. Furthermore, the team might not know much about the process of great graphic design work, and instead be hung-up on their own aesthetically based opinions of the end result - meaning you may fail to resonate with the target market!

Aside from encouraging your hiring managers to be 'M shaped' people, we find one of the most effective recruitment practices to be the test brief, which we'll explain after breaking down how we approach interviews.

The Mäd interview process.

If a CV is filled with great content, such as a good education, a clear and concise format, and relevant experience- then it's a no brainer for us to want to meet the candidate.

The first interview is staged as an informal chat, as a chance for the candidate to get to know our organization and ask key questions.  As the CV does the ground-work to filter out the most ideal clients, the focus on the first interview is more around personality and culture fit—i.e. how do you work, how do you think, and will Mäd be a positive working environment conducive to your success.  

Tip: Myers-Briggs tests are a great source of self discovery to give you a rough gauge of your personality strengths and styles, by understanding how you prosper, you can likely find the right organization to flourish - and know what type of people you'll work best with.

When we've found a great candidate that shone in person and via CV, we then look to test their abilities to ensure they'll meet our standards and expectations. This is where the test brief is used, and this can be utilized to effectively measure a candidates capability in a particular area (even if you don't fully understand it).

The Test Brief.

There are a few key points to consider before creating an effective brief. We'll firstly look ahead to what we will be examining upon the presentation of the candidates completed test brief, which is usually in front of key team members and various departments to give further personnel introductions and a variety of input into the hiring process.  Before structuring the brief, we take into account the desired favorable outcome of the following three points:

  1. The end result.
    Have they been able to effectively meet their targets/goals?
    This is perhaps the key factor for when their area of expertise is unfamiliar to you and your hiring team.

    For example, if you're hiring a PPC advertiser for the first time, you may not understand the metrics and the process - but if you see the favorable result of high ranking, intelligently built adverts, you'll surely have faith in their capabilities.
  2. The working.
    Asking the candidate to talk through their process is highly useful as you'll learn how they think, and how they process information and approach tasks. Again, even if you don't fully understand the tools they've used, it's highly advantageous to understand the 'why' that goes alongside the 'how'.
  3. The presentation.
    We always ask for candidate to present their test brief, as it helps draw out their character further. Often, we get to see where their passions lie in relation to the work they've done, and also we are able to simulate our working conditions to give the candidate a sample of Mäd life.

    It's important to take into account whether the candidates role will involve any client facing activities or perhaps be expected to communicate strongly with team members, as their presentation skills may be key in their success.

Creating the Brief.

Some roles are very focused, and therefore creating a suitable brief becomes easy:

• A social media manager may be tasked with creating mock up posts, messages and campaigns, whilst also displaying favorable FAQs and responses to predicted customer enquiries.

• A website developer might be asked to recreate a particular website, or to follow a brief resembling what a usual daily/weekly task may look like.

However, at Mäd, we often find talented individuals first, and then try to find a suitable role both beneficial to them and our business. When faced with either an 'open application' or a 'creative role', creating a brief can be much more inventive and up for discussion.

Generally speaking, we candidly discuss the potential brief with the candidate first, and seek insight into which skills they wish to express.  We try to make the test brief a mixture of fun and challenging, hoping to both encourage their passion whilst challenging their abilities to simulate high pressure potential conditions.

Example Test Brief for Designers.

  1. Please analyze our brand, tell us what you love and what you'd change. We want to hear your honest feedback, and your professional insights.
  2. Please rebrand our brand!
    Use your skillset to pitch a rebrand of our company, and show your reasoning to sell your rebrand as an upgrade to our existing branding.
  3. Please tell us, briefly, a review of the last two books you read.
    Reading nurtures the mind, we'd love an insight into your recent literary experiences.

    Please prepare your response to the brief as a presentation at X:XXam on XX/XX/XX.

How to Effectively Rate a Test Brief.

Using an evaluation matrix is a helpful practice to find the average perception of the candidates team-fit.

Each team member invited to attend a candidates test brief, is given a scoring card - often virtually via Google Sheets in our case- and is asked to give their honest feedback out of a defined score based on a series of categories defined by the hiring manager. For example, we recently used:

  1. The presentation ability.
  2. The quality of their creative.
  3. The candidate's culture fit and general 'like-ability'.
  4. The candidate's understanding of the brief.
  5. The candidate's response to questions.

Where possible, the categories and scoring should reflect the potential job role for the candidate, to ensure a fair gauge reflecting their potential future success. I.e. If presentation isn't overly important, it may be scored out of five, whereas if it's key to their potential role we might score it out of 30.

The hiring manager should define the expected standard for the client to have been successful, perhaps if the role applied for is a senior position the overall score should be above 85%, where junior roles may only need 60-70% scores to showcase their potential.