In Search of the Genuine Article Part 2
by Ed Roberts
In part 1 of this post, I confessed that the Antiques Roadshow in its search for the genuine article is one of my guiltiest pleasures to watch. I also shared a few thoughts on the importance of being professional, encouraging and gracious after receiving a resignation letter. Whether you feel caught off guard or relieved, your behavior after receiving this letter can help maintain, destroy or even build your reputation within the tight-knit, local creative community. I also mentioned that in order to find the best candidate, thorough research and solid preparation are two foundational components that will help you achieve your goals. Hopefully these steps and those to follow will give you a framework to customize your own path towards acquiring the genuine article.
Step 3. Know what you want and ask for it
I’ve tried many different tactics over the years in attracting candidates. Crafting both funny and cool job postings have led to disastrous results in my hiring practices. It wasn’t the fault of the person I hired. The fault fell squarely on my shoulders for not conveying in the job description those specific requirements needed to perform successfully. Design, writing, strategizing and production are highly valuable and technical skills in our industry. Because software, online training and “how-to” books are readily available to novices, I immediately begin weeding them out by requiring candidates to have graduated from an accredited college with a degree relatable to the position, several years of solid work experience and an online portfolio of tangible project samples.
Step 4. Conduct a 30-minute telephone interview
After reviewing and weeding candidates, five or seven will undoubtedly rise to the top. At this point in the process, you may believe you have a good feel for each person’s skill, talent and maybe even personality (through Facebook, LinkedIn, Youtube, etc.), but unfortunately you may not. Many creative teams today are multidisciplinary, making it hard to distinguish how much each individual contributed to the final solution. Get a solid feel for each candidate by conducting a 3o-minute telephone interview. Below are questions I ask each candidate:
1. What is the greatest strength and asset you’ll bring to our organization?
2. What is your greatest weakness?
3. What was your favorite position and how did your supervisor help make it so?
4. How have you redefined your job role and output to meet a company’s changing needs?
Step 5. The practicum
After the phone interview, I invite each candidate to voluntarily complete a practicum. The practicum is loosely based on a past project that was successfully solved, implemented and closed by my team. I inform each candidate that their solution will be used by me to review how they solve similar problems encountered by my team on a daily basis. I also mention they will gain insight into the types of projects I assign, manage and support throughout the development process. I stress to each candidate that they are not to spend any personal funds on the completion of the practicum. I then provide them with a thorough creative brief and all supporting materials needed for completion. Once the practicum is submitted I contact each candidate and take as much time as they need for me to hear their thought processes, offer constructive feedback and inform them of the next steps in the hiring process. Then I narrow my search and invite three candidates to meet with me in person. During this meeting the candidates are able to present their portfolios at their own pace and I answer any of their questions. I also ask each candidate the following questions:
1. Describe the amount of structure and feedback that you need to excel?
2. How do you balance your career with your personal life?
3. Paint a picture of the corporate culture you’ll create if hired?
4. What was your least favorite position and how did your supervisor impact your career during that time?
5. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Step 6. The panel interview
I’ve narrowed my search down to two candidates; either person could potentially be the genuine article. At this point in the process it’s important to see how well these individuals interact with my internal clients. So I ask five managers from different divisions (one being HR) to participate in the panel interviews and develop two questions to ask the candidates. These managers are provided with each candidates résumé, portfolio links, the practicum’s creative brief and their final solutions. I provide each candidate with a list of names, titles and divisions of each manager participating in the panel interview and encourage them to ask questions. At the end of each interview I debrief with the managers and listen to their thoughts on who they believe would be the best fit for our organization.
Selecting the genuine article is admittedly a very detailed and arduous process. Four months into my current job, I had to fill two major positions on my team. I followed these steps and nine months later we received four ADDY awards—among others—for work we produced together. I can’t guarantee these steps will win your team awards. I can guarantee that you’ll feel confident in your selection of a winning addition to your team.