In-house Help Wanted: Jackie Schaffer Looks Beyond the Portfolio and Résumé

There are few things creative leaders do that are more important than evaluating and cultivating talent. In fact, it’s probably the most important because if a creative leader isn’t supported by a team they can trust and who can meet the expectations of the organization, it jeopardizes the creative leader’s work-life balance, job satisfaction and even their job security.

Hiring a rock star designer with an amazing portfolio and an enviable resume of brands could catapult your team to the next level, or it could sink your team. Hiring for your in-house team goes beyond reviewing someone’s resume and portfolio, it requires an equal amount of time and effort to evaluate a candidate’s culture fit and soft skills.

hiring talent

Agencies are rumored to feed egos and reward talent above all else. In in-house we love to celebrate talent, but we’re not going to work with an egomaniac. We don’t have the time, patience or desire to stroke egos and ignore poor communication or business etiquette. To be successful as an in-house designer, you need to be a great designer and well-rounded team member. My colleague Andy Epstein said this best in his book The Corporate Creative on page 104:

As an in-house designer, you need skills that your peers in agencies and studios don’t…. [These] include decent writing skills, the ability to articulate your thoughts in meetings, project management expertise and infinite patience.

Therefore, during the hiring process, creative leaders have to move past the excitement of a kick-butt portfolio and star-studded resume to gauge whether a candidate has what it takes to be successful in this culture:

  • Will they be engaged and challenged by our brand(s)?
  • Are they someone I’d feel comfortable representing our team in impromptu situations (i.e. non-client facing roles, interacting with clients (their colleagues) in the elevator, cafeteria and hallways)?
  • Will they understand corporate politics may be at play and that we need to be cognizant?
  • How patient will they be after 10 rounds of edits?

The creative leader also needs to determine the candidate’s motivation for wanting to join the team:

  • Is she looking for a slower pace compared to her past job?
  • Is she looking to gain a better work-life balance?
  • Is this simply a pit-stop in her career or is she looking to grow with the organization? (either answer may be OK depending on what the team needs)

Most in-house creative teams are 10 or less people. Getting one hire wrong can throw the balance of the whole team off. Finding the right person for your organization is critical—don’t settle if you don’t find him or her right away. Consider using a temp (or series of temps) while you search for the long-term fit.  In fact, one of those temps may be the right fit. It’s a rent before you buy situation. Letting go/displacing/firing employees can be really difficult in some corporate environments. So take the time to make sure you get it right without pressure.


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About In-HOWse Guest Jackie Schaffer
Jackie Schaffer, Vice President and General Manager of Cella Consulting, is a former in-house leader who has consulted for teams of all sizes, including Fortune 500 clients, government entities and educational institutions and has the unique opportunity to speak with hundreds of creative leaders each year. Cella helps creative leaders and their teams identify and execute strategic priorities, so they can increase their effectiveness and focus on creating high-quality creative. Cella is a co-author of the In-House Creative Services Industry Report and authors weekly blogs on business operations topics pertinent to the role of creative leaders.