Why recruiting doesn’t have to be scary
By Róisín Lafferty, creative director with Kingston Lafferty Design
Recruiting new staff is an essential part of business life for any company and Kingston Lafferty Design (KLD) is no different. But good recruitment practice is hard to achieve, and the first step is knowing what to look for in people when doing interviews and hiring.
The thing I have learned most about hiring over the years as an employer and the advice I give is to trust your gut and ask the right questions for your own specific business. It is something that I overlooked and doubted at the beginning of my career but I strongly believe in the importance of it now.
Generally, your gut reaction is telling you something. We tend to have a series of interviews when hiring for a particular role with different KLD team members involved in different stages. This allows for multiple viewpoints, and discussions before any critical decisions are made.
The most important thing we look are people who are passionate about the role. They need to be interested and have a good understanding of the company, the work we do and our overall ethos.
A positive and proactive approach is generally the best way to get seen in a saturated creative market. Our industry is a fast- paced field of work so I look for energy, a dynamic approach and people who can think outside of the box. Most of our team came to KLD when we weren’t actively seeking new employees, they made themselves seen and it has only been beneficial.
Overall, we have high expectations when it comes to portfolio and examples of work. Less is more. I would rather see only the best work to make the best impression.
When doing a call out, we spend time tailoring each spec so as to be very clear of our expectations. In our experience, the more detailed and precise the list of requirements, the better the quality of applicants are likely to be for the role.
In terms of appointing the right person, there is no fine art to this process but what I have learnt over the years is that it is about more than what is on the piece of paper. Ultimately as well as a talented and skilled employee, we are also looking for the right person to fit our team and work with on a day to day basis.
We are a tight knit group, with lots in common who actively enjoy working together. A hugely important factor is to maintain this dynamic and enhance it. All of the team are very energetic and invested in KLD’s overall goals and dreams so everyone who joins needs to be as well.
When this is not the case, the negative impact from one individual can be detrimental to the group as a whole.
We run a design agency which means that everything matters when it comes to applications, CVs, cover letters, portfolios etc. In every application we look to check has the person taken care and applied consideration and a lot of the time, this isn’t the case.
From the layout to the fonts, the curated content, how it is delivered, the overall understanding and knowledge you have of our company - everything counts, and everything is noticed.
Truthfully my pet peeve is getting a poorly formatted word document from someone applying for a creative design role... they do not get an interview! Every touch point counts and first impressions matter significantly when selecting from a large pile of applications.
You need to stand out and go above and beyond. For me, experience is not enough. I want to know what you are going to add to KLD, why you want to work with us, how you will benefit us, fit in and ultimately I want to be excited about the creative input that you will bring to the overall collective.
It is also important to see what role creativity plays in your own life as an individual as well as in a work capacity. In terms of social media, and in particular Instagram, I look at the person’s accounts to get an overall sense of the person. It can give a sense of who you are as a person, what inspires you, how you like to spend your time etc. It can give a good indication of whether you’ll fit within the overall team. Messy drunk photos are a no!
At the interview stage, we look for a person who is clearly design led overall, with energy and excitement as well as expertise. Preparation is also very important with a good understanding of what we do, who we are and previous jobs. I will always ask who your design inspirations are; to get a sense of a love of design and try to get a handle of the applicant’s overall style and experience.
Some people are better at the interview process than others, but it is not just about the loud and confident. Sometimes quiet and confident proves to be better overall. Realistically it is not until someone is in the team environment for a few months until you can see how they work. We have a six-month probation period to allow all parties to settle in.
The traits we look for in a new employee are open-mindedness, the ability to be autonomous, think outside the box and spend time out of their comfort zone. Unlike other organisations, we have an organic approach with the team. The rigidity and safety to hide unseen from larger organisations does not work in KLD.
For this reason, it takes a certain type of person who embraces the uncertainty and sees this as exciting. There are numerous projects on at one time so multi-tasking and working under pressure are key skills that are needed. First and foremost, we are creatives... so that is number one!
It is also essential to be able to work well in groups. We work with extended external teams all the time and expect our team to slot into this and work in a collaborative manner to get the best overall result.
Tips for hiring in a creative industry
• Be clear about expectations.
• Be honest with constructive feedback.
• Trust your gut.
• Look deeper than an initial Instagram picture or pretty portfolio.
• Try to ascertain what the personal goals are of the applicant and make sure they align with the company.
• If it seems too good to be true, it generally is.
• And last of all, remember that the applicant will be representing your business and the fit both internally and externally is very important. Trust is imperative.