Today’s hiring environment is marked by low unemployment and an overall talent gap. Skilled creative, marketing and digital professionals are in particularly high demand, especially in areas such as UX design and digital project management. But let's assume that you've been able to recruit potential hires for these or other specialties. It's now critical for you to focus on the next most important part of the hiring process: the interview.

Understanding the Role

The first steps of conducting an interview are to make sure you truly understand the scope of the position and to develop a comprehensive job description that can help guide the questions you pose to candidates. A job description should include a clear overview of the role, key job responsibilities, reporting lines, required functional skills, core competencies, and desired level of experience and education. In addition, evaluate and define the open position in terms of the unique business and creative skills that are needed. Ask yourself the following: 

  • Does this role require soft skills such as client management expertise or stellar presentation abilities?
  • Does it require standout creative skills such as concepting, brainstorming, creative direction or pitching?
  • Does this position require hard business skills such as statistical analysis, project management, advanced budgeting knowledge and/or creative technical application expertise?

Prior to the interview, provide candidates with as much information regarding the role as possible so they can come prepared to discuss details most pertinent to your position.

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Interview Goals and Etiquette

The interview is your opportunity to see if the candidate would fit in your organization from both a skills and corporate culture perspective. But it’s equally important for you to sell the candidate on the position and overall company.

Following good interview etiquette is essential. Remember that this is the candidate's first impression of your organization. Be polite, be prepared and be on time. If it’s an in-person interview, try not to bring your cell phone or laptop to the meeting, as they may distract both you and the candidate. Instead, bring a pen, the candidate's resume and a pad for writing notes you can refer to later. Take time to engage, truly listen and ask any clarifying follow-up questions. 

Be candid and specific when answering the interviewee's questions. Ultimately, your goals are to learn about the interviewee, decide if he or she would work well on your team, and explain why your company is a great place to work. At the end of the conversation, let the interviewee know about next steps.

Assessing Interviewees

To assess the candidate's skills, start the interview with a resume review. Cover where the candidate worked in the past, what his or her roles have been, and the person's key professional accomplishments. Next, dig into questions that will help you assess the candidate's soft skills. These might include:

  • Project management: Is the candidate organized? Ask how the interviewee typically received work, who ensured deadlines would be met, and how many projects were worked on at any given time. Also, discuss how the candidate knows when too much time has been spent on a particular project, how that challenge is handled and the candidate's philosophy on balancing competing priorities.
  • Commitment to client service: Does the candidate possess a "Be of Service" mentality? Uncover how the interviewee has worked with clients in the past. Has customer service been a key component in the person's past roles?
  • Communication and interpersonal skills: There are no questions that will fully reveal how well the interviewee will fit into your environment. Your best indicators lie in the candidate's overall approach to the interview and portfolio presentation. Is the person clear, compelling and polished?

The Portfolio Review

The next stage of conducting an interview is the portfolio review (or reel review), if applicable. Ensure you're the one leading this part of the interview. Ask the candidate to showcase five pieces of work and ask questions throughout. How did the candidate reach the conceptual idea? How much support or direction was received from others? What software skills were applied? In what ways did the project help the client? What, if any, success metrics can the interviewee point to?

It can also be helpful to turn the tables and show work samples from your creative firm or in-house agency. You'll want the candidate to leave the interview fully understanding the type of work you do and the projects you are most proud of.

Final thoughts on conducting an interview

Conducting an interview is often the most critical part of the hiring process. How you present yourself as a hiring manager sets the tone for the entire recruitment experience. Accentuate the positive but paint a clear picture of the role. And make sure you keep the process consistent. 

Sell the candidate on the job opportunity and make sure your questions are answered by the end of the session. When in doubt, seek clarification. The steps to conducting a successful interview aren't complicated, and when followed, the end result is not only a good experience for all, but more importantly, a good employee excited to start a new job.

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