The Talent ‘Game’ – Five Lessons in Creative Recruitment

Recently we embarked on the journey of finding a new Senior Designer for our team. For most of my career I have worked within teams of under 20 people and the recruitment process has consistency filled me with dread. From my experience, it is never a seamless process no matter what scale of business your are in or how sophisticated the HR framework is.

I am a big fan of using talent scouts and recruitment agencies and in Australia there are some great specialist agencies in this area but it isn’t always economically viable to do so. So, we started the process with a clear talent brief, an idea on budget and a time-frame in mind and advertised via the usual suspects – LinkedIn, AGDA, Facebook, Instagram and our blog. I was cynical about the quality of applications but was pleasantly surprised with the stretch of candidates. That said, there has been some pain amidst the pleasure. Here are some of the simple lessons I learned for anyone else embarking on a similar process.


I felt confident about my knowledge and expectations around experience and remuneration for the role but I did second guess myself half way through the process. There were many disparities between what candidates expectations were and despite the ad being clear about experience requirements and title, there were many applicants who were actually seeking packages fit for more senior roles. While it is great to have good conversations with experienced people who are interested in adding value to your business, the conversation can be shut down pretty quickly if the money just doesn’t add up.

My recommendation: Check with your mates in the industry first to get a good up-to-date ball park on realistic benchmarks and then have the conversation in the first interview (not interview 2 – I learned this lesson quickly).



When scheduling time to see people, I thought I was being efficient in blocking away large chunks of time to see multiple people in a half day sitting. We did set a time limit and had a office ‘sign’ for when that time was approaching – clever I thought. What we didn’t account for, were those who were diligently early clashing with those who were running late because they couldn’t find a park and subsequently caused us to run overtime. Having 2 candidates passing each other in the stairwell is not ideal. In the words of my 13 year old son, “awwks”.

My recommendation: Allow for a minimum of 45 mins between interviews to allow for the early birds, late runners, inclement weather, tram strikes or community rallies outside your office.



It seems not everybody believes in the virtues of good ol’ fashioned courtesy. I have always believed in responding to people directly who have applied but not been selected for an interview. I felt as a small business owner, this could be a short but to-the-point response that acknowledges their application and thanks them for their time. In instances where candidates had gone to the trouble to write a proper ‘cover letter’ and had clearly done their research, I tailored my response directly to their experience and work in what I thought was a respectful and encouraging way. Apparently, mentioning that a candidates experience and qualifications might not align to what the business is seeking is disrespectful, unprofessional and a personal attack on the capabilities of the individual in mention. Yup, its seems some people don’t take rejection well.

My recommendation: If you responses are not going to be generic “thank you for your application but unfortunately…” then be prepared for the possibility of seething rebuke from offended creatives.



It is important to me that a candidate demonstrates a commitment and interest in your advertised role and has done an adequate level of research about your business, clients, approach etc. These days, even a quick 30 minutes on an iPad over a coffee can yield enough research to hold a conversation and form some intelligent questions at an interview. The candidates that have been successful are those who have done a bit of ‘online stalking’, found out a bit about the business and approach, and have thought about how to show direct links to their own experience and expertise. They are also those who have tailored their portfolios and resumes to work that would be of most interest – much like we do with our own customer presentations.

My recommendation: Ask candidates why they were attracted to your business and the specific role. Try to understand what research they have done and how committed they are to gaining employment with you. If they know very little, or have no questions for you then it is a pretty good indication that they are not serious contenders.



Finding the right person to fit into your agency is tough when you are small. First and foremost, gut-instinct is critical to me and my greatest judge of potential fit – was the conversation easy, did they ask me questions and how easily did they talk about their careers and work? Creating a simple framework to help guide decision making was critical for me as it stopped me getting carried away with the likeability of the individual and helped articulate the expectations of the role with the current capabilities of my business. The last thing we want is to build a team of people with too similar talents – we are looking for skills that were complimentary to our existing structure and culturally aligned in values and approach.

My recommendation: Use a simple matrix to help put framework around the potential candidates. Mapping out their qualifications and experience with their approach, communications skills, portfolio, design thinking, specialist skills and general ‘vibe’.

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