7 Tips for Hiring Top Design Talent

Hiring is possibly the biggest growth opportunity for any web design company. The smaller the firm, the more each new person can contribute in terms of skill, contacts, professional image and team motivation. Of course, hiring a new person represents both potential income, possible risk and certain cost.

Hiring Top Design Talent

If you want to make more money, you need to have more manpower to handle a greater amount of work. The catch, of course, is that hiring people also takes extra time, so small, busy firms tend to put off hiring staff because it is, at least temporarily, easier to handle things themselves. But that delay only adds to the pressure and can result in having to turn down key accounts or, worse, failing to deliver on deadlines for important clients.

Following are some guidelines to make the hiring process easier and more successful.

1. Don’t Rely Solely on Help Wanted Ads

The people really reading those ads are usually unemployed and generally less likely to be the top talent you want. Of course, there are exceptions to that rule, but if you’re short on time don’t waste it going through a stack of 200 mediocre candidates to find one gold nugget.

2. Do Recruit

Contact local designers' groups, professional organizations, and even current employees to find out who they might suggest. You’re looking for the all-star designers who may be interested in changing direction. These folks are known to their professional colleagues.

3. Know Your Company’s Vision and Sell It

Not everything is about money, and that definitely includes a job candidate’s motivation to join your company. Of course, money is a factor, a large factor, in making the decision. But plenty of people join the Peace Corps, found their own startups, volunteer for nonprofits and do other things that offer a lot of personal fulfillment but not a lot of dollars. So understand your vision, your company’s future path, your brand, what aspects of your company’s vision are a good match with the job prospects', as well as any basic perks your firm has to offer – flex time, sabbaticals, gym memberships, great organic cafeteria on the top floor, etc.

4. Pay What the Job is Worth

You should make your salaries as close to market rate as you can. The more appealing your vision of the company, the greater the opportunity for creative or cutting-edge work, and the higher salary, the greater your odds of landing the perfect recruit.

5. Consider Their Personality

A “perfect” recruit is only perfect for your needs, not necessarily for your competitor’s. The skills are what make the prospect desirable, but personality will determine whether he or she will work out long-term. For instance, do you need a team player and negotiator who enjoys the give and take of groups, or do you really need an ingenious web designer who may isolate herself in her cubicle and get annoyed with criticism.

Prospects won’t always tell you upfront what their preferences are, so you may need to ask indirect, situational questions about their favorite projects and roles in them, or the best managers they've had and why. I’ve also used personality tests and generally had good results. Also, ask one or two colleagues to conduct or sit in on an interview, especially if the candidate is a strong one.

6. Protect Your Intellectual Property

While "work for hire" seems to be a clear-cut concept, it isn't so clear in some states and situations. You need an employment contract that spells out when and how something becomes company-owned or employee-owned. Check with your lawyer on that.

7. Protect Your Business

Your contract should also offer some protection from a termination-related lawsuit. When you’re a small organization – under 20 or so employees – you can usually hire and fire at will. But don't wait to terminate if you believe you've made a mistake. Waiting demoralizes the rest of the employees and can make it harder to fire. If the person has been there long enough for a performance review, for instance, he may expect to be given a chance to improve his performance. And, as always, consult your lawyer.

Finding the right person can be challenging, but when you do, that person has the potential to make your web design business a success. Never settle for someone that is just “good for now.” Hold out for that perfect fit for your organization and always listen to your gut.

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