Top 7 Questions To Ask Before Hiring A Graphic Designer

What you need to do before you start the hiring process

Before setting up your expectations for the right candidate, it’s crucial to do your own homework, so to speak. An effective hiring process results in attracting and retaining high-level candidates to your company.

Here are the top 3 things you or your hiring manager need to do before organizing an interview with chosen candidates.

1. Define the goals for designers and make sure you or someone you trust knows exactly how to figure out if the person is qualified for the job.

Graphic design is a very specific field and it’s also very broad. Make sure the person interviewing a graphic designer knows the specifics of the job and can answer any questions the designer may have. Tailor interviews according to the specific roles you’re recruiting.

2. Work on the job description and make sure it’s well written and thoroughly explains the responsibilities and benefits.

The job description is an opportunity to get creative and specific not only about the job itself but also about your company in general. Many job descriptions are copied and pasted and lack important specifics of future responsibilities. Make sure you outline what you look for in a candidate, what they will do, and how the candidate will make an impact on your company. List all the relevant information about the job and your company. Remember, you’re not the only one who might be looking for a graphic designer and it’s as important for them to choose you as it is for you to choose them.

3. Simplify the application process.

Define crucial points that you’ll pay most attention to while making a decision and make sure it’s very easy for them to apply and send you a resume, a portfolio, and a cover letter (if you require one). You can specify the format in which you would like to receive the candidate’s resume, the timing, and any additional information so that the person applying has no problems with the process.

Top 7 questions to ask

We’ve collected a number of questions and the reasoning behind them that may help you make the right hiring decision.

How did you design your portfolio?

A design portfolio is the most valuable resource for getting to know the designer, their skills, and experience. It’s usually also the first step of the hiring process, so chances are you’ve already seen the portfolio before an interview is set up. However, it’s also important to see it through the designer’s eyes and make sure it’s 100% their work. Ask for their professional social networks such as Dribbble or Behance, and see if their works are published there. It’s also important to make sure that a portfolio has ‘real’ cases — projects that are actually using the design created for them. There’s nothing wrong with having concept projects in a portfolio, however, real cases are very important. Last but not least, examine how their portfolio is structured and ask them why it is the way it is. If they’ve chosen only relevant cases for your specific position, it’s a good sign that the designer cares for your time and theirs, and that they understand the specifics of their future job.

How do you approach a new project and what’s your process?

Good design is all about solving problems. A good designer, therefore, should be able to walk you through their creative process from start to finish: how was the desired result achieved? What information was discovered and studied before the actual designing process began? Who was responsible for creative ideas, and was the designer comfortable with collective brainstorming for finding the right solution?

Of course, every designer has their own process, but the key point here is finding out how well structured it is and what the main focus is. If you’re interviewing someone with a great portfolio who gives you something like “Oh, I just start creating to see what would come out of it” for an answer, it might be a bad sign.

The connection between employer and graphic design should be smooth. What do you want to know about them?

What is your usual timeframe for this type of project?

You can choose a project from their portfolio or provide some kind of brief yourself and ask the designer to evaluate the timeframe for this particular type of work. It’s important to make sure that the designer fits into your team’s desired timeframe for a certain type of project.

Of course, not everything goes according to plan, so a good additional question would be “What do you do if a project takes longer than initially expected?” While the question might seem simple, the answer to it will reveal the designer’s approach to problem ― solving and working under strict deadlines. Maybe they would ask for extra time, or perhaps they would ask their project manager or art director for a helping hand? Find out their approach before making the final decision.

Your favorite project from your portfolio and why?

An answer to this question will give you excellent insight into the priorities of the designer; it might be the commercial success of the project, client satisfaction, or freedom of creativity. Design is first of all finding a solution to a specific problem, thus it’s important that the designer understands it and values it just as much as aesthetics.

It’s also interesting to compare your own choice to the designer’s. Try finding works in their portfolio you liked the most and find out their role in that project if they hadn’t mentioned it in the list of their favorite pieces.

How do you collaborate with other team members (copywriters, project managers, art directors, etc.) How do you approach differences in opinion?

While hard skills are the most important tool for a designer, their collaborative skills are also vital, especially when it comes to large and complicated projects. A good designer is also a good team player who’s not afraid to ask questions, listen to other’s opinions, and find compromise when needed. Ask for real-life examples to have a more concrete answer about how the designer works with others, especially with those who rely on the designer themselves and those they rely on in work.

How do you deal with feedback? What feedback is helpful for you?

This question relates to both team members’ and clients’ feedback and differences of opinion/taste. This question might seem very straightforward but the answer to it is quite crucial. Some people might think that this question requires a very straightforward answer like “the client is always right, I’m very flexible”, but the reality is, that’s not a very good answer. Flexibility is a good thing as long as it goes hand-in-hand with valuing oneself and being able to stand up for themselves and their own decisions. It’s also about taking responsibility and being able to defend the decisions made, and prove your point of view in a polite and constructive way.

A good designer doesn’t mind constructive feedback, and even more so if they understand that good feedback can make the final product even better. Ask for specific ways a designer uses feedback to improve, what they consider valuable and constructive criticism, and how they handle differences of opinion within the team and with a client.

What brands or design projects do you admire most?

You might ask about a specific sphere you’re hiring the designer into such as branding, for example, or let the designer choose from a variety of design projects like book covers, magazines, and packaging design. This question, though quite personal, will give you an excellent insight into the designer’s inspiration and stylistic preferences. It’s also important to hear the reasoning behind their choice: again, a simple answer like “I just like how it looks” won’t do without mentioning particular aspects of the design.

Last but not least, ask some personal questions:

  1. What’s your dream job?
  2. What’s your inspiration?
  3. Your favorite “anything”: book/movie?

This might sound a bit irrelevant, but personal questions do matter as long as they’re not too personal. You’ll get to know the person better and ensure that they’re a nice addition to your team. Plus, you’ll see what inspires them and if they’re familiar with current trends.

Also, don’t forget to keep the door open for the questions a designer might have. Answer them honestly and respectfully. When you and the person you hire are on the same page, you’ll cultivate better rapport and achieve mutually beneficial results.

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Alex Jakov
Chief Executive Officer
Former co-founder of Opendoor. Early staff at Spotify and Clearbit.

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