Best Hiring Practices for Creative Agencies

Best Hiring Practices For Creative Agencies

It has been spoken time and time again that the team in your creative agency is the key to your success. How many times have you heard colleagues speaking of challenges with staff? Issues ranging from lateness, high rates of absenteeism and lack of motivation are a concern at most creative agencies.

In the 28 years since opening my first company, I have had the good fortune of hiring and regrettably firing at all levels of the company. We have recently hired over 10 new positions and in doing so our team has developed a pretty succinct approach. We are not perfect but we have turned this activity into much more of a repeatable process. Capturing an innovative, conceptual thinker who is well rounded in communications, strategy and is generally a great person is not easy.

I have to thank Bradford Smart the author of Top Grading in addition to Steve Traplin, a consultant with Sales Encore Inc. Based on our experience we have broken our hiring into critical stages. Each gets progressively more in-depth and we end with an interview that is actually a team meeting with the candidate. In this blog, I am going to stick with the first section.

The Phone Interview

Interview Stages:

  • Phone Interview Questions
  • Initial Face-To-Face Meeting
  • Job-Related Project and Test the Portfolio
  • Review of Project and Team Meeting

Initially, we schedule a phone interview. This is paramount in weeding out inappropriate candidates from your shortlist. It comes down to communication skills and fit. If communications skills are lacking, it shows on the phone. Candidates need to listen closely, convey messages without the aid of body language and express themselves clearly. This is the first opportunity to impress and we give this discussion 15 to 30 minutes depending on how the candidate is doing.

The Questions

So here are our 6 Questions to ask when hiring for a creative agency; the script for our initial phone interview.

  1. What were all of your accountabilities?
  2. What were your successes and accomplishments?  What are your proudest of? (Probe for how the successes were achieved.)
  3. What were your failures and mistakes? Lessons learned? Excuses made? (Be sure answers to numbers 2 and 3 describe full performance against all accountabilities)
  4. Why did you leave?
  5. Who was your boss, and where is that person now? What were his or her strengths and weaker points from your point of view?  (Assess how well you, the interviewer, fit the profile the candidate likes.)
  6. What’s your best guess as to what your boss would tell me, in a personal reference interview arranged by you, what were your strengths, weaker points, and overall performance? 

In one of Bradford’s books, Topgrading for Sales, he proclaimed that if all you did was add this to your hiring procedure, you will hire better. I confess it is working! We introduced this set of initial qualifying questions this last fall and yes it has helped us.  Simple questions yes, but these questions will pull the conversation in your favour and allow you to get the insight of the candidate when compared to the role.  In addition, we have confidently shortened our candidate list using this.

In a follow-up blog I will get into our next hiring phase, The Initial Face to Face Meeting. Stay tuned. But let me close with a comment made to me after having to let a bad hire go: “Thank you for protecting our family.”
And for that very reason, we spend tremendous effort hiring the very best fit for our company culture. How are you doing with your hiring practices?
Have any other great insights to share?  Let me know what has worked for your agency.

Chris Wilson

Founder & CEO

Chris started Function Point over 20 years ago in his basement as a way to help professional service agencies run their businesses more efficiently. Since then he’s grown FP into an international success, working with over 600 agencies from around the world and continues to run the company from the head office in Vancouver, Canada.

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