Sunday, March 04, 2007

Designers beware: Being the interviewer.

As a design manager you’re sometimes faced with the task of interviewing new designers for your organization; this can make some designers a bit nervous. Here are a few tips to be effective when interviewing other creative professionals.

Before the interview

Define the position: Before you even make the process public, you need to be clear on the responsibilities of the position. Ask yourself questions like:

- What will this person do?
- If a followed him around all day, what would I catch this person doing or saying?
- Who do you want this person to be like, on the team and why?
- Who do you want this person not to be like, on the team and why?
- What are the deliverables of the position?
- What are the behaviors the new person has to exhibit to be successful in this position?

Reply to candidates: If you can manage it, take a few seconds to let each candidate know you received their information. I do. I receive most resumes by email, so I reply immediately. I have a template response email, so I just change the name of the person. If you can’t manage it, you can do it in bulk, when you have some resumes stacked up. Not many people do this and I think it speaks well of you and your company.

Review each resume in advance: Decide the key points you’re looking for beforehand, so that you can pick those up quickly. Circle a couple of accomplishments or projects in the portfolio that catch your eye, so that you can ask the candidate about them during the interview.

Device a tracking table: Unless you’re in a big company where HR is directing the search, I’d recommend creating an Excel tracking chart for your candidates. Especially is there’s a lot of them. I don’t enter every single candidate in it, but I do keep track of those candidates that I will be interviewing based on their resume and portfolio. I include relevant information, like age, academic degree, email, date of the interview. I also color code them and leave a field open to write my impression of the interview.

During the interview

General interview tips:
- Don’t read the resume in front of the candidate.
- Ask about parts of the resume, not all of it.
- Have the questions written down.
- I like to ask them to tell me briefly about their portfolio. I actually picked this from another designer I was doing a selection process with.

Ask the right questions: As I pointed out in an earlier post, I like to ask questions that will help me to decide if the person is a good match for the position and for my team. Here are some sample questions I ask:
- How did you hear about us?
- Why did you become a designer?
- What did you expect to achieve as a designer then?
- What do you expect to achieve as a designer now?
- In what type of atmosphere/environment do
you feel most comfortable working in and do you do best working in groups or by yourself?
- What are your skills?
- What are your flaws?
- What’s your creative process?
- How does your expertise relate to our company?
- How do you think you’ll help us increase sales?
- What are your salary expectations?

You can also ask about the couple of accomplishments you circled in their resume.
Ask about a time when they did x. How did they do it and what were the results? This may be extracted from a situation that happened to you recently so that you can compare the two instances.

Evaluate the answers in a structured way: According to Manager Tools, here’s a good way of structuring your perceptions: Divide them in four categories, interpersonal, cultural, skills and technical, and for each of them write down the behaviors that led you to draw your conclusion.

Evaluate body language: I'd covered this before, but my friend Fernando Pacheco from reminded me that it was important to cover this here again and I agree! I look for confidence, candidness, energy and professionalism. Signs of excessive nervousness, clues on lack of confidence or inappropriate/unprofessional behavior also show through.

After the interview

Decide, right then and there: I like to make quick decisions. In this case it’s either yes, no or maybe. Decide immediately after the interview and record it in the Excel table. Avoid deciding on “maybe” too much, otherwise you’ll be stuck having to decide yes or no, later.

Inform the outcome: Again, take the time to inform the outcome of the selection process to each candidate. It can be a personalized email or a phone call if the candidate made it to the final steps.

I look forward to receiving some comments or additional tips!

All the best!

No comments: