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How to Hire a Designer

In Hiring Strategy — by Dave Anderson

hire-designer

Designers play an integral role in many companies’ operations. They guide potential customers to the right information, help users get the most out of the product and bring the brand to life.

Most companies need to work with a designer in some capacity. If your organization only has the occasional design project – like website or graphics work – outsourcing it to a freelancer or agency makes sense. But if your company updates its website frequently or provides an app or software product, you’ll need to hire at least one design employee.

Hiring your first designer can be a tough decision. Everyone has an opinion about the work designers produce but few people actually understand their process. It’s important your company take the right approach when looking for the best designer to hire.

Know what type of designer you need

“Designer” is a generic term that encompasses different specializations in the field. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on hiring a designer in the technology profession. Even within that specialization, there are different types of designers, such as:

    • Graphic Designer – Create logos or digital images using Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and similar programs.
    • Web Designer – Build multiple web pages that work with a developer’s code.
    • Product Designer – Create interfaces for apps and software that are optimized for functionality.  
    • UI/UX Designer – Understands the psychological of the end user. Usually a jack/jill-of-all trades designer who works with ease of use in mind.
    • Art Director – A design team leader who understands all disciplines and the brand’s requirements.

The first step in hiring a designer is to know exactly what type of specialist is required. Consult department leaders who will work closely with the new hire and learn what they need. Then post a job description with the right title and role requirements so you attract suitable candidates.

If you post a vague or inaccurate job description, you’ll end up with too many unqualified candidates. Even worse, you’ll deter great designers from applying because it will seem like your company doesn’t understand what it needs.

Experience matters but education is a secondary concern

Usually when hiring, you seek experienced candidates with the right educational foundation. However, you can relax degree requirements when hiring a designer.

Few traditional universities offer any type of design major. There are a handful of art schools with excellent design programs but you likely won’t get applicants who attended those institutions (if you do, they’re definitely worth considering).

Most designers are self-taught or learned their skills through an online school or college extension program. When screening applicants, you should consider the previous positions they held instead of what they studied in college. If you find someone with experience at a company that has a great website or product, consider bringing them in for an interview.

Review previous work and talk about your brand

While previous experience is important, it pales in comparison to what you can discover from a candidate’s portfolio. Reviewing past work helps you learn about their talent level and gives you an idea of exactly what projects they’ve been involved in. There’s a good chance you’ll find a few candidates worth interviewing after taking a look at work samples.

When you meet with candidates, have a conversation about what they can bring to your company’s brand. If you have established guidelines, ask if they’re willing to work within the constraints of a style guide. If you have loose brand requirements, try to learn what consistency a potential hire will offer through their design work.  

Have a diverse hiring team

Depending on the exact design role you’re adding to the staff, your future hire will likely work closely with other teams like web developers, marketing and product. The leaders of these departments should be involved in the interview process so you hire a designer who meets everyone’s needs.

As we mentioned earlier, the quality of design work is subjective so don’t be surprised if your hiring team has varying opinions. Make sure the team has a thorough discussion, everyone’s perspective is taken into account and they come to a consensus on which candidate to hire.