Hiring Guide
Your 2023 Guide for Hiring Design Talent in 10 Simple Steps

Your 2023 Guide for Hiring Design Talent in 10 Simple Steps

October 9, 2023
10 mins
Table of Content
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Hiring new talent for your organization is no laughing matter, especially when you pause to think about the long term ramifications of making the wrong decision. Your new graphic designer is going to be a huge influence on your brand and the way you communicate with your customers.

Pick the right person, and your engagement can soar.

Pick the wrong one, and you might find yourself on a list of bad marketing examples as a warning to other businesses.

But don’t worry. We feel your pain, and you’re not alone. We got you.

By the time you’re done reading this guide, you’ll feel more sure of yourself, and know exactly what the next steps are. In fact, we’ve made it simple for you — use this blog as a checklist for your hiring process and you’re good to go.

1. Consider Your Needs

There might be a little demon on your left shoulder telling you to post an ad as soon as you decide to hire, but you must resist. We get it, starting the process right away seems like the productive thing to do, but it’s anything but. There are still things you need to figure out.

  • What Kind of Designer Do You Need?

Jack of all trades, master of none...

That’s probably not what you want. Anyone can pick up a pen and draw something, but if you’re really looking to take your designs to the next level, you need an expert.

This is where you decide if you need a UI designer, a Web Designer, a Product Designer, or someone with an entirely different specialization. Once you know exactly what skills you need, and for what, you’ll have an easier time throughout the hiring process, right down to the final step.

  • What Are Your Needs and Wants?

Some things in life are nice to have. Others, you can’t live without, and hiring a new employee is no different.

You need someone who knows what they’re doing. You want someone who would mesh well with your company culture. You need someone who is dependable and productive, and you need someone creative.

Depending on the exact position, you might need someone who can take charge, or you’d be better off hiring a team player who can follow directions well.

As a general rule, you can make a list of the hard skills your new hire needs to have. For example, should they know how to use the particular design software you use, or are you willing to train them?  

Some soft skills, however, can either be a want or a need depending on how you run things.

Another important factor to consider would be if you need the new candidate to work in-office, or if you’re willing to be flexible when you find the right person.

  • Talk to Your Team!

There’s no one better to help you with defining your candidate requirements than your current design or marketing team.

They’re the ones who will be working with your new designer, and they’re the marketing experts who can tell you exactly what skills and qualifications to look for.

Your new hire needs to complement the skills the team already has and fill the gaps.

Think of it like this — you’re working on a puzzle, and you’re looking for a new piece that will fit in with the rest.

To figure out what this new puzzle piece should look like, take a look at performance reviews, the current team’s work, feedback, areas you think your team is falling short in, and the skills they have and don’t have.

2. Look at Your Hiring Options

Long long ago, there was a land where hiring full-time employees was the norm. Remote work was unheard of, and everyone went to the office. Employers would hire full-time or part-time workers whenever they needed something done, and would pay them huge amounts to do so.

Today, you’ll only hear about this type of thing in fairy tales. The way people look at employment has drastically changed since 2019, and most people aren’t even sure if traditional, full-time, in-house employment is all it’s cracked up to be.

Hiring a full-time graphic designer can cost you a pretty penny. According to ZipRecruiter, full-time graphic designers make around $70,000 per year, but this number can go up to $104,000 for certain senior positions.

These numbers don’t take into account the indirect costs associated with hiring full-time talent, like their benefits package, office space, expenses in the hiring process itself, or things like signing bonuses.

But are there better options? Yes, yes there are.

You can hire a freelance designer to work remotely, or outsource all your design and marketing problems to a marketing agency. The simplest solution, of course, would be to subscribe to a Creative as a Service company like We Want Design. While agencies and freelancers aren’t necessarily cheaper than hiring full-time anymore, design services like We Want Design are great at keeping your costs down, your output high, and your work running smoothly.

3. Settle on a Hiring Process

Okay, so now you know exactly what you want, and you’re ready to decide how you’re going to get it. Your perfect someone is out there, and we’ll help you come up with a plan to find them.

Its smart to want someone experienced, but its even smarter not to get hung up on just that. You can spend years in the office not learning much, and you can be great at your job fresh out of college.  

To be a great graphic designer, a person needs to be passionate about their work, enjoy art, be creative, understand your product and industry, and know their way around design and marketing.

Once you have your list of desired qualifications, it’s time to figure out how to test and screen your applicants. You can make selected applicants take a basic design test to gauge their skill level, but there are some things you need to be careful about when developing the trial task:

  • The task shouldn’t take too long. You don’t want applicants doing unpaid work for you.
  • It shouldn’t be actual work for your company. The best way to develop a hiring test is to come up with a fictional work scenario and let your applicants apply their skills and creativity to it.
  • If you want to test your candidates more rigorously, you can have selected applicants do a paid trial assignment further down the hiring process that is more specific or takes longer to complete.

If you’ve never hired a graphic designer before, don’t worry. The hiring process isn’t too different from when you want to hire creative talent in general. It typically has one round of unpaid tests with shortlisted applicants, a second paid round of tests if you want, and then an interview before the final decision is made.

4. Draft a Job Description

Now we’re on to considering the actual job description. Keep in mind that you’re advertising this opportunity to desirable candidates, and you need to get their attention. Just like with any kind of ad, there are some best practices to follow.

  • Keep it short and scannable. Candidates aren’t going to read huge blocks of text.
  • List your requirements clearly. It can be helpful to even add two sections for “requirements” and “preferred skills” so candidates can self assess before they apply.
  • Don’t forget to list salary scope and benefits! The workforce is evolving, and most young candidates appreciate honesty and transparency in job applications. According to reed.co.uk, four in five candidates are less likely to apply if a job doesn’t list it’s salary.
  • Be clear about the job description, and don’t miss out important details like whether the job is in-house or remote!
  • Your application instructions should be clear and easy to follow. Once the job ad is live, make sure there aren’t any broken form links there. A job ad is no good if it leads nowhere!

Don’t be afraid to show off your company culture in your ad, and even add a little humor. Make it easy for your applicants to find your online pages, or boast about how awesome it is to work with you!

5. Start Looking!

Now comes the fun part. After all that planning and work, you’re ready to make your job post live and start receiving applications.

It’s best to wait a few weeks before you start replying to offers. Take some time to see what kind of applicants you’re getting, and don’t be afraid to post on multiple job boards to get the most applicants.

If you’re not getting applications from people with the right skillset, it might be time to go back and see if there’s anything you missed in your job ad, or if the job boards you’re advertising on just aren’t the right ones.

Don’t be afraid to leverage your connections here. If you have any friends in graphic design, talk to them. You can use your own social media channels and professional connections to look for a candidate too.

Networking isn’t helpful just to job seekers!

6. Test and Interview Candidates

If you did step 5 right, you probably have a long list of candidates to choose from. Be warned, you’ll have to wade through a lot of pre-written cover letters and half hearted applications before you find the ones you’re interested in. Sometimes, you’ll even find incomplete ones!

But don’t lose hope just yet. Take your “wants” and “needs” list out, and filter your applications through that criteria. You can use applicant tracking software in the process, in fact, we recommend using it for any hiring process to make it efficient and effective. Without the help, it could take hours to sort through applications.

When shortlisting candidates at this stage of the process, you don’t have to be too picky. Remember, you’re not choosing who to hire right now, you’re choosing the applicants who get to move to the next stage of the process. Shortlist candidates that might not be perfect, but have potential. Candidates you want to test, or the ones you want to talk to further down the line.

Now, it’s time to notify them of the first test assignment. Make sure it follows the criteria outlined in step three, or you risk losing valuable talent as they opt out of attempting the test. You’re competing for the top talent here, and most of them will be going through multiple hiring processes at a time. You don’t want them to think you’re taking advantage of their time!

Once you’ve  shortlisted the candidates you want to interview, it’s time to call them in. You can either conduct the interviews online or in-office, depending on what sort of position you’re hiring for and where your final few candidates are located.

You can read our blog about the best questions to ask graphic design candidates, but here’s a quick list to help:

  • Where do you take inspiration from?
  • What brands do you admire for their design?
  • What applications make you jealous that you didn’t make them?
  • What is your work process like?
  • What is the most challenging part of graphic design for you?

In addition to trying to find more about a candidate’s design journey and their creative inspiration, you should ask them about their career goals, what they’re hoping to get out of this role, and why they’re leaving their current position. A good applicant will most likely have questions for you too, and an interview goes both ways. Be open and honest in your answers. Remember, you don’t have to make a decision there and then, or even give an answer right at the end of the interview.

Just talk to them and see if they’re a good fit.

7. Things to Consider Before Choosing a Candidate

You’ve gone through the whole process, and now it’s time to take the leap. Before you decide on a single candidate, make sure it’s for the right reasons. We won’t tell you why it’s a bad idea to hire someone just because they’re related to someone you know, but we will give you some things to think about.

  • Will they work well with your organization?
  • Do they tick all the boxes for necessary skills in a new employee, or do they just have a long list of skills that sound impressive?
  • If they don’t have all the skills, are you willing to invest time and money into teaching them? Does their work show potential?
  • Does their portfolio show that they’re capable of adapting to your current brand, and even improving it?
  • Do their long term goals align with the organization’s?

If you’re satisfied with your decision, you can get this ball rolling.

8. Notify Other Candidates

Everyone deserves closure, especially job seekers. Notifying candidates about choosing to move forward with another candidate is common courtesy, but a lot of recruiters and companies tend to miss this step.

You can just send a simple, cordial, and polite email to the candidates you interviewed with to let them know. In fact, it’s a great idea to automate this process and notify candidates on all application milestones when you choose not to move forward with them.

9. Make Your Offer!

You’ve gone through all the steps, you’re happy with your decision, and it’s time to make an offer now. In most workplaces, an initial offer is just the start of salary negotiations. Don’t expect any candidate worth their salt to accept it right off the bat (though that does happen), and be open to negotiation and some back and forth on the exact terms of employment, especially if you’re hiring full-time.

If all goes well, you will have a signed offer letter in just a few days. But your work isn’t done yet. There are still some things to do before you can close this chapter.

10. Onboard New Employee

The first few weeks of employment are crucial. Research by the Brandon Hall Group has discovered that great employee on-boarding can improve employee retention by 84% — no pressure.

A good on-boarding process is a collaborative effort. It shouldn’t just include the HR department, but people throughout the organization, especially the teams they’ll be working with directly.

Some companies like to start their on-boarding process even before an employee’s first day by sending them some company swag to get them excited. Here are some other tips that can help your new employee feel at home:

  • Introduce them to the team, or assign a buddy they can go to with questions about company culture and office traditions. Be careful to assign a fellow colleague so your new employee feels comfortable asking them questions.
  • Make sure all their paperwork is in order. You can give them a head start by having them fill it out before their first day too.
  • There’s no better way for a new hire to understand how a company works than shadowing a colleague.
  • Check-in regularly to make sure your new hire isn’t having any problems settling in, and to address any issues they might be having with their work.

Of course, this is all in addition to any on-boarding best practices your HR department sets up, or your marketing team recommends.

End Note

We hope this guide helped you gain some clarity on what hiring a graphic designer will mean. If you think hiring someone full-time isn’t for you, or if it didn’t work out in the past, it’s not the only option out there! As long as you don’t lose sight of the important things, you’ll be just fine.