Recruiting Solutions from HOW Design Live

By Mary Truslow on

This year’s HOW Design Live was held in the Collaborative’s hometown, Boston, MA, and my teammate Eric Gendron and I had the pleasure of facilitating two roundtable discussions on recruiting and hiring talent, sponsored by our sister company, the In-House Agency Forum (IHAF).

We hosted a wide range of in-house agencies— from well-known national brands with over 100 employees to small, regional companies with less than 10 in-house agency employees.

Despite the diversity of company missions and sizes, we heard three common issues:

1) Great talent is hard to find.

2) Partnering with internal/external recruiters takes time and effort.

3) Hiring takes too long.

Let’s explore each.

Great talent is hard to find.

Most of our participants were hiring managers, and together we discussed the divide between the existing talent pool and their current hiring needs. The two biggest challenges we heard were finding specific talent and determining non-technical skills. Here are a few of the solutions the group shared:

- One company in Hawaii solved its talent challenge by changing its strict on-site policy and opening up the pool to include remote candidates.

- A company in Ohio has its Creative Services Manager partnering with a local university, as a feeder for advertising and marketing interns and recent grads. 

- Others increase employee referral bonuses for specific high-demand positions.

- Some position hiring managers as thought-leaders, increasing company exposure through speaking opportunities and panel discussions.

In terms of the “skills challenge,” everyone agreed that a mission critical technical skill could be addressed with training. Non-technical skills are really tough—specifically flexibility and the ability to handle change. Whether it is a rebranding effort or a new marketing strategy, the marketing/creative department is often the catalyst for change within a company. So, hiring team members who embrace change is a must.

- One company incorporates specific behavior-based questions into its interview process.

- Others suggested having the hiring team trained in behavior-based interviewing so that soft skills are central to candidate assessment, and each interview team member understands what the soft skills must be.

- Another gets validation of non-technical skills through reference checking.

- Many admitted to spending more time looking at the technical skills of candidates rather than the non-technical skills.

Partnering with an internal/external recruiter takes time and effort.

Many hiring managers complained about working with recruiters and shared their frustration about how recruiters “just don’t get it!” However, it was acknowledged that through true partnerships and solid communication, recruiters help solve hiring challenges.

One Creative Director in Seattle has a dedicated internal recruiter. The two meet weekly to review the status of open jobs, the candidate pool and then strategize. This partnership took months of portfolio reviews and extensive feedback on sourced candidates before it started to pay off for the hiring manager.