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14 Best Interview Questions for Creatives

Illustration of a person walking a tightrope between a question and answer

14 Best Interview Questions for Creatives

Finding great creative talent can be tricky. And finding great creative talent who also jibe with your company culture can be even trickier. Here are the 14 most critical qualitative questions to understand how they work, what makes them tick, if they’re right for you—and if you’re right for them. Keep in mind that quantitative questions are also essential to help mitigate unconscious bias. Happy hiring!

1. What will you miss about your current gig?

Once someone is on the hunt for a new job, it’s usually easy for them to conjure up everything they hate about their current one. But instead of going down Bad Memory Lane, ask them about the positive stuff instead. This gives you a good sense of what’s important to your potential hire and whether it’s something you can offer them at your company.

2. Have you worked directly with clients or customers?

Being awesome behind a monitor is one thing, but being awesome in front of real, live humans is a whole different thing. Creatives who deal with customers or clients develop additional skills—presenting, listening, and understanding, developing persuasive arguments, and knowing how to sift through feedback for what they should address and what can be skipped. (Feel free to pass this helpful list of client tips to your favorite creatives.)

3. OK, 2020’s a pressure cooker. How are you dealing?

Nothing about this year is typical. But we can’t ignore the very large elephant in the room. How people respond under pressure says more about their character than how they respond to a pat on the back. Ask what techniques they use to stay calm, how stress has impacted their work, what their coworkers might say they are like to work with during these times. With the pandemic ongoing, you may also have to deal with bringing people back to an office setting—or not. Here are some ways to help with that unique kind of stress.

4. What if people don’t like something you made?

Creative people use their skills to make stuff all day, and they usually feel some sense of ownership over it. Pride is good. Passion is good. But being defensive and not recognizing client needs is a definite dealbreaker. Talk to them about how they handle negative feedback and ask for a specific example of how they turned the situation into a positive one.

5. What’s the last thing you learned?

You want the go-getters. Overachievers. Never settlers. These kinds of people are always learning. Because they know knowledge is power. Did a developer learn a new programming language? Research artificial intelligence? Did a designer learn how to code? Take a class on AI? Take up Spanish? The point is, you want your team to be hungry and to be curious.

6. What do you think of our brand/site/marketing materials?

You’d be hard-pressed to find a creative out there who doesn’t think they could improve on even the most iconic brand. This question requires a delicate balance, though—you want their honest answer, but you also want them to be respectful and professional. This one’s as much about how they answer as what.

7. How will your creativity make our company better?

Creative folks often have a lot of hidden talents up their artistic sleeves. You might find someone who could illustrate a mural for the office (if we ever get back to the office) or create cool Zoom backgrounds, at least. Maybe they created a filing system that simplified life at their last job or will offer to hold a virtual fiction-writing workshop. You want to find people who are invested. (Take a peek at 7 ways to keep your creative team engaged once you’ve hired them!)

8. Tell me about a time you screwed up.

It’s not about how many times we fall down, but how many times we get up, right? Talk to your interviewee about a time when they made a mistake. What was the situation? How do they describe their role in it? Is there a sense of responsibility there? What did they learn from it? These answers can reveal a lot about their character and their ability to grow from trying times.

9. What is success for you?

This one really gets into their psyche! When determining the right fit for your team, it’s helpful to know how a person defines success. Is their goal entirely personal? Would they need others to reach it? Does it involve a greater purpose? Is it monetary? Is it title-based? Is it something they can achieve at your company? What qualities can this person add to your company culture? Remember, the interview is as much about them seeing if you’re the right fit as it is seeing if they are right for you.

10. When do you feel most creative?

Creative people like to feel, surprise, creative! They are often in the jobs they are in because it is scratching their creative itch in some way. And part of your job is doing everything you can to foster that. So, pay attention to what they say here. Maybe it’s more of a freeform schedule. It could be time to be creative outside of work. Or having regular powwows with other creatives. These insights may inform how you structure your team or extras you may offer in the future.

11. What brands do you admire?

You want people who are interested in their field. And for creatives, that’s checking out how brands do things. For a writer, maybe it’s a brand with a very strong messaging platform, like Patagonia. A marketer might love how Glossier basically grew a brand on Instagram. A designer might be drooling over Spotify. A developer may tell you about a site that’s coded in a way they’d never seen before. On a basic level, it’s also a chance to assess taste. Do you also like these brands? If not, that’s something to think about.

12. Ok, show me what you’ve done.

It’s the most obvious question when assessing creatives. But as you walk through the eye candy, think about the substance behind it too. Sure, you want to see their beautiful layouts or code examples, but you want to know how they got there. What role did they play? Who came up with the concept? Are they more ideas or more execution? Did they meet the deadline? Are they methodical? A free spirit? In short, you want to like their work and how they work.

13. <Insert very technical question here.>

This question will vary depending on who you’re hiring. Need a developer? Throw a technical problem at them in JavaScript and ask how they would attack it. Looking for a web designer? Ask them to put Sketch and InDesign in a battle to the death. Want a marketing guru? Tell them to talk about the best software they used to map a campaign. And if you’re not sure of the nitty-gritty questions to ask, get someone on your team with in-depth knowledge to help you out.

14. Do you have any questions for me?

An oldie but a goodie. Because a smart interviewee has learned more about your company from the questions you just asked than from anything they Googled ahead of time. So, tell them it’s their turn to do the asking. You’ll learn a lot about them from what’s on their mind right then.

Need a hand hiring?

Searching for and finding the right person for the job is a job in and of itself. And we won’t even mention how time-intensive interviewing can be. Give us a shout if you’d like help bringing in fully vetted talent—contact us here, or call (617) 535-5000.

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