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How to Source Great Design Candidates

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I can look at a designer’s portfolio and know within a few seconds whether the candidate has talent and is a possible fit for the job.  I’ve looked at thousands of design portfolios over the years. In the role of creative director at Bullhorn, I have the luxury of working with talented recruiters who source design candidates for me. Our recruiters knew the lingo for software developers and were well-versed in sourcing support, product management and other, more frequently requested positions, but when it came to design, their knowledge fell short.  Here is some guidance I gave our recruiters to help them source solid design candidates.

Resume vs. Portfolio:  Portfolio wins every time.

Yes, the resume matters. If the person graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design or worked at Pentagram, you can be reasonably assured they know the basics of typography, color theory etc., but the proof is always in the portfolio. A digital portfolio is preferred, making it easier to share and track in your applicant tracking system (ATS).

What does a creative director look for in a design portfolio?

Not every designer is strong in all areas of design. Some are good at illustration and typography. Some are print-centric while others are digital by nature. Their strengths should come through in their portfolio and help you get one step closer to matching the position with the skillset.

View freelance and general hire portfolios differently.

Freelance designers are usually brought in to accomplish a specific task such as logo design, banner ads, motion graphics, etc. The criteria for freelance are much more specific than a broader, general hire. This usually makes it easier to sort the “yes” and “no” piles. Unlike a permanent design position, which may necessitate that you extrapolate some parts of the portfolio, you should see exactly what you’re looking for in a freelancer’s portfolio.

“I’m not a designer, how can I tell if their work is any good?”

Design is a visceral endeavor as well as a creative discipline. Trust your gut. Get feedback early and often. The creative director or art director should be able to give you specific feedback on what they like or dislike about a candidate. Press them for more detail and ask them to articulate what they like and don’t like.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about recruiters, it’s that they are fast learners who are always up for a challenge. Have fun looking at all the great work created by talented designers!