Good creative hiring is all about flexibility and relationships--this was the core of the message gleaned from Wednesday's long-anticipated Coroflot Creative Confab at the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco.
The panel discussion at the heart of the 160-attendee event was easily the most boisterous and impassioned of the Confab's four-city tour so far, with panelists Emily Delmont (Google Creative Lab), Steve Johnson (LinkedIn), Kate Gilman (24 Seven) and John Foster (IDEO) bouncing around opinions on networking, creative skill sets, and employee engagement with dizzying speed. Kudos to Coroflot's Carl Alviani, who's deft moderating provided just the right amount of provocation, synthesis, and encouragement to the panel.
A few of the more memorable revelations:
- The timeframe for a creative hire can vary tremendously: John and Steve both recalled designers who took over two years to finally bring on board, while Kate regularly places freelancers the same day the position opens. The difference? Specificity: A designer who's defined entirely by their skills is easy to place, but easily replaced; a staff hire with growth potential depends more on collaborative and learning ability, and these take far longer to assess.
- Creative skills for the next three years: Once esoteric abilities like motion graphics, interaction design, and social media engagement are being integrated into almost every part of the creative world, and will soon be as common a part of the communication toolbox as email. At the strategic end, John has seen a recent swell in demand for designers who understand business processes, and can approach them with the same creative mindset they bring to other projects. Expect Design MBA programs to proliferate like mad.
- The high cost of a bad hire: It's astronomical, in wasted time, money and opportunity. A worry voiced across the panel was of wanting to fill a position so badly that a poor-fitting applicant with great skills gets the job. It always ends in tears.
- Post hire support: It's difficult, it's time-consuming, and it's absolutely necessary. Every panelist described a different strategy for connecting new hires to their colleagues, and keeping them supported, but they all had one. IDEO's in particular is deeply involved, with multiple follow-up interviews, presentations, and introductions with potential collaborators in house (read more at John's 3 Questions preview post)
- Biggest surprise--it's not about the job, it's about the person: "Should I apply for a job despite not meeting all the requirements?", asked one audience member. The panelists replied with a unanimous "Yes!" It turns out they keep tabs on dozens or even hundreds of potential hires (Emily's team at the Creative Lab maintains a Google Doc for just this purpose), and job postings are primarily tools for building that list. This is one reason they're often so vaguely written: while there are sometimes specific jobs that need instant filling (especially in freelance), recruiters are more interested in finding qualified creatives with good communication skills and learning abilities. Replying to a post is merely the first step in that relationship. So apply, apply, apply.
more pics, notes and links after the jump
The morning sessions, new to this installment of the Confab, succeeded in delivering some highly-directed strategies for creative talent searching (from Aquent's Terra Dehnert and Corey O'Brien) and online presence-building (from Coroflot's Carl Alviani).
For many in attendance, though, the Confab was all about the reception: two hours of meeting and connecting with the panelists (the line to meet John Foster lasted until 5:30), the sponsors (including four top creative staffing agencies and several design-driven employers) and especially each other. Owing perhaps to the Bay Area's incredibly dynamic design community, this Confab saw a broader range of attendees than ever before, with interaction, graphic, web, and industrial designers, design and creative directors, and recruitment and HR specialists, who constituted nearly 30% of the crowd.
Video coverage is coming soon, but satisfy your Confab curiosity with Core's super-engaging pre-interviews with the panelists and workshop leaders: