Take Five: On Bringing The Best Of Your Business To The Hiring Process

Written by
Sarah Trounce

Take five minutes and read five practical steps to help you level up your hiring strategy or job hunting.

Illustration by Sergio Membrillas

Hiring right now is hard. And getting people to stay is even harder. “The market has never been more competitive,” says James Greenfield, CEO and Founder of Koto, the creative agency with studios in Berlin, London and Los Angeles. With headlines proclaiming the ongoing effects of The Great Resignation, many sectors – including the creative industries – are facing a pronounced shortage of new talent. The pressure is on for businesses to stand out – not only in terms of the quality of their products and services – but in what they stand for and how they live these values through visible, tangible actions.

Building a reputation as a great employer is about more than the salaries and benefits you provide for your team. Many businesses put a huge amount of energy into creating an exciting external brand with a compelling visual identity and tone of voice, slick website and smart offices — all of which will no doubt help attract new clients and potential employees. But developing a cohesive internal brand will help you clarify your values as a business and get the people you want and need on board with your vision. A successful internal brand will forge strong connections between employer and employees — strong enough to weather pandemics, resignations, and changing attitudes towards work itself. Below, we explore how to bring the best of your business to the hiring process. Treating every aspect of recruiting as a vital part of your internal brand-building will greatly increase your chances of finding new team members who not only fit into your working world, but change it for the better.

Get clear on your needs. Then get flexible.

So, you have a recruitment need and the deadline is urgent. Stop. Take the time to think about the vacant role as an opportunity to discover a new colleague, rather than a gap that needs filling. That job description you wrote two years ago? It needs rewriting. And the role needs redefining. It needs to reflect where you are as a business today. It needs to speak to the person who will love the role and your business, and thrive in both. And you haven’t met that person yet, so stay open. Of course you’ll have some criteria in mind for your new colleague, and the job description should reflect those criteria. Consider attitude and interests as much as experience and qualifications. Ask yourself, what are the parameters around the role? How might it be adjusted or adapted for the right person? Personalities vary wildly but you should still have a clear idea of which characteristics make your business work well and what unites the diverse people across your team. The people you hire will become ambassadors for your business (even long after they leave) and the tone for that engagement can be set as early as posting a job ad.

First impressions matter.

Remember you and your current team are acting as representatives for your business at every stage of hiring. Not only is the candidate trying to impress you; you are trying to impress them. So, in all your communications, whether written or verbal, you should always be polite and professional, direct but not intimidating. Think carefully about who on your team should be part of the recruitment process, whether accountable or just informed. Consider every touchpoint that your potential new colleague will encounter — from your website and social media accounts, to the job description, shortlisting, interviews, offer, and follow-up. The whole experience should feel rigorous, seamless and ideally enjoyable. The creative sector is a small world and first impressions matter. What atmosphere do you want to project? Serene and focused, or fast-paced and high-energy? It pays to be transparent with potential employees about your style of working and your expectations for the role right from the start. As James Greenfield puts it: “Don’t claim you’re something you’re not.” To protect your reputation as an employer and business, integrity is key. Tudinh Duong, Founder of technology partner ON agrees: “We need to be able to talk about our company in a way that we can be proud of and believe in.”

It’s a two-way street.

Conducting the hiring process with humility and humanity will not only bring out the best in your business — it will also bring out the best in your candidate. Give the person you’re interviewing the opportunity to shine, share, and challenge you by encouraging honesty and openness. What resources are you making available to candidates? How will they learn enough about you in a short space of time to decide whether your business is a place they want to work? Preparation is key. Gather relevant materials and policies and anticipate the variety of needs a candidate may have in order to do their best work with you. Be generous with your time and energy. Do your homework and you can expect the candidate to do theirs too. Found the right person? Your curiosity shouldn’t end here. Joy Nazzari, Founder of London-based studio dn&co interviews her newest team members after a job offer has been confirmed. She wants to know, “Why did you join us? Why did you say yes?” Such information is not only valuable data for your future hiring activities; it can also help you monitor and improve engagement across your existing team.

Let your values be your guide.

What does living your values look like when it comes to hiring? Tudinh Duong explains his approach like this: “Much like everything we do at ON, our hiring process is agnostic. Our ethos means being open to the projects we work on and also being open-minded about hiring.” Having grown the team from 10 to 60 in just over a year, remembering their guiding principles has been fundamental to staying true to their vision. But the ability to spot someone’s unique contribution – and respond by tailoring a role specifically to them – is crucial for attracting a rich mix of skills and ideas. For Duong, “the hiring process is all about learning… The candidate should be able to learn as much about us as we learn about them.” This basis for hiring translates to a wider company philosophy which informs everything they do: “A big driver for us is personal development. How can we empower people and create a platform for growth?” At Koto, a different value reigns supreme, reflected not only across the studio’s dynamic and colourful portfolio but in the attitude of its people, whatever their role. James Greenfield tells us, “The number one attribute we look for is optimism — it keeps you going through the uncertainty of the creative process and stops you from taking shortcuts.” But this doesn’t mean a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to hiring people. Greenfield clarifies: “Both introverts and extroverts can fit in here but there is always a need in an agency to engage with our clients.”

From cultural fit to cultural additive.

At dn&co, the narrative around the term ‘cultural fit’ has evolved into something more inclusive, and potentially much more exciting: “cultural additive”. Joy Nazzari explains that when she’s interviewing, she wants to know, “Is the person in front of me bringing something different?” For her, this approach to hiring reflects the overall ethos of the dn&co studio: a “tight-knit-ness” that “nurtures togetherness”. When thinking about how to navigate flexible working practices and in-person collaboration in the wake of the pandemic, the priority became how to “invest in togetherness”. For a studio that builds brands around culture and place – but most highly values its culture as a team – hiring in the right way is essential to maintaining a productive and happy equilibrium: “I care that we have stories, fun, serendipity. It’s a magic thing.”

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