What to Look for When Hiring a Creative Professional

Three professionals sitting together in an office and brainstorming ideas

Innovation is valuable to all companies and critical for long-term success. At the root of innovation lies creativity. Thus, it’s more important than ever to hire creative professionals; even if you’re not in a traditionally “creative” field.

In fact, this hits home for 4 Corner Resources as many of our core industries, like legal and healthcare, aren’t exactly viewed as a beacon for creative people. We’d argue, however, that creatives in these fields are even more valuable, which makes hiring them a priority.

We also know that creativity is intangible. So how exactly does it tie into business outcomes? A study by Adobe and Forrester Research set out to investigate just that.

It concluded that companies that encourage a creative culture are 3.5 times more likely to achieve 10% revenue growth goals than companies where creativity was not a priority. What’s more, those organizations were 50% more likely to report a strong market leadership position over their competitors.

If you aspire to emulate the creative innovation that industry powerhouses like Google, Apple, and Disney are known for, then you must hire creative professionals.

What to Look For When Hiring Creative Professionals

Identifying creativity in a candidate is often the easy part. The challenge is zeroing in the skills that will enable you to harness that individual’s creativity to advance your business goals and drive innovation.

Below, we outline some of the most critical creative skills to look for as well as suggested interview questions to use when hiring creatives.

1. Ability to collaborate

In the business world, creativity can’t exist in a vacuum. In order to drive growth, it takes many people or even multiple departments working together to see a creative idea through to fruition.

When hiring, seek out candidates with a demonstrated history of collaborating on projects. Look for mentions of working within a group, leading a team, or being a member of professional and industry organizations.

To identify the ability to collaborate, ask this: 

  • Can you share an example of a time you collaborated with a group to achieve a goal? What did you contribute and what did the group accomplish?
  • Let’s say you had to work with a colleague who wasn’t on board with your ideas. How would you approach it?
  • What’s your preferred method for working on a group project? (i.e. everyone takes a piece and works on it separately, everyone works on all parts equally, etc.)

2. Time management

The image of the disorganized, always-late artist may be a cliché, but that doesn’t stop it from having some basis in reality. There’s a documented link between creativity and lateness; it’s what some people would call a ‘Type B’ personality.

Researchers have surmised that creative people tend to prefer taking their time to feeling rushed; leaving plenty of opportunity to explore and find solutions. Creatives are also less likely to see being “busy” as a direct connection to being “productive” the same way their Type A peers might.

For hiring managers, this means taking time (pun intended) to identify creative professionals who are also adept at managing deadlines and setting priorities.

To identify strong time management, ask this: 

  • What’s your approach to prioritizing creative work?
  • If you could arrange your ideal schedule, what would it look like?
  • What tools do you use for time management and/or organization?

3. Ability to take and give direction

Creative work can be a funny thing to manage because there’s often no “right” or “wrong” way of doing things. There is, however, usually one or more ways of doing things that align with the larger strategy of the business, and conversely, ways of doing things that do not.

An effective creative professional must be able to take direction and execute on it rather than needing to always steer the ship. For creative professionals in leadership roles, it’s doubly important that they’re able to give clear direction, even in abstract situations and even when dealing with someone who’s more technical or analytical than creative.

To identify the ability to take or give direction, ask this:

  • How do you respond to negative feedback?
  • Tell me about a time you approached a situation one way, but were forced to change course halfway through. What happened?
  • If you were to change positions with your manager at your last job, what would you have done differently?
  • Tell me about a time you had to explain a complex topic to someone who was unfamiliar with it. How did you approach it?

4. Culture fit

Culture fit is that hard-to-define quality that can make or break a new hire’s success within your organization. Simply put, does he or she ‘click’ with the rest of the staff? It may sound like something that’s nice to have but not essential, but the data says otherwise.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, turnover due to poor culture fit can cost an organization between 50 -60% of a candidate’s annual salary. But it can work to your advantage, too. Studies have shown that employees who fit well within their organization are more satisfied with their work, stay longer, and have superior job performance than those who are a weak fit.

When you’re recruiting creative professionals, an employee referral program can be an especially useful tool for identifying prospective candidates who are a strong culture fit.

To identify a strong culture fit, ask this: 

  • Tell me about the best job you’ve ever had. Why was it your favorite?
  • We’ve all had jobs we didn’t love. What did you dislike about your least favorite job?
  • What values are most important to you in an employer?

5. Curiosity

When you’re in the trenches working day after day toward your company’s goals, it’s easy to get stuck in the same old way of doing things. It might not even be something you do by choice, but rather out of habit. Though it’s safe, it’s exactly the opposite of innovation.

Creative professionals can be a massive asset due to their spirit of curiosity. It’s an often-overlooked trait, but one that’s necessary to ask the innovation-driving question, ‘what if we did it this way?’ Inc. Magazine describes curiosity as a “Swiss Army knife” that can help you build customer relationships, solve problems, get ahead of industry trends, and more, and we’d have to agree.

To identify curiosity, ask this:

  • What are you currently reading/watching/listening to?
  • What’s something you learned to do in the last six months? How did you go about it?
  • What questions do you have for me?

6. Critical thinking

It might sound counterintuitive to label critical thinking as a creative skill, but the most effective creative employees are those who can harness their talents to develop concrete, real-world solutions to problems.

Being a critical thinker can take many forms and doesn’t manifest the same way in all professionals. While one person might have a knack for analyzing the big picture from the smaller pieces, another might have a skill for coming up with solutions no one else has thought of. The key here is being able to take raw creativity and channel it into tangible results.

To identify critical thinking, ask this:

  • Let’s say your team disagrees about how to solve a problem. How would you go about coming to a consensus on the best course of action?
  • When you have to make an important decision, how do you approach it?

7. Passion

Without passion, even the most creative individual will burn out at some point. That’s not to say all creatives must be on their A-game 100% of the time. Rather, you’re looking for candidates who have a spark for what they do -something that keeps them showing up beyond just a paycheck.

Passionate employees are engaged employees, and engaged employees are good for business. According to a Gallup survey of research studies covering 192 organizations, companies that scored the highest in the area of employee engagement were 21% more profitable than companies with the lowest levels of engagement.

‘Why’ questions are especially useful for eliciting responses that demonstrate passion.

To identify passion, ask this:

  • Why do you want to work here?
  • Why did you choose to pursue a career in this field?
  • If you could have any job in the world, no matter how crazy or unrealistic, what would it be?

Find The Perfect Fit With 4 Corner Resources

Whether you’re looking to find a niche set of skills, identify the right culture fit, fill a complex position, or some combination of all three, 4 Corner Resources can help. We work with clients of all sizes to fill permanent, contract-to-permanent, and temporary positions nationwide through our network of the best creative professionals in the business.

With a 92% client retention rate and more than 5,300 candidates placed, it’s easy to see why we’re just not another recruiting firm. Contact us today to learn how our professional staffing services can be an asset to your organization.

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete is a seventh-generation Floridian whose career in technical recruiting began immediately following his graduation from Florida State University. After serving in leadership roles for two Fortune 500 companies, he founded 4 Corner Resources in 2005 to pursue a dream of building a business that prioritizes people over processes. In the years since, 4CR, the top-rated staffing company in Central Florida, has won numerous awards; most recently Forbes’ Best Recruiting Firms in America, The Seminole 100, and The Golden 100. Pete and his team recently launched zengig, with the goal of offering the most comprehensive advice, tools, and resources for every career journey. He’s the host of two podcasts; Hire Calling and Finding Career Zen, and blazing new trails in recruitment marketing with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technology.