Tips for Engaging Top Creative Talent

Jason Erickson
by Jason Erickson 20 Sep, 2017

As the majority of organizations, regardless of industry, size, style, or location would unanimously agree, their website is the single hardest-working arm of their business. From keeping day-to-day operations humming along to its position at the forefront of the brand image and style your company conveys to the world, website development and design skills have never been more in demand than they are at present. And with this surge in emphasis and importance comes a corresponding demand for expert, specialized, web design professionals and a significant opportunity to make a measurable impact on an organization's success in the long-term.

First Things First: The Recruitment and Hiring Process
In seeking out and recruiting creative professionals to fill website design and development roles, a number of factors come into play to ensure you're selecting the right person - and fit - for the jobs ahead. Here are some top tips to keep in mind as you embark on this initial phase of your creative talent search:

- Tenure Matters. It is generally advisable to look for professionals with at least 2 years of industry experience when placing talent for full-time creative positions in the website space.

- Skill Sets Rule. As the industry has risen in importance and demand over the last 5-7 years due to technological innovation, capability, and business value, so has the need for creative professionals with specific skill sets and industry focus, i.e. nonprofit, Fortune 100, Fortune 500, federal, etc. Much of the reason for this is, as the industry has grown in sophistication, there is a greater awareness and demand for particular style experience, and understanding when designing web environments to suit and engage key audiences.

As an example of this, corporate organizations are typically looking for their creative talent to be very inventive, edgy, and not afraid to take a style risk or two - while in industries like the federal sector, a more stylized, 'safe' approach is preferred, and work tends to be more 'production' in nature as opposed to full-blown 'creative.'

- Be on the Lookout for In-Demand Skills and Tools. Some of the key ones at the moment to look out for in potential talent include:

+ InDesign;
+ Web 2.0;
+ Open source vs. Closed;
+ Responsive design vs. static;
+ Web vs. Mobile expertise; and
+ App vs. Web page - cross industry skills play a huge role!

The Challenge: Seek Out the Creative Purists and Talent, Stay in Your Own Driver's Seat

As talent continues to deluge the creative side of the website industry in particular, and awareness of key skills and the differences between the various tools and approaches to drive traffic and engagement continue to come into ever-sharper focus, so does the need for creative talent to keep pushing toward 'Purist' status. This is to say that, in order to be most attractive to a potential employer, it is critical for creative talent to develop and maintain a myriad of skill sets within a key industry, and select the aspect of a discipline that they are most passionate about.

Truly, in today's market, purism and a deeper focus absolutely supersede a brief knowledge about a variety of topics. Some key things to look for in top candidates are those who:

- Choose a specific design avenue. Whether it is UX, visual, mobile design, or another area that strikes their fancy, you want to see candidates who choose what speaks most to them and stick to it.
- Pick an industry of focus - and then stay on top of it! Never letting their skills or portfolio EVER become complacent is essential to remaining competitive.
- Take initiative and don't wait for the training to come to them. It is essential that talent remain in their own driver's seat in keeping abreast of the latest innovations necessary to continue propelling their careers forward. Most often, by the time formal training is available, the market is already saturated, and they are already behind! Candidates should never rely on training to drive their career trajectory.

The Future is Reality
Going forward, there is no question that the 'reality genre' is leading the way across the creative/ website landscape. Whether Augmented, Virtual, or something in between, the design space going forward will continue to be flooded with demand for creative professionals who are able to develop usable and digestible 2D and 3D content that works for the common work space. As a key part of this, front-end designer talent is very much at the forefront of where organizations will be looking to secure talent for these types of projects. The ability and experience of transforming static design into experiences, that are both palatable and possible for people to engage with, will make these reality genre capabilities themselves 'real' - and this is a niche within the industry that shows no signs of slowing down.

The Bottom-Line - Determine Your Sizzle and Your Urgency - and Be Prepared to Move
Overall, the ease or difficulty in recruiting and hiring top creative talent across the website space largely depends on the state of the market economy overall, and specifically, the climate around employment rates at any given time. Now, with unemployment rates fairly low in most major metropolitan areas - even with a specific focus - there is far less availability in talent than even six months ago.

What this really means for organizations is this: you have to determine your 'sizzle:' what would make your company more attractive to the top talent you're looking to recruit over your competition and why? Also, you must be acutely aware of not just your urgency to hire, but of the fast pace of talent acquisition in the hot creative and web markets that exist today. In short, once you find the candidate you want, you need to be prepared to move - and quickly - to ensure you are able to lock them down before they are scooped up by others.

Additionally, with the swamped state of the talent market for creative professionals in the web industry right now, it can often make sense to hire a person who might be 80% 'perfect' for the job, and who can be molded by on-site training vs. waiting too long for the ideal candidate to cross your path.

About the Author: Jason Erickson is Director of Sparks Group's Creative Division. In this role, Jason is responsible for the oversight and continued growth in the company's Creative and Marketing Division which includes Marketing, Digital Social Media and Mobile across all business sectors. Jason brings 15 years of experience in staffing experience working with global clients.