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Creative Agency Owners: What Are the Most Common Hiring Mistakes and How to Avoid Them?

10 Steps to Hiring Your Ideal Employee

You own a creative agency with a small staff. You’ve got an open position. While it remains open, it means more work for you and less time to manage your agency. Perhaps, your business is larger. That open position is going to negatively impact your productivity. That’s going to put a dent in your bottom line.

Whatever the size of your firm, you can’t afford to have a position remain open. It’s painful for you. So, you make a hire quickly. 

Now you may have caused an even bigger problem. You might have hired an employee who can’t do the job, or who doesn’t have the personality to fit in with your culture. All because you were desperate to fill that open position.

We’ve seen this too often. Why do some agency owners make poor hiring decisions? And how can they avoid hiring mistakes? We’ve got that covered, too. 

Three Mistakes Agency Owners Make in the Hiring Process

Recruiting creative people isn’t easy. To hire effectively, you must hire candidates who are not only equipped to do the job expected of them but who will fit in with your team. We’ve identified three mistakes that are commonly made by owners of creative agencies that end up hiring the wrong person for the role.

  1. Making hiring decisions too quick

You’re a business owner. You didn’t get to where you are today by sitting back. You’re a doer. So, it’s natural for you to want to make that hire immediately.

This sense of ‘doing’ leads to making ‘gut instinct’ decisions, which often lead to mistakes. 

Hiring can be difficult when it comes to finding just the right person for your company. It takes time. Hire too fast and it could be a more costly and time-consuming error than having the position remain open for a while.

You spend a lot of time at work. It’s likely that you’ll spend more time with an employee than you do with your spouse. Would you make a commitment to marry someone if you had only just met them? Is that gut instinct decision the right one?

  1. Wanting to make a quick fix to a problem

Problems are something you don’t suffer gladly. They cost time. They sap your energy. They damage efficiency. They can damage results. It’s natural that you want to fix problems as fast as possible. And, let’s face it, having an open position is a problem.

What do you do? You take the route of least resistance. You interview a handful of candidates and pick who you think is the best. Problem solved. Or is it a problem caused? 

Evaluating candidates is hard. It takes time to really understand what makes a person tick. 

Deciding too quickly by filling the position with the wrong person doesn’t solve the problem. Quite the opposite. It causes more problems and prolongs the agony.

  1. Thinking only of the big picture

You’re a creative. You’ve built your business to where it is today. How? You focused on the big picture. That’s what business owners tend to do. It’s your job, right?

The trouble is that when you’re hiring, hiring good people relies on the tiny details. And good hiring contributes to the big-picture success you are creating.

You’ve got to probe candidates to ensure they are a great fit. You need to discover their past responsibilities, and how they got on with previous supervisors. Did they work in a similar environment to yours? Learn about the things that make a candidate a good fit – personality, values, intelligence.

This kind of detailed thinking is anathema to most agency owners. Detailed thinking is rarely fun to do, and certainly not when compared to the big-picture thinking that gets your juices flowing. Trouble is, if you don’t focus on the finer details when hiring, your big picture could fade away into the distance.

“You’ve got me! I’ve made those mistakes!”

Okay, you may now realize that you’ve made one or more of these common hiring mistakes. Honestly, this is a good thing. It means you are ready to learn how to avoid hiring mistakes.

It’s going to take some discipline on your behalf since you will be doing the exact opposite of everything you have done in the past. 

Here is a summary of the foolproof steps to hiring an employee into your creative agency.

Step #1: Imagine your ideal candidate

Your hire must have the experience and skills required to hit the ground running, but it’s equally important (if not more so) to hire for personality and values. You want to match the candidate to the job and your firm.

It’s perfectly okay to have an idealistic view of your agency and the position that is open – your task is to match the person to your ideals.

Write down who you want to employ, and get some feedback from others – the peers of the position you are filling.

Step #2: Write a job description

Now, detail all you have established in step #1 in a comprehensive job description. Skills, abilities, personality, values, and so on. Everything that is needed for success in the role.

Hiring is about finding the right person for the job, and if you don’t have a detailed description, you’ll never hire the right person.

Step #3: Create a succinct job posting

A job posting is a marketing document, created to attract your ideal candidates. 

Don’t just post your job description. Make your job posting perfect by describing what difference the hire will make to your agency. 

Make it clear what qualities, skills, and attributes will make a candidate right for the role. 

This will help many would-be candidates self-eliminate, and that will save you a lot of time by not having to wade through reams of unnecessary resumes from under-qualified candidates.

Step #4: Screen applicants

Review the applications, cover letters, and resumes critically and toss any that don’t meet most, if not all, of your job requirements.

Typically, you’ll find around ten unqualified applicants for every one qualified applicant. Because you know exactly the qualities you are seeking in a candidate, you will be able to narrow down your pool in a relatively short period. 

Step #5: Now, slow down

Before inviting candidates to interview, create a guide for telephone screening and an interview structure that you will use with every candidate (this helps to remove bias and poor, gut-instinct decision making). Compose interview questions to help you assess and compare candidates.

Step #6: The telephone screen

It may seem like a use of time you don’t have, but a telephone screen is a time-saving option in the hiring process. It’s a chance for personal contact without a face-to-face interview, and an opportunity to ask any lingering questions you may have from their resume or application. 

The telephone screen is perfect for eliminating those candidates who you know don’t make the grade within a few minutes of speaking with them.

Step #7: Interview the candidates

You’re now down to the cream of the crop, and it’s time to meet them face-to-face. Stick to your pre-set interview structure, script, and questions. Devise a ‘scoring system’, and take notes. This will make it easier to compare candidates when it comes to making your final selection.

If possible, have someone with you in the interviews. This will help you stick to the script. You can share responsibilities of asking questions and taking notes. And a different perspective always helps.

Step #8: Test the candidate

Testing can also help you select the right person and not just the person you liked best. The more information you have, the better decision you will be able to make. 

There are many interview activities that can help. You could assess for technical ability, by setting an exercise that replicates the type of work they will be doing in the role. These types of tests are extremely useful for assessing skills such as typing, writing, programming, accounting, or reading comprehension.

You might also consider personality assessments such as DISC, or intelligence and problem-solving tests like Wonderlic.

Step #9: Meet the team

You should be down to only two or three candidates by now. You’ll be checking references before you finalize an offer, of course, but a step that many agency owners miss out on is a ‘meet the team’ session.

This can be particularly useful. It helps you to see the interaction between the candidates and what could be their new team. Will they fit in?

Step #10: Take time to think before making an offer

Now it is time to sit back and think about anything else you need to know or might have missed. There is no need to rush the process even though you have that urge. Only when you are certain you have the right person should you make a job offer.

Always hire the right person

Having the right people in the right jobs is crucial to the growth of your agency. Hiring them is not something you can rush. Get it wrong, and you could regret it for years to come.

Remember, too, that throughout the hiring process candidates are also assessing you. Create a good impression by:

  • Keeping them informed of the next steps

  • Providing timely feedback on their interview performance

  • Making sure you provide opportunities for them to ask you questions

And, finally, stop looking for the perfect candidate! Perfect doesn’t exist, but great does. If you hire great candidates every time, you’ll create a great creative agency that is always primed for growth.

Please, feel free to download my eBook, ‘Foolproof Steps to Make Your Hiring Process More Successful’, packed full of tips to help you develop your hiring process to be successful. 

Or you could do what many of our clients do – take advantage of our recruiting services for creative agencies

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