Top three challenges in design recruitment

Speed up the process, secure internal buy-in and ensure the right hire every time

By Amanda Salter

The design industry remains one of the fastest growing creative industries in the UK. Which means when you advertise for a design position, you can expect a huge influx of CVs. This is great as it gives you lots of choice, but it takes time and effort to go through them all. Time you might not have. One option is to go through a recruitment agency. However many don’t have sufficient, niche understanding of the design space to effectively help you. So you risk ending up with someone who doesn’t fulfil requirements and have to repeat the whole process down the line.

Newt is different. We’re a design and service agency first so have inside knowledge on what makes a great designer and how to find them. We’ve been in your shoes many, many times over and have a trusted network of top talent. We’ve discovered ways to speed up the process, secure internal buy-in and ensure the right hire every time. Here are the top lessons we’ve uncovered along the way.


Challenge 1

How do you engage key stakeholders and attract the ideal candidates?


This might seem like two challenges but they are tied together. If your stakeholders don’t fully understand design roles or what you’re looking for, it can be hard to clearly communicate requirements to potential candidates. There will be too much uncertain ground. By getting stakeholders involved from the offset at a high level, you can use the information gained in your recruitment messaging.

  • Enlist support from your key stakeholders by working with them to identify top USPs

These need to be things that will appeal to design applicants. We focus on the characteristics of your organisation that motivate, inspire and retain design talent specifically. These are usually different to the general USPs that your company puts on the careers site

  • Get a creative to write your design role descriptions

Don’t delegate this task to your HR team or a generalist recruitment agency. That’s a recipe for failure. You need to use design experience and the USPs identified by the stakeholders to create a solid description that speaks directly to your ideal candidate. It will need to cover the specific details of the required skills, competencies and challenges of your design role in a language that the design community understands. We use our experience as design practitioners and design agency owners to craft meaningful and detailed job descriptions that inspire the best candidates to apply.

Challenge 2

How do you find a wide enough pool of the right design candidates?


Unfortunately receiving lots of CVs doesn’t guarantee a broad pool of the right candidates. Many people applying won’t have the experience and qualifications you need. It doesn’t help that job titles are often meaningless as there’s no consistency across organisations or projects. Your first step when going through CVs is to quickly identify a largish selection of possible candidates, which you can whittle down later. Here’s how we do this:

  • Focus on experience

Look at what candidates have done, their achievements and the projects they’ve worked on. Often we find great candidates who are already applying the requisite customer-led ways of thinking and problem solving, but in a different role or department.

  • Don’t simply tick off qualifications

Consider what lies behind a candidate’s choice of qualifications, rather than simply matching job roles to specific degree subjects. For example, some less standard ‘design’ subjects can reveal a passion for solving human problems in a way that is highly beneficial for businesses.

Challenge 3      

How do you hone in on good candidates quickly?


You’ve identified a broad pool of potential people. Now you need to filter this down to a select few. Design is a mindset and the best people have the right attitude from the outset – they don’t need to learn it. These are the people you want in your team – and here’s how to find them:

  • Prioritise a customer-first approach

Yes, technical skills are important – your ideal candidate needs to know how to do the job. But skills alone aren’t enough. Your designer also needs empathy and the ability to build strong human relationships. Crucially, they need to understand how best to use their skills to make your customers’ lives easier. This is what makes a great designer.

  • Look for a well-rounded team player

The most accomplished designers are star collaborators. They enjoy working with others, can communicate ideas effectively and bring out the best in their colleagues. Focus on candidates with hobbies or personal interests in other fields that give them different and unique skills that can aid their design. This could range from cooking to photography, charity work to team sports. These people tend to be well-balanced individuals who have more strings to their design bow.

We hope these challenges and solutions help with your recruitment drive. Good luck finding the right candidate!

Rather delegate? You’re in safe hands with Newt.

Creatives sourced by creatives

They say it takes one to know one. With a combined 30 years experience as thought leaders in the design industry, we’ve worked with some of the top talent around. Our creative network covers over 200 expert Service Designers, Product Managers, UX Designers, Researchers and more – from junior to mid-level and senior.

With all this expertise at our fingertips, we decided to launch Newt Recruits – a freelance and permanent recruitment service that actually understands what makes a brilliant creative.

Find the right person for your design team

Tired of recruitment agencies who don’t understand this domain? Want to find the right talent as recommended by people who have actually worked with them and can vouch for their worth?

Newt Recruits can help.

Contact Alex Frewin on 020 3515 1030 or email to find out more

Read all the articles in this Recruitment series

Part 1 – How to build a dream design team
Part 2 – Hot design skills for 2019
Part 4 – Top tips for recruiting a design team

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