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Forward thinking.

​In previous articles, we have fielded questions on what makes a great CV and how to design an impressive portfolio. With those topics covered we now address;

What do Creative Directors look for when hiring? How do you stand out?

The quality of your work and experience shown on your CV might get you in the mix, but what are those extra yards a CD is looking for that is going to help win you the race?

We posed this question to Wes Fagan. Wes has the responsibility for new hires in his role at Coates Group where he is the Global Head of Digital Design, Product & Hardware Engineering, and previously held the position of Design Director at R/GA, Deloitte Digital, Atlas Communications Group and Ziller. 

Whether he was working in-house or in agency, the three key attributes Wes looks for has always been the same;

“First and foremost is culture. If they’re not going to fit in the team and the values, there is absolutely no point regardless of how intelligent they are.”

Culture can be gaged from the ‘About Us’ section of the businesses website, their social media feeds, how they articulate themselves in a job advert. Do research and make sure that their culture is going to be the right fit for you, and then make sure you show them that in the way you present yourself; be that from your CV, your portfolio, or your interview dress code. 

Wes also highlights the importance of showing design thinking in the work that you do;​

“The second thing is looking for people that can articulate how and why they’ve got to where they’ve got to. Whether that be an example of their work or a solution to a brief. Think about what was your process and why?”

Being able to articulate your process and decision making is really important. Not only should your portfolio outline the creative process, but you should be confidently elaborating on the inspiration, the challenges and the business impact of each project. 

Wes continues, stating that a candidate who shows personality will always stand out:

“The third thing is personality. I’m thinking of the most recent people we’ve hired, and regardless of being senior, mid or junior, you’ve got to come in, have your own personality, stand on your own two feet and be independent with your own decision making.”

It is the biggest cliché but be individual. Don’t be a box-ticker or a yes-man (or woman). Have an opinion about hot topics within the creative industry, you don’t have to agree with everything that your interviewer says. If you are an introvert, don’t try and be an extravert and vice versa.

I’ve had designers attend interviews where a portfolio link hasn’t been mentioned, or copywriters that haven’t had to show any of their writing. Often the CV and portfolio in their application has satisfied the manager that the person they are meeting can do the job, the sole intension for the interview is gaging personality, and whether it’s the right fit for them, their team, and their culture.

The focus on personality as a decisive factor in the hiring process is something certainly not unique to Wes. When asking other industry leaders their thoughts on individual key hiring criteria, characteristics and qualities of an individual’s personality have been a frequent focus:


Paul Kelly, Experience Design Director at CX Lavender;

“Ambition, attitude and talent. While talent can be developed over time, new hires that express ambition and a positive attitude are key attributes that I look for.”

Executive Creative Director of CX LavenderRyan Stubna;

“My number one is Drive. People who are ready to go above and beyond to deliver excellent work. Second is Knowledge. People who have a lot of knowledge to share and people who want to learn. And third is confidence and cultural fit.”

Kieran WestonHead of Design for Westpac;

“Creative thinking, resource-fullness, good communication. They'll need to be more of a self-starter with remote working ramping up.”

Creative DirectorTim Brothers;

“Firstly, someone who is flexible and easy to work with. Second, quality of work and; third, strong work ethic and timely delivery. This is even more important post-COVID.”

Jason PaffasCreative Director;

“It may sound analog, but if I’m employing someone the CV and the folio are nothing compared to who and how they behave potentially. I’m always willing to give someone a break if they showcase passion and desire to learn and work hard.”

Creative Director at Red Engine, Duncan Shields;

“In most cases, I look for a candidate’s rate-of-learning over their qualifications. How fast do they adapt and thrive? DDB's hiring policy of 'talented and nice' has always stuck with me. Nice is actually more important to me than talent.”

Regardless of whether you’re writing a CV, putting together a portfolio, or being asked questions in an interview, the key being able to weave in evidence of your personality throughout. The characteristics and qualities that define your personality are often the biggest factor in a hiring process.

Be yourself, enjoy yourself and the interviewer will walk away with a smile. That’s how you nail the first impression. 


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