Over the course of my career I have had the opportunity to build several teams. I have come up with a method that works well for me when choosing the right candidates. It all comes down to three main areas that I focus on in the interviewing process. Those areas are character, skills, and background.
When assessing someone’s character I try to take into account the current team I am working with. We spend more time with these people during the week than we do with our own families. It’s important that everyone gets along and consider each other friends as well as coworkers. If you think about it, working on your passion is just more fun amongst like minded people you can be comfortable with.
During my time at Southwest Airlines, is where I learned about hiring for character. They define their values as an employee to have a warrior spirit, a servants heart, and a fun loving attitude. Those guidelines for hiring have helped them become one of the best workplace cultures around. I’ve carried these values with me to look for team members who are self starters, highly collaborative, and laid back personalities.
Here are some questions I like to ask myself in the interview process:
- How will this person interact with a certain team member?
- How will this person push the team in a creative way?
- Will this person step up when times get tough to help others?
- How will this person take feedback from the team?
- How will this person give feedback to the team?
- How does this person handle conflict?
- How will they perform under pressure?
- What happens when they don’t know the answer?
Assessing someone’s skill set seems like it might be the easiest part of choosing the right candidate. However, I find that getting to the bottom of what parts of their portfolio they actually worked on is the main challenge. As designers we are usually put on projects with other designers and it ends up being a mix of the team that creates the output. When I look at examples I try to ask questions around the decisions they made to see what their depth of knowledge is. I also probe on what they think the mix is and if they mention their coworkers when talking about the work. It’s a key indicator when a candidate gives recognition where it is due. This ties back to the character I typically look for.
For me, a candidate’s background has to do more with how it will compliment the projects my team is working on. Education is good, but industry experience is far more valuable. For example if I’m working on a project that involves creating packaged deals I might look for designers with travel or ecommerce backgrounds. I try to think about what kind of usability testing they may have participated in previously that we could draw from. It’s kind of like getting free testing data. Having the perfect background is usually a bonus. I try to hire based on character and skills first. Training can make up any gaps that might exist.
By taking a look at things a little differently and prioritizing character over skill set or background I have had great success in building strong dependable teams. They tend to create stronger bonds and hold each other up when times get tough. The creativity these teams produce blow me away time and time again because there is no fear of judgment.