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How to hire a great creative director - 5 top tips

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Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” That’s the well-worn cliche that continues to hold billions back from greatness every single day but for some, the crown seems to fit pretty naturally. Such is the case with all the best creative directors.

What or who is a creative director?

The clue is right there in the name. They are there to direct all of the creative input and output of a company; the inspired and inspiring leaders that can be masters of all trades. A creative director feels as at home down in the trenches writing copy as they do when doling out responsibilities and charming clients.

It’s a role that was once only required at the largest brands and agencies but today, in our modern information age,  the need for a creative director has grown exponentially. You’re just as likely to see a tiny startup in the market for a new creative director these days as a major tech firm or ad agency.

It’s an incredibly important role that dips its toes into everything from marketing to PR. It’s also almost impossible to fill if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. So allow me to help you find the best creative director for your company.

How to find and hire the right creative director

Finding the right creative director to hire is a unique challenge. Not only is it  challenging because you’re talking about a rather senior leadership position but it’s challenging because they are all so damn… unique. They also need to be able to mesh with the existing team while also bringing that vital something to the table that gives the team a kick up the backside.

But the very best of the bunch do tend to share some rather important qualities that we’ll attempt to whittle down over the next few hundred words. Of course, given the seniority of the role, it’s bound to be a long search but knowing what questions to ask and where to look is going to make it go a whole lot smoother.

1. Check out their portfolio

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Social media means that we are never more than a few clicks or taps away from a portfolio. And while a CV can give you the cliff notes of a person’s prowess, if they don’t have a decent portfolio then they can’t honestly call themselves a creative anything, let alone a director.

As far as perusing these portfolios is concerned, there are numerous resources available online to consider. On Creativepool alone there are thousands of creative director portfolios to browse at your leisure that have been designed to show off their very best work.

Experience is important, of course, but experience alone should not be enough to give you a realistic idea of their potential. An updated portfolio reveals a strong sense of pride and professionalism so only consider creative directors with good ones.

2. Know what you’re looking for

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What kind of creative director are you looking for? A young dynamo with a pocket full of dreams and a head full of fresh ideas? Or a seasoned veteran with dozens of successful companies under their belt?

Note that while the latter might always seem like the more attractive option on the surface, the former can be beneficial for younger startups that might not be able to afford a veteran’s salary.

Also, do you want a creative director who is going to assign projects and delegate? Or one that’s going to assign projects to themselves and act as a bit of a lone wolf but will still listen to and value the opinions of their teams? Both have a place in the industry but which kind will feel at home in your office?

3. Ask them about their strategy and vision

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Any good creative director needs to have a central vision and a strategy for the “big picture.” If they keep those cards too close to their chest then how are you supposed to know whether or not they’re a right fit for you?

When you are interviewing potential candidates, take note of their natural curiosity. Because the best candidates you’ll find for the job are those who are curious about anything and everything to do with their craft. If they are asking you ask many questions as you’re asking them, you’re probably in the right ballpark.

Also, ask them to talk you through the strategy and vision behind the projects featured in their portfolio. If they can take you through every stage of the process from brainstorming to completion, you might be able to see the cogs ticking in their brain and figure out if those cogs are a good fit for your team.

4. Egomaniac or Mentor?

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Ego has become something of a dirty word in recent years but sometimes a little bit of ego can go a long way, particularly in the creative industries. There is, of course, an incredibly thin line between confidence and arrogance but when somebody is that sure of their vision, that arrogance can be what gets a project across the finish line.

On the other hand, maybe you would prefer somebody that’s going to leave their ego at the door and offer a solid line of communication and open-mindedness to their teammates. These are the kind of creative directors that are not just bosses but mentors that will foster strainer and deeper bonds and inspire team members to become future leaders.

A creative director also needs to be adept at offering constructive feedback so try asking them to cast their critical and analytical mind over your recent projects. If they can push past the impulse to ‘be kind’ and have a lot of interesting and insightful things to say then you could be onto a winner.

5. Choose the right questions 

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We’ve all become quietly accustomed to meeting people for the first time over video conferencing so we should all be dab hands at it by now. But whether you’re interviewing your potential creative director over Zoom or over lunch at your local cafe, the questions you ask are just as important as how you ask them.

Ask them how they work. Do they work from a multi-channel approach or a more siloed approach? Do they have the confidence to say no to a new trend if it won’t fit with your company branding? And what kind of mentality would they bring to your team? 

The questions you ask will be unique to your business, of course, but a few hours should give you enough time to judge whether or not this person makes sense as the creative leader of your enterprise. 

To find the perfect creative director for your agency or brand, you’ll find literally thousands of experienced creative directors on Creativepool ready to bring renewed vigour to your organisation.

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