Would you hire you?

One of our roles is writing smart, measurable job descriptions. Job descriptions written specifically to manage expectations: ‘we expect xxx skills in return for xxx rewards’.

Problem is while job-specific, technical skills get the job done, soft skills are the more valuable. Automation and technological advances may change the way we work, but soft skills are not as easily replicated.

So, how do you write attitude into a job description?

So, would you hire you?

The question is moot because you shouldn’t hire you. It’s interesting because the first hire most of us make is someone just like ourselves. We have too much work, need someone to share the load, so we look for someone with similar skills. Better to look for complementary skills.

Good teams are like orchestras – you need variety. Sure, we need adaptability – people able play different instruments within their section, but if everyone played the same instrument to the same skill level, it just would be boring. There would be no light or shade. And no level to progress to.

Better to hire people with aligned, complimentary but different skills to what you have. And people with different attitudes 😉

Creative roles are complex

Most of us wear more than one hat. Sure, we need specific skills – coders need to code – but usually the specific are vocational skills. And vocational skills can be easily learnt and are taught en-mass. They’re not the skills differentiating one design agency (and indeed one creative) from another. What does separate us, is our soft skills.

What separates thriving studios from struggling ones are the difficult-to-measure attitudes of designers. Culture defeats strategy, every time.

Truth is, it’s easier to teach and measure Adobe skills. We can measure output and we can measure speed. It’s much harder to teach effective decision-making, negotiation techniques or insight. Added to that, the impact of a negative thinker demoralising a team, or a bully pushing others to leave prematurely, is much greater than that of a snail-paced photoshopper.

And even if you’re a coding wiz with great vocational skills you’re not really much use in a creative team without good communication skills.

Measuring human skills

Of course, you can’t measure human skills but what we can do is use a job description to help manage expectation and that in turn will help manage anxiety. We all want to work with those with a ‘good’ attitude, but surely that’s got to be easier when feeling less anxious.

How attitude might appear in a job description:

  • be transparent about the amount of time needed in each area of responsibility. For example, a typical project manager might spend 30% of their time scheduling, 30% doing remote client service, 20% project production, 10% assisting identify new business opportunities and 10% on the financial side of the business. Using percentages is a tangible way of explaining a role. Clarity manages expectations.
  • be specific and mindful with language. Use adjectives to better describe tasks within the role. For example using the word ‘identify’ communicates an action within a support role. ‘Managing’ communicates full responsibility. Specific language will give tasks a hierarchy.
  • outline key performance activities and how they will be measured. One example for a designer might be accurately logging 85% of their time. A less easily measured activity for a senior employee might be a leadership voice within the studio, evident by contribution in team meetings. A measurement will take some subjectivity from performance reviews. (A whole other topic!)

So tools can help improve processes, and resources can aid job scheduling, costing / estimating and budgeting. But it’s the soft skills that make a successful employee, and a sustainable studio.

Good communication skills are imperative.

Most designers need to manage up and manage down. At every level, we need to be able to communicate, negotiate and talk people away from ledges. Those able to do that well make better design leaders.

So what?

We all have the same vocation skills. The most successful design agencies are going to be those that are more productive, more profitable and a better place to work. I think they will be those led by inspirational leaders. Inspirational leaders don’t just appear, they have to begin their career somewhere.

Got a comment/question? As always, happy to discuss further, just email.

Carol Mackay
Co-founder Design Business Council.

We help designers build a more profitable design business

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• supporting creatives to learn management skills
• helping business owners identify and target better clients
• introducing tools and systems to increase a studio’s productivity, and
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Want more?

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About Carol Mackay

After 30+ years running a graphic design firm, Carol pivoted from client-focused projects to consult to the design industry.

Carol’s special power has always been an ability to use design to translate difficult to understand or complex messages. She believes design brings clarity to complex issues. From clarity comes understanding, and understanding leads to knowledge.

As a designer she used those skills with clients like The Magistrates, County and Supreme Courts; Ombudsman schemes and Emergency Service agencies. At DBC she uses the same skills … she helps designers de-mystify the complexities of managing a small business.

Outside of DBC Carol mentors graduates and is a Board member at Never Not Creative, a community of creatives pushing for change in the creative industry.


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