How to Assess a Creative Portfolio When Recruiting for Creative and Design Positions

Recruiting for a creative or design position can be challenging. While it’s possible to objectively assess things like education, training, and experience, creativity is much more subjective. If you, or your hiring manager, are not trained and experienced in design, you could quickly find yourself in over your head, and end up miss-evaluating candidates using the wrong criteria. To recruit the best creative talent, you need to know what to look for when assessing a creative portfolio.

Finding Common Ground

Designers and their designs vary widely depending on the industry and media they work in, and the kinds of purposes to which their work is intended to be put. This adds to the recruiting difficulty, especially if you have numerous candidates from different backgrounds. However, there are certain common aspects that experienced recruiters know to look for when evaluating design candidates’ portfolios. These aspects are easier to objectively assess, and will help you more easily identify qualified candidates:


  • Do their sample designs have enough white space, or are they cluttered or busy looking? The samples should have a clean look with a simple, yet elegant, design that supports effective communication. It should be instantly clear what the designs are intending to say and achieve.
  • Are their samples available in multiple formats and, if so, did they transfer well? The candidate should have a proven ability to create designs that look good in print and on computers, tablets, and smart phones.
  • What software was used to create the samples? Some designers prefer certain software, but it may not translate as well based on your medium or your agency. Does the designer have their own computer loaded with the latest creative software? If all the samples were created using the same software, does the candidate have any experience with various software?


Ideally, you want to evaluate five designs provided by the candidate. It’s recommended that you examine their best piece first, followed by their third-best piece. The next two items should be designs that they’re particularly proud of, followed by the second-best piece. This will give you a good overview of their range of work, without following a route “best to worst” format that lowers your expectations along the way.

Extra Things You Also Want to Find Out

When filling creative roles, there are unique skills-oriented questions that candidates need to be asked, questions specific to assessing creative talent:


  • What part did the candidate play in producing the design? Were they the main creative force, or were others more heavily involved? Were these original creations or did they work from a concept or draft design created or conceptualized by someone else? It’s important to understand the role they played in the process, and how it relates to the position you’re trying fill.
  • Did the piece work? What kind of results did it generate? Does the candidate have a proven ability to create designs that engage customers and increase profits? You want to be sure the work they produce meets communications objectives and provides ROI.
  • When were the pieces created? Work created years ago should rise suspicions as the candidate may not be up to date on the latest styles, standards, and software.


A Creative Solution

Permanent recruitment agencies work as professional recruiters and interviewers for nearly every industry. As such, they have the training and experience to effectively evaluate candidates for open creative and design roles in your business. By utilizing a recruiter, you can ensure the right kinds of questions are asked and that objective and professional assessments of creative portfolios are made to bring forth the best design-savvy creative talent from which to make the best hiring decisions.

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