trade tales | Jul 21, 2023 |
The biggest red flags when hiring a new employee

Design is a personal business, and when hiring a new employee, finding the right fit sometimes comes down to the deal-breakers. That’s why we asked seven designers—Artem Kropovinsky, Shannon Eddings, Chris Goddard, Kevie Murphy, Monika Nessbach, Becky Nielsen and Laura Chappetto Flynn—to share the red flags they watch for when expanding their team.

The biggest red flags when hiring a new employee
Artem KropovinskyCourtesy of Arsight

Mind the Details

“In the hiring process, the red flags I am mindful of might be subtle, but they can substantially influence our team dynamics. The first is communication issues: It’s crucial for a designer to lucidly convey their ideas to all stakeholders in a project. If they struggle with clear communication or have poor listening skills, it can invite future complications. Another is if the candidate is not receptive to feedback. Design involves constructive criticism, and if an individual is resistant to feedback, it could decelerate the entire team. Another [red flag] is when they have a limited portfolio. A portfolio isn’t merely a collection of a designer’s work; it’s a narration of their creative evolution. If their portfolio is restrictive or lacks diversity, it may indicate a reluctance to venture out of their comfort zone. Finally, I watch for a lack of inquisitiveness. In the realm of design, continuous learning and the pursuit of novel ideas is essential. If a designer lacks curiosity, they might fall short in injecting new perspectives into our projects.” —Artem Kropovinsky, Arsight, New York

The biggest red flags when hiring a new employee
Shannon EddingsMolly Culver

Attitude Check

“We really look at a person’s attitude and work ethic. It’s a pretty big red flag to us if they seem grumbly about past jobs or have an entitled approach. So much in life can be overcome with a great attitude and a can-do approach, so that is definitely something we factor into our hiring process. As a team, we spend a lot of time together, so any new hire needs to be able to fit into our existing environment.” —Shannon Eddings, Shannon Eddings Interiors, Austin

The biggest red flags when hiring a new employee
Chris GoddardCourtesy of Goddard Design Group

Team Player

“After 35 years in the business, I have gone through so many employees, and I should have paid closer attention to their attitudes about teamwork. I am a firm believer in not asking my employees to do anything I don’t do, which means when you see me on the loading dock helping unload, you had better get up and help. Being a designer means it’s not just the glamorous part—it’s having a hand in every aspect of the process.” —Chris Goddard, Goddard Design Group, Springdale, Arkansas

The biggest red flags when hiring a new employee
Kevie MurphyCourtesy of K.A. Murphy Interiors


“When a candidate’s personal aesthetic doesn’t line up with our brand, it is usually not a good fit. It is hard to learn a style when it is different from your own, and in our experience, our best employees are those that come in with similar taste.” —Kevie Murphy, K.A. Murphy Interiors, Manhasset, New York

The biggest red flags when hiring a new employee
Monika NessbachCourtesy of Designbar

(Don’t) Fake It ’Til You Make It

“When hiring a new employee, if the candidate expresses unrealistic expectations regarding their salary or the workload they can handle, it may indicate a lack of understanding or adaptability. Additionally, discrepancies between their resume and their responses during the interview may raise concerns about honesty and credibility. Authenticity is essential in candidates, and signs of pretense or lack of genuineness can be red flags. Finally, if the focus of their questions revolves more around what the company can offer them rather than what they can contribute to the organization, it may indicate a self-centered approach rather than a team-oriented mindset.” —Monika Nessbach, Designbar, Charlotte

The biggest red flags when hiring a new employee
Becky NielsenCourtesy of Becky Nielsen Interiors

Aesthetic Alignment

“When I’m bringing on a team member, I need someone who aesthetically gets it. If someone doesn’t understand my taste or can’t visualize my style, they won’t be able to shop for me or understand what I’m asking for. My other red flag is if I sense that someone needs a lot of hand-holding and can’t be efficient. I’m a busy working mom and my time is precious–I have very little tolerance for inefficiency! If I delegate a task to a team member, I expect a proactive, go-getter attitude, and someone with the capability and confidence to get things done.” —Becky Nielsen, Becky Nielsen Interiors, Nashville and Los Angeles

The biggest red flags when hiring a new employee
Laura Chappetto FlynnCourtesy of Element Design Network

Good Vibes Only

“To me, the biggest red flag when hiring an employee is someone with a poor attitude. If a candidate is complaining, speaking poorly of former bosses or co-workers, or has an overall negative attitude, run! You can teach people skills, but you cannot teach them to have a positive attitude.” —Laura Chappetto Flynn, Element Design Network, Chicago

Homepage image: A Brooklyn townhouse designed by Artem Kropovinsky | Courtesy of Arsight

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