trade tales | Jun 28, 2024 |
What qualities do you look for in new hires?

A few weeks ago, we asked designers what position they hired first in their firms. This week, we asked seven designers—Matthew Boland, Margaret Donaldson, Sarah Giesenhagen, Meredith Heron, Laetitia Laurent, Emily Ruff and Harrison Soll—what qualities they look for in those new hires.

What qualities do you look for in new hires?
Matthew BolandCourtesy of Matthew Boland

Quality over Quantity
“I look for a good attitude, inclusive personalities and a humble nature, so admitting a mistake or upcoming issue doesn’t break them or cause a problem for another team member in the studio. There are plenty of qualified hires, but not all of them are quality hires. A bad attitude or a fragile ego can paralyze a studio and affect team morale very quickly. The flip side is they may not show their true colors right away, so as a leader you must take definitive and timely action if you sense that a bad attitude or disrespectful nature may be realized in the future.” —Matthew Boland, MMB Studio, Scottsdale, Arizona

What qualities do you look for in new hires?
Emily RuffCarina Skrobecki

Corporate Experience
“I look for new hires that have a corporate background, specifically in a client-facing role. I came to design as a second career after working at Amazon for seven years, and I value the skill set and experience I obtained during that time. I want my team members to have a strong design sense and skills in all the software we use, but I don't want to teach someone how to use Excel, take good notes, write a professional email or interface with clients in the right way. My current design assistant has been fantastic, and she went back to school for interior design after a corporate career, which has been such a valuable background for her to have and has definitely translated to her current role.” —Emily Ruff, Cohesively Curated, Seattle

What qualities do you look for in new hires?
Laetitia LaurentGilles Trillard

Bigger Picture
“When hiring new team members, we keep our bigger vision for the firm top of mind: creating a talented, dynamic team capable of delivering exceptional design solutions and driving our continued success. Obviously, things like relevant experience and technical skills are important, but we require creativity and vision in our new hires as well. Candidates need to demonstrate a strong creative flair and the ability to think outside the box. Ideally, we want people that can create innovative design solutions and that possess a unique aesthetic that aligns with our firm’s style. This needs to be combined with great project management abilities and strong organizational skills. Also, our firm’s culture is deeply collaborative, so we require team players that communicate well and are very open to feedback. We have a very client-centric approach, so understanding and prioritizing client needs is paramount. Candidates need to exhibit that mindset to not only ensure client satisfaction, but contribute to building long-term relationships. Finally, a genuine passion for interior design and enthusiasm for the role are essential components in driving creativity and innovation. We look for candidates who are excited about the opportunity to contribute to the firm’s success and growth.” —Laetitia Laurent, Laure Nell Interiors, Boca Raton, Florida

What qualities do you look for in new hires?
Meredith HeronCourtesy of Meredith Heron

Compatibility Test
“For far too long, we seemed to gravitate toward hiring people that were like me. It was an unqualified disaster. We’ve spent a lot of time using the Kolbe Performance Scale to understand how we approach work And what fires us up. I am a Quick Start—I’m prone to big-picture thinking; I jump and the net will appear. We can’t have people on the team that are the same. So I look to hire my weaknesses versus my strengths. Who will compliment my areas of expertise, and better yet, who loves to take someone’s ideas—as crazy as they may be—and make them a reality? Those are our people. Some people are prone to research, which is great if you’re working on the details of a design, but not so much if you are trying to get a proposal out the door. People who thrive on checking to-dos off of their list—those are my people! We ask new candidates to complete the Kolbe Test (there’s an initial [free] one, and then a more detailed one you pay for—we do for those [for candidates] we are interested in interviewing). You have to do the initial one with your application or we won’t even consider it. I’m less about someone’s school portfolio, but I would love to see how they’ve styled their apartment or room in their house. Let’s look at your social media. Do you have an aptitude for taking photos? Graphic design? These are all components we use every day in our work product, so it’s vital for us to see how you show off your eye for detail!" —Meredith Heron, Meredith Heron Designs, Toronto

What qualities do you look for in new hires?
Harrison SollPablo Enriquez

Go With the Flow
“I look for one thing in new hires: the ability to be flexible and grow with the company. I’m 27, doing my dream job, and if you want to be on my team, you have to be willing to pitch in, be flexible, and always remember the client comes first—whether that means moving your schedule around to accommodate theirs, or making the impossible possible. I rarely take no for an answer, and I encourage my team to have the same [attitude]. There is always a will, a way, or a workroom nearby that can get the job done.” —Harrison Soll, Los Angeles

What qualities do you look for in new hires?
Sarah GiesenhagenMichelle Pullman

Curiosity First
“I appreciate those who are driven to learn more in their practice, those who are curious and willing to ask questions to get to the answer without panicking or excessive bombardment on their team members. Lack of questioning [and independent initiative] is usually a drawback for me. I appreciate designers and team members that you can tell enjoy the field they’ve worked (likely very hard) to get into.A general good attitude and willingness to follow a task through to completion is the best! Especially a task that becomes multifaceted and complicated. We are problem-solvers that happen to get [the chance] to create beauty as well. Mutual appreciation for that is magic. Also, within this context, kindness and collaboration without ego are absolutely beautiful!” —Sarah Giesenhagen, The Bureau, San Francisco

What qualities do you look for in new hires?
Margaret DonaldsonClay Austin

The Two Cs
“I look for candidates who exhibit creativity, but also have strong communication skills and tremendous attention to detail. The ability to collaborate externally with clients and builders and internally with team members is essential. Additionally, a good candidate should have a professional attitude toward managing projects and meeting deadlines, along with a good work ethic and exudes positivity.” —Margaret Donaldson, MDI Luxury Design, Charleston

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