Everyone has a different approach to recruitment, there’s no right or wrong way of doing it across the board. What works for us, might not work for another agency or company. But in this article, I will describe who we employ, why we do it and the process behind it all.
As a small team who always wants to be a *slightly bigger than* small studio, recruitment is very important to us. We can’t just interview and hire, if it doesn’t work - start the process again. We put a lot of effort into finding the right personality, the right talent for what we need, and the right drive in that individual.
If you didn’t already know, I was a University Lecturer from the age of 21 through to the age of 28. At first, I accepted this role to improve my CV and to earn a bit of extra cash. But I quickly realised that I could spot talent before anybody else, and I could also understand that individuals personality, humour, drive and motivation to succeed. So instead of just teaching / lecturing because I enjoyed it, and I wanted to help improve students talents (which is very rewarding)… I switched my mentality, to teach students my way of thinking, and set briefs that were useful to them and the industry they will be moving into. If you want to read more about my journey, why don't you read 'From Design Student to Digital Agency Director'.
So when Shape formed in 2010, my first port of call was Salford University. I knew who the stand out talents were, how they reacted to briefs, whether they turned up to every lesson, whether they had a personality I could get on with, how good they were at designing or building websites, and what potential they had. All this information was very useful, I knew much more about this person than what I’d get from a 30 minute interview (which they’d probably be nervous about).
When Shape first formed, I designed and managed clients, Jason built the sites. Then we got 2 more designers. Then a Developer. Then another Developer. We tried for what we needed, we didn’t hire just for the sake of it. I used to work at agencies with 200+ staff. Me and Jason wanted to create a small Web Design Agency in Manchester with personality, very personable for each client we work with, but with a very high standard of service and quality. This will always be the same, I very much doubt we’ll ever reach 20+ team members. Our process and work flow is streamlined, it works very well for us.
If we’re talking about Web Developers. They need to understand HTML and CSS to a good level, and understand responsive, no matter of their age. We don’t have the time to train somebody up from scratch. Once in the studio, we can help their skillset grow and teach Animation, CMS, PHP. Their portfolio needs to be good, clean, no fuss. But it has to show potential also. We never hire somebody who think they are perfect. We want people to constantly learn and grow with us. That’s the technical side of it.
In terms of what else I look for. Personality. 100%. You HAVE to be the right fit for our studio. Myself and Jason have put a lot of time and effort into the culture of the studio, how we run it, the impression we give off to clients, and the work we produce. It’s a home from home for us, we’re so passionate about MadeByShape and we want every team member to feel a part of that, and to enjoy doing to work every day.
We’re confident, we love what we do and there’s loads of banter flying round the studio. We’ve hired people in the past who are quiet, a little shy - so it’s not about being brash. It’s about having the right motivation and approach, and being a nice person at the same time. I make judgement on their personality within 10 minutes of talking to somebody. I also want all our team members to have similar interests, for example; 3 of the lads enjoy road cycling, they spend hours together outside of work in a social environment - surely this must help our ‘family’ and strengthen relationships. If people like working with other people in the studio, everybody is happy.
The answer is no. It’s as simple as that. I understand the values of going to University, and the benefits you get from idea generation, punctuation, learning processes, theory etc. But it’s not mandatory for me. If your portfolio is good, you understand the skills needed to work in a studio, and you have the right mentality - I’d certainly consider hiring you.
Here at Shape we receive around 20 emails per week from Students, Graduates and Interns asking for Jobs or Work Experience. I cannot read every email and CV thoroughly. I open the email, read and check out their portfolio. If I get a good vibe, I will then read further in more detail. The CV is the last aspect of the process I look at. At first, I want to see how you word the email, whether it’s unique to me or if you’ve copied and pasted to every studio in the North West. Then I need to see what you can do, for us - this is usually by looking at your personal website or portfolio attached. If this is all good, I’ll look at your CV and the main aspects I’m looking for are; Work Experience, Past Experience, Skillset.
Times have changed in my opinion. Culture is massive in every businesses. I want to create an environment in which everybody loves coming to the studio, and enjoy doing the work - it should never feel like a chore. We hire people who buy into our ethos and thrive under pressure. We don’t just hire somebody who can build a nice website. If we did, but that personality was wrong… imagine the damage it would do to our business. All the other team members could dislike that 1 individual, the whole atmosphere changes, workflow slows down, there’s divisions at dinner time, and Myself and Jason would need to cool flames down between team members which brings us more stress.
We’re now in the position that we’ve grown as a business, and our exposure is worldwide. We’re receiving enquiries from all over the world and our process needs to change slightly. My role now is literally client management, I look after clients, pitch for work, travel a lot, and obviously run MadeByShape from a business point of view and make sure all the lads are in check with what needs to be done and when. I try to still create design concepts as and when my diary allows, because I’m a designer at the end of the day - and I still love design.
This means that the more I travel, the more clients we get - it’s harder for me to work effectively. So I’m now hiring a ‘Junior Me’. This individual will go to meetings, listen to client changes, explain who we are, manage the lads in the studio, be a project manager, and help Shape grow even further. The way I’ve gone about recruiting for this position might be different to what you’d expect. So I hear you ask… What have I done? What am I looking for? Tell me, Tell me.
We work with a few businesses, but 2 in particular changed my way of thinking. Inside Out Contracts in London, and Lemon Yellow in Miami. There’s 2 individuals I talk too on a weekly basis and I feel they conduct themselves in a professional manner. I wanted to hire somebody who is a mixture of these people.
Emily at Inside Out Contracts
Emily is a project manager and deals with us on everything website related. She gives us tasks to do, consistently communicates so deadlines are met, and feeds back thoughts from the boss, Lisa. Even though Lisa owns the business, Emily is our main point of contact.
Her approach is very friendly, professional, she’s easy to talk too in email and on the phone. And when we’ve met in person, it’s very comfortable.
Taylor at Lemon Yellow
Taylor is completely different to Emily. Her emails are very direct, funny and easy to read. We use emojis. We link to stupid videos in YouTube. Our communication is fun. By the way, I’ve written article whether we’re allowed to use emojis in business emails if you want to read it.
I’m not sure what Taylors background is, whether she knows anything about Websites, Graphic Design, Illustration etc. but it doesn’t matter. Her communication with me is great, and her client feedback is consistent too.
If I have found the perfect mixture of Emily and Taylor with a bit of my personality thrown in, winner winner chicken dinner. I really see it helping Shape grow, because I am very conscious about perception and how our business is reflected, first impressions do count - and people buy from people. Fact. And I think Emily and Taylor both reflect their respective brands very well.
SO, the way I’m hiring for this role is purely based on personality. Doesn’t matter what your CV says. Where you’re from is important too, I don’t somebody to be annoyed if they have to travel a million miles to work every day.
I’ve had tonnes of emails about this role, but there’s a few I got that initial vibe with. And that was all based off the initial email; Was it friendly? Did it get a point across? Was there some slight humour involved? Did it feel comfortable? These are all important factors, because this individual will be emailing clients every day at work, and some of these people will never had communication with MadeByShape - so I want their first impression to be comfortable and relaxing, whilst understanding exactly who Shape are and what we offer.
I think I’ve found the right person, but let’s see how it materialises over the coming weeks…