How To Attract and Hire Creative People To Your Company
The business world is changing faster than ever, and every day, your company faces new complications and difficulties. The only way to resolve these issues is to have a staff of wildly creative people who live as much in the future as the present, who thrive on being different and whose ideas will guarantee that your company will prosper when other companies fail.
Why creativity? Because without it, your company will not succeed. That concept may not sound surprising, but what is surprising is how few companies realize it or actually do anything about it. Creativity is every company’s first driver. It’s where everything starts. Without that first charge of creativity, nothing else can take place
Ideas happen faster, knowledge moves faster, competitors react faster. So it doesn’t matter what you do or your company does. The odds are overwhelming that you are going to have to change, and change again and then again. As the world changes, you need to make sure your entire company shapes your product to suit the shape of the new society. The key to survival in this new world is creativity
Creativity must flow freely and liberally throughout the entire company and will only succeed if a succession of many people is in place to guide it along. The point is that when you’re trying to make your company more creative, you want to relax the rigid rules and give your creatives more room to stretch and grow. Create a company known for this kind of freedom, and creatives will come looking for you.
Hire for Passion and Intensity, and Ignore Credentials
If there was a single characteristic that separates creative people from the mass of employees, it is their passionate enthusiasm. They have one speed: full blast.
When you hire for intensity, you are bringing in people around whom you can build an entire department. Successful companies always hire such people. You can train employees in the ways of the company, but you can’t train them to be passionate.
As for credentials, a college degree is a fairly meaningless one. It tells you that someone has a certain amount of stick-to-itiveness and managed to get through school. It does not tell you much else. Graduating from college is not a sign of intelligence. It could mean that someone is smart or merely that he figured out how to pass a test, and then, after collecting good grades, forgot everything he learned. Some of the best creatives didn’t graduate from college. Steve Jobs dropped out, as did Steve Wozniak, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, DreamWorks Studios David Geffen, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, designer Coco Chanel and countless others.
Rather than ask job candidates obvious questions about their backgrounds, school, etc., ask them questions that they’d really need to puzzle over. Pay attention as they do so. What you’re trying to discover is, does this person have a combination of curiosity and resourcefulness? Curious people always have a range of interests and a broad base of knowledge in many disparate fields. This trait has nothing to do with college and everything to do with innate intelligence.
Look for Hobbies
One of the best ways to uncover the creative passion of potential job candidates is to ask about their hobbies, particularly ones that are difficult, complex or somewhat time consuming. Hobbies aren’t just a sign of passion and creativity. When you have a hobby, you’re constantly expanding your knowledge. In Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, Steven Johnson writes, “Legendary innovators like Franklin ... and Darwin all possess some common intellectual qualities — a certain quickness of mind, unbounded curiosity — but they also share one other defining attribute. They have a lot of hobbies.”
Use Employees as Resources
One of the best ways to find creatives is to delegate. Unless the employee search must remain confidential, ask other creatives to help. Your current employees are a treasure trove of possibility. Everyone has a short list of the cool people they’d love to work with again as well as those they want nothing to do with, ever. Get those lists out of people.
Hire the Crazy, the Obnoxious, and Avoid the Clones
Most human resources departments will tell you they want to hire a diverse range of employees. This is a good thing. But there’s another important kind of diversity that these departments don’t believe in: creative diversity. HR departments have the tendency to hire the same people; these are people who regardless of race, sexual orientation or religion attended the same schools, believe in the same ethos and dress the same way.
Homogeneity does not breed creativity. You don’t want a homogenous company where everyone is interchangeable. You want a company that is spiky, where singularities are exceptional people.
Eclecticism is highly undervalued in today’s job market. Don’t let your company dismiss people who dress differently, dye their hair pink or wear strange jewelry. Minor insanity in the clothing department is a benefit. Every company needs physical and intellectual diversity; such people tend to be creative.
Aside from those with off-the-wall looks, you should also consider people who may be deemed “obnoxious.” In some cases, people’s arrogance is well-founded because they are, indeed, the smartest in the room and therefore accurate about their perceived value to your company. Is it obnoxious for them to tell you this? Yes. But when you have a problem that needs a brain that can crack walnuts, you want them to get on it.
As for crazy, there’s a fine line between it and creativity. And this isn’t clinical insanity; instead, there’s a kind of functional craziness that should inhabit your offices, coming from employees who come up with wacky ideas. The problem most companies have is that the crazier the ideas their creatives present, the less likely they are to endorse and promote them. Yet, when first announced, some of the best ideas that have rocked the world were greeted with cries of, “That’s totally crazy!”
Hire Under Your Nose
Watching people doing their jobs outside of your workplace is one of the best ways to find creatives to hire. And you don’t have to sneak into an agency or design firm to do it. Creatives often have a difficult time finding creative jobs, so they might be the charming and witty waitress serving your family at a restaurant, or the salesperson at a sporting goods store who is knowledgeable, friendly and passionate about camping gear.
Too often people see only what they expect to see. If you expect to see only a waitress, that’s all you’ll see. If you look at everyone as a possible addition to your staff, then suddenly the world of possibilities has exploded. Take off your blinders; there are creative people all around you.
Actually, you might not even need to leave the office to find creatives hiding in ordinary jobs. Just because they’ve gotten in the door at your company doesn’t mean they are well placed — often they’re totally miscast. One of the best ways to find them is to practice Management by Walking Around. This means that when you have a problem, get up from your desk and go talk to the receptionist, the woman in accounting, the guy in sales. Often you’ll get a new perspective on a problem from someone who knows your business well.
Visit Creative Communities
Creative communities have existed wherever there has been imagination. These communities are always around, whether formally planned gatherings or off-the-cuff get-togethers. Groups can range from a few people meeting to talk about science fiction to large numbers of people convening to build fantastic projects. And whenever or wherever you find these communities, you’ll find potential creative employees.
Beware of Poseurs
You have to be very wary of poseurs who look like creatives but really aren’t. How do you recognize them?
1. Don’t rely solely on credentials. Poseurs know how to build a terrific looking resume, but do they know how to engineer a chip or develop new tech?
2. When interviewing prospective employees, ask second and third questions about a topic after they’ve responded so fluently to your opening question. Poseurs are generally fluent in surface jargon. Get them to go into greater depth about a subject, and you may find them starting to lose that verbal acuity.
3. Ask “why” questions. A lot of people know the how of the job, but they don’t know the why.If you’re any good at playing poker, then it’ll be easier for you to find the “tells,” facial expressions and body language that can give away a bluff, which is the poseur’s fundamental skill.
If you can fix your company’s bureaucracy, streamline your creative train, establish a workplace where innovation is rewarded and naysayers are denied power, you may well be fashioning a workplace that cultivates creativity.
However, here’s one last rule. It’s a simple one: Act! You must act. All the companies that are known for being innovative act. They do things — many things. If you want to have a good idea, great, have lots of good ideas. But if you want to be successful, act on as many of those ideas as you can. Some will fail, but the ones that succeed can change the trajectory of your business.
Related post: 10 Tips on Hiring for Creativity