Artisan Blog

The Proust Questionnaire for Creatives

Thursday, January 26, 2012


You’ve heard of the Proust Questionnaire, I’m sure. Made famous in the back pages of Vanity Fair Magazine, it was named not for questions, but for the answers given by Marcel Proust to a set of questions asked by his friend Antoinette Faure.

I remember them best from a television show called “Inside the Actors Studio” where, at the end of every episode, host James Lipton would ask these questions of the famous actors he interviewed. His questions included: What is your favorite sound? What is your favorite curse word? If you weren’t an actor, what would you be instead?

Barbara Walters uses a variation of the Proust Questionnaire in her interviews - which, in turn, inspired us at Artisan.

I asked our Recruiters what Proust-like questions they would like to ask (or do ask) when they interview talent, and I love the responses!  Definitely a lot more interesting than the adage “Tell me about yourself”, the answers to these questions reveal aspects of a candidate’s personality that help hiring managers determine if someone is the right cultural fit for their position.

And so I bring you…(drum roll, please)...The Proust Questionnaire for Creatives

Some that aren’t too outside the box:
  • What is your definition of creative?
  • What is your ideal job and where?
  • What inspires you?
  • Who is your favorite designer?
  • Who is your favorite architect?
  • What is your favorite source of design inspiration (website, magazine, blog, etc)?
  • What projects have you worked on that you are most proud of and why?
Some that would be fun to answer, take some real consideration but still be job related:
  • Name 3 things you could not live without?
  • What is your favorite part of the day or favorite part of your job?
  • We used to have the drop shadow, now we have the reflective surface, what do think is next?
  • What keeps you motivated?
Some that might make me wonder what they’re looking for exactly:
  • Where is your ideal travel destination and why?
  • What 3 things that you use in everyday life should be designed differently?
  • What was the last book you read?
  • What is your favorite TV show or Movie?
  • What is playing on your iPod right now?
And a few that I’ve honestly never thought about before an interview (but maybe I should)!
  • In your time away from work, what do you do?
  • Are you doing what you love or doing what pays the bills?
  • If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
  • If you could invite three people (dead or alive) to dinner who would they be and why?
  • Do you believe in aliens?
  • What's the most despicable act a creative supervisor has done/can do to you?

I’m definitely going to add some of these to my interview preparation list!

Granted - these are just some of the unusual questions potential hiring authorities could ask during an interview.  The best advice is to be prepared to answer these kinds of questions as honestly and calmly as possible. Guess that's just one more reason to do some practice interviews with imaginative friends!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

How to Decrease Turnover & Keep Employees Happy

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How to Decrease Turnover & Keep Employees Happy


You might think that with today’s high unemployment rate, as a business owner you don’t have to worry about turnover - nobody’s leaving, right?  Wrong!

The fact is, for every person who is putting off looking for a new job, there are those who are already working and planning to move on. As soon as they can.

Why?  They are unhappy where they are.

Employers have downsized and added to the remaining staff’s responsibilities.  Employees are stretched thinner and thinner.  Benefit packages have shrunk and, with fewer retirements, there is less opportunity for promotion and career advancement.  Companies are not doing enough to recognize their talent and do what they need to do to keep them happy.

Fewer rewards, more work, less potential for advancement = looking for a new role.

But can companies really afford this kind of turnover?

In reviewing an article on the cost of turnover, although there are several formulas that try to determine an actual number, no one knows the actual answer - because every situation is unique.  However, one thing everyone seems to agree on is that the cost is always too high! 

As the economy improves, however incrementally, unhappy employees are going to be causing more and more turnover all over the country.

The good news is that companies can combat potential talent turnover right from the start by improving their actual hiring process. 

  • Utilizing recruiting resources - whether internally or through an expert staffing agency - is instrumental in hiring successful long-term employees. As specialists in talent search, Recruiters have access to large networks of potential talent whom they identify and qualify specifically for your company, culture and role.  This multi-step approach ensures they are selecting the right talent for your position - talent who are interested in, motivated by and excited about your opportunity. 
  • Recruiters are also vital to helping address unexpected turnover as well. With access to thousands of talent, Staffing Agencies can quickly find stopgap solutions, providing freelance or contract talent until the empty full time position is filled.  With HR resources often stretched across many positions, utilizing external staffing resources for specific full time hires will usually speed the search as well.  Recruiters direct access to talent networks, existing relationships in the field and use of multiple job boards all aid in a more efficient and effective candidate search.

In addition to improving internal hiring processes, employers must also be willing to make changes internally as well.  Money and productivity losses due to employee turnover can be minimized by thinking about keeping your employees happy and fulfilled: 

  • Find new ways to publicly reward good work and show talent they are valued
  • Offer more vacation days to counterbalance the longer hours now being required
  • Offer optional telecommuting opportunities to create better employee work/life balance

Unlimited Vacation?!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Unlimited Vacation?!

Good and Bad by vees via Flickr Creative Commons

Have you heard about the new trend in vacation policies?   Unlimited vacation has taken off quickly, being put into practice at some major companies: Netflix, IBM, Morningstar and Blue Wolf, according to this article at The Grindstone.

Sounds great!

Also known as a “results-only work environment,” for a self-motivated employee who gets their work done and finds themselves with time on their hands at the office, this could be a great part of a benefits package.

But is it for everyone?

US workers get fewer paid vacation days, on average, than workers in any other First World country, with only 13 days. Here is a helpful chart I found on


42 days


37 days


35 days


34 days

United Kingdom

28 days


26 days


25 days


25 days


13 days

Clearly the US has a way to go to become competitive with these countries and there is no doubt that US workers could use more time off to spend unwinding and recharging, not to mention developing their creativity.

Of course, unlimited vacation sounds wonderful and for many workers it is a great benefit—increasing productivity and efficiency, while boosting morale and reducing turnover. But there are some potential downsides:

  • If you are a natural workaholic, you might not ever feel like you are truly “off” if you can work whenever you want.
  • If you function better with more structure—and many of us do—you might find it difficult to get your work done without daily the daily accountability that comes with being in the office.
  • Employers save money on recordkeeping, but they don’t pay for any accrued vacation if you leave your job—use it or lose it for real!
  • Dynamics with co-workers can suffer if you get to leave when you’re done, but they can’t because they still have work to do. If you are very efficient, you could go home early every day while the methodical person in the office next door has to stay.

Unlimited vacation sounds to me like getting some of the benefits of freelancing without the disadvantages: work on your own schedule but still have health insurance and paid days off. Then again, I’m fast and disciplined about getting my work done.

How do you think you would do with unlimited vacation?

Wendy Stackhouse
, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Jumpstarting your Creative Process

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jumpstarting your Creative Process


Photo by yajamesu via Flickr Creative Commons 

I read an interesting article in The Atlantic last week, and it got me thinking about my creative process and the creative process in general.

Then one of our Facebook friends was talking about how he didn’t understand how anyone could work before 8am and that was why IT people weren’t creative. I had to disagree.

Every job, no matter the industry, takes some level of creativity.

The roles we place at Artisan Creative, of course, all involve a great deal of creative thought, but even people who work in creative fields have trouble getting started—and finishing—at times.

Once your problem has been clearly defined, the following are the stages of the creative process that can apply to literally any role:

Step One: Saturation

For me, this step is research. If I’m going to write about the creative process, I need to determine what has already been written about the topic? I have to immerse myself as much as possible in what is already out there, partly to avoid being obvious and derivative, but mostly to make sure I know what I’m talking about and that the conclusions I will draw are my own.

For a Web Designer, this could mean looking at a lot of websites in the same industry as the client for whom they are planning.

For an Application Developer working on a new app, it could be making sure they are familiar with the apps that already exist to accomplish similar tasks.

Step Two: Incubation

Sometimes this seems like procrastination - and it is hard to do this step properly because of that. You want to be working on the project, but it’s hard to get down to it. Maybe you haven’t let it grow in your mind—even in your subconscious—long enough yet.

A lot of people do some physical activity to help their incubation process. I like to knit or read fiction. Sometimes even clean the house or do laundry! Walk away from the project and let it grow on its own.

When I’m writing a blog (like now!), by the time I reach this stage I have an outline, sometimes even only a title and the background information, and I go do something else for a while. It is incredibly easier to write after the time away. I’m always surprised, but it always works.

Step Three: Illumination

The solution often comes to you while you’re thinking about something else or doing some other activity. Most creative people would think of this as the moment when creative thought is really going on—when they get that brilliant idea. But creativity is going on all the time or you would never get here.

Many people think they are not creative because they never have this experience in their day-to-day lives, but it is more likely that they are not allowing the process to take place!

Step Four: Verification

After those moments of illumination, creative people rush back to their workspace and get to it. It is always very exciting at this stage. An artist gets focused on a work until it is as perfect as possible. A musician will practice until they can interpret a piece exactly the way it sounds in his or her mind. A Web Designer will tweak a site for hours until it is clean and user-friendly. They “make it work,” as Tim Gunn would say.

This is the satisfying part of the creative process: when you are making something unique, putting your own spin on something you understand thoroughly, expressing yourself as only you can do.

Every time we have a problem to solve, whether it is a personnel issue for an HR professional, a difficult passage of Mozart, a perfect seasonal design for a website, or even a blog post to write, we are engaging in creativity.

Isn’t it nice to know a way to get there every time?

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Work Harder and Get Less Done?!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Work Harder and Get Less Done?!


Did you ever have one of those days when you worked and worked hard for hours on end and still felt like you didn’t get anything done?

Well, you may be working harder than you need to.

Wait! That doesn’t make any sense!

But maybe it does?

I read an article last month on the Harvard Business Review blog called “How to Accomplish More by Doing Less” and it really struck a chord with me. Combined with my New Year’s resolution to manage my time better (and have more free time for the things I enjoy outside of work), I wanted to think this concept through for myself and for you.

You might be like me and be juggling what seems like a multitude of freelance projects, each of which need attention every workday. What is the most productive way to get everything done?

Tony Schwartz’s idea is if we work intensely for shorter periods of time and then take breaks, we will get more done and be more creative. But if we multitask for long periods, we get less and less productive as the day wears on and those good ideas will never come to us.

You want the maximum time per day to be spent at your maximum creativity, right?

Schwartz says if you start your day at 80% of your capacity and take no breaks, your productivity will get lower and lower as the day progresses. By the end of the day you are dragging and not doing any good work

But if you start at 90% and take a break every hour and a half or so, you can stay above 70% productivity, even in the late afternoon slump time, and get a tremendous amount of work done.

I’ve tried days both ways—one day when I work as hard and as long as I can, but don’t plan out blocks of time for particular projects, and another when I plan my time, including breaks.

I like that second day a lot better:

• When I can focus on one task, I’m more likely to finish it and check it off my list
• Creative ideas come during my breaks and make it easier to get started on new projects
• I don’t get as frustrated by interruptions
• Since I finish tasks, I have a greater sense of satisfaction at the end of the day

The title of this post should really be Take Breaks and Get More Done. We can all make ourselves crazy trying to get everything done at once. But often that means we don’t get anything done at all. Try 90 minutes and then taking a break and let me know how it went in the comments!

[My son has interrupted me about 800 times since I started writing this post. Perhaps the real trick is making sure there’s no one else home while I’m working!]

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Creatives and Business Meetings: 5 Tips on How to Stay Engaged

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Creatives and Business Meetings: 5 Tips on How to Stay Engaged

Photo by Chloe Dietz, Flickr Creative Commons 

Creatives are not known for being comfortable in a formal business setting. Suits and ties and long strategy sessions are not their normal M.O.

But freelancers do end up going to business meetings or formal pitches and it is important to stay involved in the material and remember what was discussed, since they will probably be sent home to work on the project at hand.

Some meetings, sad to say, are not as interesting and exciting as they could be and creatives may very well have trouble staying engaged. Here are some tips to keep you looking and feeling like you are fully present at your next formal business meeting:

1. Active listening—When someone is talking, we all receive much more information non-verbally than verbally. Put your attention on the body language, facial expression and tone of the speaker.  Concentrate on how that information adds to (or detracts from) what is being said.

2. Look at the speaker—Making eye contact will make a good impression on your meeting leaders and keep you on track. Your mind is bound to wander if you stare at the table or out the window.

3. Don’t chat with your neighbor—Although it is a good idea to sit near someone of like mind at a business meeting, don’t start side conversations while the main speaker is presenting. Not only is it bad manners, but you will miss the main points of the presentation.

4. Take notes - During any meeting there are bound to be hundreds of topics (big and small) discussed.  No one could remember them all.  By continuing your active listening, noting key facts or action items on paper, you can stay more focused on the topics being discussed.  Because you've written them, you will also be more likely to remember them later as well.

5. Ask questions—If you have trouble keeping your mind on the topic at hand, while listening, think of a question to ask.  When there is an opportunity, ask them.  A good question can help a presenter further engage with his or her audience and enable all to remember the material better if a discussion occurs as a result.

We’ve all been to meetings that seem like a waste of time, led by unskilled presenters, or the coverage of information we already know. They can be very frustrating.  Best advice for dealing with these types of meetings: find a way to get something out of the meeting, whether it be a lesson in reading body language, making a positive impression on a manager or adding value to a presentation by asking questions or offering your own expertise as a resource. Any meeting can be useful, even if you have to set your own agenda.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Artisan Places Talent in All 5 of the "Hardest Jobs to Fill in 2012"

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Artisan Places Talent in All 5 of the

Photo by rob.knight via Flickr Creative Commons

I saw an article in Inc. Magazine this week about the 5 Hardest Jobs to Fill in 2012 so I clicked to see what they could possibly be, and I was in for quite a surprise!

In today’s rough economy, everyone with a good idea is starting their own business and they all need great websites with fantastic graphic design, user-friendly interfaces and talented staff to design, manufacture and sell their products and services. This tremendous growth in entrepreneurship is leading to a great deal of demand in these 5 creative fields:

  1. Web Developers—Web Developers are in high demand, especially in major metropolitan areas like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Every business needs a website or they cannot function in today’s business climate.

  2. Creative Design and User Experience—Companies are having trouble finding talent with a demonstrated track record in these areas. If you have an extensive portfolio with top work and are looking for new opportunities, you are in good shape.  There are more opportunities than can be filled.

  3. Product Management—Especially in the area of ecommerce, companies need people with experience in customer interaction and working in the cloud.

  4. Online Marketing—Tech savvy communicators with great language and interpersonal skills don’t grow on trees. Companies need Marketers who can generate viral traffic through the web, social media, and engaging content.  Talented writers and bloggers who really know the interactive space are in high demand.

  5. Analytics—Thanks to the variety of measurement tools available, CEO’s are starting to understand the value of search and social media, but now they demand the best ROI. Analysts who can show C-level executives how their marketing strategies are working to build their business will do very well next year.
It looks like 2012 will be a good year for creatives—let us know if Artisan can help you find talent or find a perfect role in the New Year!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Artisan's Setting Goals for Success

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Artisan's Setting Goals for Success


New Year. New Resolutions.

While some would say resolutions are just an unattainable goal we set in January and forget about by February – at Artisan we believe having goals (and helping to hold each other accountable for reaching them) is critical for success.

Each month – we set and focus on achieving goals that are vital to our business. We report back regularly and help to motivate each other to achieve them.

So the idea of a personal goal for the year makes perfect sense. When we asked about everyone’s New Year’s Resolution, not only did the team all have a goal in mind, but most had a plan to help them achieve it. Now they have all of us to hold them accountable, too.

We’ll check in at the end of the year to see how everyone did!


  • Kevin, Talent Manager – Learn how to play the piano - possibly starting with Travie McCoy’s Billionaire.
  • Katty, Managing Director – Learn Spanish. I even signed up for classes. They start next week – every Thursday night!
  • Stephanie, Accounting – Establish a daily and weekly routine. And stick to it.
  • Laura, Talent Manager – Lose 30 pounds and get my glucose and cholesterol levels back to normal.
  • Wendy, Consultant – I want to knit something for my cousin’s twins every time I knit something for someone else (or myself ) all year. First up – blankets!
  • Carol, Sr Account Manager & Recruiter – I want to plan out my weekend activities ahead of time and start lifting weights.
  • Maggie, Account Manager – I don’t want to forget a single birthday for my friends and family and want to send a card or gift to each person to let them know I am thinking of them.
  • Jamie G, Creative Recruiting Manager – Put together a few photo/memory books with our thousands of digital photos.
  • Jess, Marketing & Project Manager – Expand my culinary expertise by trying at least one new recipe each week.
What’s your resolution?

Freelancers: Use Online Marketing to Kickstart 2012

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Freelancers: Use Online Marketing to Kickstart 2012


We are about to go into a quiet time of year, whether you choose to work less or there is just less work, and so it is a good time to think about what you can do to get a jumpstart on your freelancing in 2012.

With today’s technology, it is easy and cost-effective to do some online marketing for your career as a freelance entrepreneur. Let’s look at some ways to make online marketing work for you:

  • Social Media Profiles - Now is a great time to take a look at all of your social media profiles to make sure they:
    • Reflect most recent work experience
    • Are Consistent
    • Tell your story
    • Use keywords to help search engines find your skills
    • Have been carefully edited for professional purposes
  • Facebook Timelines - You’ve probably heard that Facebook profiles are changing into timelines, but you might not know that you need to go to your timeline and make sure there is nothing posted there from the past that you don’t want potential clients to see. You might not have been as careful in 2006 or ’07 about the photographs you posted and Timelines make it much easier for people to see your posts of long ago.
  • New Platforms - While you have a couple of free hours, set up your Google+ Circles and start getting comfortable there. Still new-kid-on-the-block, Google+ may very well be a big player in 2012.
  • Build or Tweak Your Website - If you are a Designer, you have a website, but maybe you haven’t had time to update it for a while. If you are in other creative fields, it is great to have a website of your own and there are free and inexpensive places to host. A domain name only costs $10 a year and Google Sites is one place where you can build a site easily without any knowledge of coding.
  • Start a Blog - Since you are an entrepreneur, you own a business—you! Your business needs a blog where you can talk about recent projects, things that inspire you, link to articles that are interesting and give the world your take on current creative trends. Give blogging a try, it’s fun!
  • Comment - If you’re like me, even on your downtime you’re surfing the web for interesting information. Now is the time to take a moment to comment on relevant articles in your field or in LinkedIn Group discussions and build your credibility. If you add a link to your website or blog, you might increase your own traffic as well.
See, you thought you had nothing to do over the holiday break! Get to work!

Wendy Stackhouse
, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Social Networks Are Your Friend—But Not Your BFF

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Social Networks Are Your Friend—But Not Your BFF

Photo by mags3737, Flickr Creative Commons

I’m the first person to evangelize for social media. I’m on Facebook and Twitter all day for work and personal reasons, my daughter uses it to get information about and help with her homework, we all find links to interesting stuff every day, right? I don’t want to miss a single photo of my cousin’s twins!

We’ve talked on our blog about how important it is to be careful on LinkedIn, but it’s easy to remember there, since it is a social network for professional development and networking. With careful thought, the other social media platforms can be just as useful to a potential employer when they are deciding whom to interview.

When I have an interview, I search for the person I will meet everywhere—be sure they are doing the same. What are they finding about you?


Although you think you have tweaked your privacy settings so that you are safe, it is still never a good idea to post photographs of yourself in questionable situations which employers might be uncomfortable with. Facebook owns the rights to any photo you post and they change their privacy rules all the time, often without notice. You don’t want the wrong person searching for you at the wrong moment, so don’t post anything you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see.

Free speech is great and blogs and social media platforms are places for us to express ourselves. However, using coarse language makes more of a statement than you might mean. There are also some taboo subjects you might want to avoid except with your personal friends: politics, race, and religion are only a few. These subjects are best kept to a very small circle.

As unappreciated as you felt at your previous employer, keep it to yourself online. A typical interview question like “How was your relationship with your last manager?” is a good guideline. Anything past generally positive, unless it was better than that, is something you should take a pass on.


Make sure everything that refers to your employment history anywhere is strictly true. If a potential employer finds different information on different sites, they will wonder if you are being truthful anywhere.

It is best to limit how you talk about previous employers to elements which specifically apply to your role there and your relationship with the company. Anything about the company itself, its plans or projects, is theirs to discuss, not yours.

It would be nice to think we could say whatever we like with no consequences on social media, but of course, it is no different from real life.

Think before you post!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative


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