Artisan Blog

Building a More Creative Team

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Building a More Creative Team


Creativity is essential to innovation and innovation, in today’s marketplace, is essential to success. While Artisan can definitely help you find creative talent for your business, there are also ways of helping the people you employ now be more creative, too!

Did you know that 68% of people believe that creativity is something people are born with and cannot be taught? This opinion, however, has been disproven in studies as far back as the 1970’s. The difference is whether people developed their creativity early in life or whether they need some nurturing to bring their creativity to its full potential.

Managers can have a huge influence on the creative ideas and output of the people on their team. Some of their direct reports could already be fonts of ideas, coming up with new ways of solving problems every day. Other team members may not feel like they are creative at all. Both groups need a safe environment to talk through all the ideas they have until the good ones rise to the top. If they feel judged during the ideation process, they could become less willing to share.

Make sure you are giving your creative team the time and space to come up with ideas. Be sure to include those team members who need encouragement during brainstorms, too. Ask for their opinions, offer incentives for innovative ideas to everyone - not just the people labeled “creatives” in your organization.  Remember, good ideas can come from anyone.

The more people in your company who are using their creative abilities to find new ways of doing business, new products and new ways of communicating, the more success you will have and the happier your company culture will become.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Writing Better Job Descriptions

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Writing Better Job Descriptions


“We are looking for…”

Hiring Managers - do you really know what you are looking for?

We post a lot of job descriptions to their Open Jobs page. Most of them could be described as formulaic: we are looking for a ___________ to do ____________, reporting to _______________ with the following experience... 

This is a concise, straight-forward approach informing potential candidates about what the role will entail and, more importantly, what's required to apply.

But, if you're not a recruiter who is used to writing job descriptions on a daily basis, it's important to consider a few key items when writing your job description if you want to ensure you attract the perfect candidate:

Don’t list every single task your candidate needs to perform from day one.  Instead, identify the key responsibilities your candidate MUST be willing (and qualified) to do daily. Remember it will take any new hire time to get up to speed in a new role. Your aim is to identify potential employees who can minimize that learning curve as much as possible.

Make sure that the title you list is exactly what your company needs. Remember to choose one that portrays an accurate description of the role, despite what internal policies require the position be named.  If it's a new role for your organization, do a little research to see how the job market is searching for this kind of position. You want to make sure talent can find your opportunity. 

With SEO and Social Media playing a huge role in the job searches of today, it's important to ensure that your job description will be seen by as many eyes as possible.  Using accurate keywords and/or "buzzwords" throughout your job description will help increase its exposure.  Don't forget to include the titles of people this person will work with/report to, the industries or brands they will manage, the programs they will use or the trends they should be following.

Spread the Wealth
If you are seeking to fill more than one role, before you post, make sure you have thought about all the ways the work could be distributed. Maybe a different combination of skillsets could fit a more senior-level person and entry-level candidate, rather than two mid-level hires.

Before you require a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing, think about what skills that individual would have and whether someone without that degree might still have the skills you need.  If a skill is "nice to have" but not "required" - make a point of noting the difference. 

There are definitely some absolutes when hiring and only you can say what yours are. But with so many talented people ready and willing to work today, the clearer you are in your job descriptions, the more qualified your candidate pool will be.

Top Tips for Starting your Management Career Right

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Top Tips for Starting your Management Career Right


We’ve talked before about what to do when you think it’s time to quit your job and even how to handle difficult managers, but what about being a manager yourself? 

I was asked recently where I wanted to be in five years and my answer was “Managing a team.”   It would be so rewarding, I think, to focus strategically on a company's business while helping a team accomplish both the company's and their own personal development goals.

But wanting to be a good manager - and actually being one are two very different things.  Whether you're new to the world of management - or a veteran in the field - here are some of our top tips for being a great manager from day one - the kind of manager your employees love to have:

  • Be a Mentor - Part of your job as a manager is developing the careers of the people who report to you. Help each of your direct reports improve their skills, even the exceptional ones.  Take the time to learn how each of your team members likes to communicate, what motivates them to succeed and what their career aspirations look like long-term.

  • Act Quickly - Conflicts on your team will arise, and they must be dealt with right away, fairly and transparently.   Leave them alone and they will get worse, without fail.

  • Don’t Leave Anyone Behind - Someone on your team made a big mistake.  It’s going to be awfully hard - maybe impossible - for them to make it right on their own. They need your guidance and your confidence in them to recover.   Even if the problem is not resolved, your relationship with and respect from your subordinate will not be tarnished.

  • Be Proud of Your Team - And let them know it!  Always give praise to your team, and it's individual members, in a public forum if possible.  Never claim success as a result of your leadership.

  • Be Approachable - If your team admires your acumen, they want to talk to you, ask you questions and get your feedback.  Make it easy for them to do so. It makes them feel respected and like they can make a difference.
Over the years, I have had some great bosses who helped me grow, and some who couldn’t overcome a lack of confidence in their own abilities to mentor a subordinate.  As for me, I would definitely like to be the former when given the opportunity!

Wendy Stackhouse
, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Facebook Password, Please

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Facebook Password, Please

It has been reported that potential employers are asking candidates for their Facebook passwords as part of the interview process or, alternatively, looking over the shoulders of candidates while they log in to Facebook to see their profiles.

Now, I haven’t actually heard from anyone who has been asked directly to supply this informaiton, but an officer of the Maryland Department of Corrections says he was asked for his log-in credentials. Someone could be testing the waters to see how asking for passwords would go over with the general public, but this report is being widely discussed. Even two US Senators have requested the Department of Justice and the EEOC look into the practice.

Whether this is becoming common or not, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place in case you’re ever asked. Everyone certainly has an opinion on how to react:

  • One school of thought believes that we shouldn’t be posting anything on social media we wouldn’t want the world to see anyway, so who cares.
  • Another opinion is that Facebook is personal and not business and no employer has any right to any of that information at any time.

    Unfortunately, private isn’t really private on the internet, as we have discussed before and it is always a good idea to think before you hit that button.
  • Another group (me included) thinks that some information can be posted publicly for employers to see and get a feel for your social media interactions, but not all personal information. Since I use social media for work at work, I like having some updates on my public profile as writing samples and background information.

    I put a link to my Facebook Page as a “business person” right on my resume and do post some information publicly on my Facebook Profile as well, but only what I would want strangers to have access to.

    I would, however, never give my Facebook password to a potential employer and don’t think you should, either. If you gave it, how would they know you would protect their proprietary information? And how could you avoid disclosing information that it is illegal for them to ask for?

    And remember that when someone has access to your profile, they also have access to information about your friends who have not given consent for that access to anyone but you. It’s not just your own privacy at risk.

What should you do if you are asked for your Facebook password?

Don’t panic. Give them a link to your public profile or page, if it is relevant to the job. Tell them you don’t believe that disclosing passwords is a safe practice in business (remember it might be a test to see if you would disclose something inappropriately). You can also mention that it is in violation of Facebook’s Terms and Conditions to give out your password and you respect those rules, like you would respect theirs.

If they insist, unfortunately, I believe it is time to politely and firmly end the interview. Company culture is an important factor in job search and you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. If they make you uncomfortable in the interview, how would it feel to work there?

Update: Maryland is now poised on the brink of being the first state to ban employers from asking for Facebook passwords!  49 to go!

Wendy Stackhouse
, Consultant for Artisan Creative

Tips for Interviewers

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tips for Interviewers


Helping candidates prepare for interviews is a big part of what recruiters do each day.  However, in screening and qualifying candidates for a variety of positions, recruiters are usually also experts at how to interview too.

Some of the things we’ve previously discussed on our blog - like body language - apply to interviewers as well as interviewees.  However, there are also posts, such as questions interviewers can’t ask in an interview, that are just for you.

We decided to give interviewers a few more tips for finding the perfect candidate:

  • Prepare - Make sure you know ahead of time what you plan to ask the candidates and how you will describe your company and the role.  Don't hesitate to bring notes and be sure to keep the tone positive.

  • Listen - Active listening is essential to getting the information you need. Make eye contact with the candidate and listen to their tone - as well as their words.

  • Ask open-ended questions - Questions that start with "How", "Why" or "Can you explain" are great ways for candidates to tell a story about something they’ve done in the past. Stay away from "yes or no" questions that stop the flow of the interview.

  • Keep track of time - Always leave time in an interview to address any questions the candidate might have about your company and the role.  This will give you some insight about what's important to them.

  • Arrange next steps - If an interview goes well and you think you could have the right person on the other side of the desk, don't be afraid to tell them.  Enlighten them on your current interview process and set up a second interview with other hiring authorities or team members, if appropriate.  If the interview did not go well - or it's too early in the process to determine a fit - let the candidate know when a decision will be made about next interview rounds or hire(s).

The right hire can make a huge difference to the success of your business; the wrong one can stop progress in its tracks.  A good recruiter can help you find candidates with the right credentials and experience, but only you can decide who is the best person to add to your team.

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

We’re Going Mobile!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

We’re Going Mobile!

Although mobile recruiting is still its infancy, it is here and it is growing. And so are we!

A study by Potentialpark of 30,000 job seekers and 350 top employers shows:
  • 19% of job seekers are already using their mobile devices as a tool in their job search process
  • 50% of job seekers say that they will use mobile devices in the future when looking for new roles
  • Only 7% of the surveyed employers have developed mobile versions of their career sites

So while 19% may not sound like a lot, 46% of us own smartphones and that number goes up every day. And - as smartphones get smarter - we'll continue to use them for more and more activities.

Any savvy recruiting company should be developing tools to reach these demographics. And it is even more important for creative recruiters. Our talent is made up of Designers, Developers, Graphic Artists, Writers and Digital Marketers, many of whom are early adopters of new technology.

And so, without further ado, we present the mobile version of the Artisan Creative website!  Launched earlier this month, if you haven't seen it already - check it out with your Smart Phone or Tablet device.

Direct your mobile browser to our site and set a bookmark to get the latest job postings, apply directly for our open positions and keep up with our blog!

I Don’t Think So: Illegal Job Interview Questions

Thursday, February 02, 2012

I Don’t Think So:  Illegal Job Interview Questions


I’m sure you join me in wishing that “Tell me about yourself” was against the rules, but while that question may be perfectly acceptable in any interview - there are some questions hiring managers are not allowed to ask you in an interview.

Most human resources professionals know better and will not make these mistakes.  However, interviews are often conducted by an inexperienced interviewer, perhaps a department head, small business owner or other hiring authority, who doesn’t know that some topics are actually taboo. These questions generally fall into common areas of discrimination - like race, sexual orientation, age and health status.

Employers are not allowed to ask questions that could determine your national origin:
  • Where were you born?
  • What is your native language?
Interviewers cannot ask questions that will reveal your marital or parental status:
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have children?
  • Do you plan to start a family?
Age discrimination can be a problem, too:
  • How old are you?
  • When did you graduate?
Religion can also be an issue for some employers:
  • Do you celebrate Yom Kippur?
  • What church do you go to?
Your health is your own business, not your employer’s:
  • Do you have a disability?
  • Do you have a chronic illness?
It is illegal to discriminate against you for being in the armed services or reserves:
  • Are you in the National Guard?
And what you do on your own time is private (as long as it’s legal):
  • Do you smoke?
  • Do you use alcohol?
You won’t encounter these questions often - again, most human resources pros are trained not to ask these questions. But you never know...

How to respond to an illegal interview question?

Well, that depends. I’ve been known to volunteer my age (if I think it’s an asset) or mention my kids (but I probably shouldn’t). I like to think of an interview as a conversation with someone I don’t know yet.

If you think the interviewer is trolling for inappropriate information on purpose, tell them they’re not allowed to ask that and politely move on to your next opportunity.

If you think they sincerely don’t know, are just being friendly without realizing they are doing something wrong, it’s a tougher call. I would probably smile, laugh a little and give them a quizzical, “Wow.  I've never been asked that in an interview.  Are you sure we're supposed to talk about that?” and hope for the best!  Try moving the interview along if you can.

Not everyone has the best intentions and not everyone is fully trained.  My recommendation - Keep your wits about you, know the rules and listen to your gut!  If something feels off - you probably don't want to work there anyway!

Wendy Stackhouse, Consultant for Artisan Creative

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


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