Most of us have interviewed for many different roles in our working lives, from our first summer job in high school (where they needed to know if we could mop floors) to interviews hours of testing to prove our skillsets were as solid as our resumes claimed.

We’ve talked a lot on our blog about how to prepare for a typical interview – and even for a more atypical one – but we’ve never talked about how a creative interview differs from a more general one. Nor have we really talked about what creative recruiters are looking for versus their counterparts in another field.

I asked the recruiters at Artisan: “How do you think ‘creative’ interviews differ from ‘regular’ job interviews?”

The answers were pretty consistent.

    • The portfolio is the number one factor during a creative interview. Whether the interviewer has already seen work samples via a website or a PDF, the design aesthetic and body of work are always the most important consideration.  However, further explanation of that work is always required.  Talent must be prepared to explain their portfolio fully.”Creatives must be able to walk us through their work, their involvement in producing that work, their challenges, their inspiration and the effectiveness the work had,” said Account Manager, Jess Bedford.  “The finished work is only part of the whole creative process.  Understanding how creatives work through that process, helps us better qualify talent for the culture and team fit.”
    • Creative rapport is essential.  As is often the case, initial interviews may not always be held with like-minded or department-based interviewers.  HR, for instance, may not understand the full creative processes as well as a Creative Director.  Therefore, establishing an interviewer’s level of understanding for one’s creative specialty is essential.  Do it upfront, too.  Therefore, when one gets to the portfolio review, you know which work will illustrate something relevant to their needs / interest, and how in-depth your review should be.


  • Past resume experience is not always the key factor.  What’s more important than the clients you’ve worked for is being able to demonstrate, through both paid and/or spec work, a keen eye for design and the ability to push the creative envelope.” For so many of our clients – the resume is second to the creative work,” said Carol Conforti, Sr Account Manager, and Recruiter.  “Many creatives make the mistake of only including work that’s been paid for and/or approved.  Some of the best portfolios I’ve seen include both finished work and the other concepts that the clients didn’t use.  Many even have concepts designers have ‘played with’ in their free time.”

What I take most from these answers (thanks, recruiters!) is how essential a portfolio is to the creative interview.  And being able to review that portfolio effectively is just as important!

But that’s only part of it.  Research, once again, turns out to be really helpful as well. Whatever you can find out before the interview about the company, about the job responsibilities, even about the background of the interviewer or their client, will help you present your portfolio in the very best light possible.

Wendy Stackhouse for Artisan Creative