Tips on Successful Hiring for Interior Design Firms

When you decide it’s time to either start building your team or add to your existing team, make sure you do your homework! Be prepared not only for the search, but also for the onboarding once you have made the hire. It is worth the time spent as building a successful team will not only restore balance in your life but can also increase your bottom line. As we always advise, “hire slowly and fire quickly”.  Remember, you are building a team for the long term and the purpose of building a team is to create a successful business – don’t lose sight of this fact. Here are four important tips for hiring for interior design firms!

1. Make Sure You Can Afford to Hire

Before adding to the team, be sure you can afford it. You should have a full pipeline and your cash flow, and reserves should justify the additional investment.

Then there are always questions about the order of hiring. You may be tempted to hire more designers first, but this isn’t always the best option. If you find that you spend too much of your time doing administrative tasks, you may want to hire an office assistant or an accountant instead! Find the most experienced person you can hire as it will be less expensive in the long run. If you hire an experienced person, their salary will be higher but you’ll spend less time training and needing to micromanage the new employee. They’ll save you money over time!

2. Have a Clear Job Description

You can’t start the search if you don’t know what you are looking for, so make sure to write a detailed and accurate job description. What are the tasks you or other members of your team should not be doing? Make a list and get input from your current team. Organize where the tasks fall in the segments of the business: sales, marketing, operations, design, etc. Then focus on who within those segments you need to hire to ease any pain points.

Include skills and experience you expect them to have in addition to listing all of the responsibilities of the job. Hire to balance the strengths and weaknesses of your current team (even if that is just you!), and define those blind spots that are must-haves.

3. Define Your Culture

Be sure you have clearly defined your firm’s culture. It is one of your greatest assets, as well as the biggest make-or-break point for potential hires. Create your vision, set your goals, know what you want your firm to achieve and how you plan to get there. Then as you build a team that fits your culture they will be dedicated to helping you reach that vision – and growth will result.

Refer to your company culture when listing the job availability. This will often help to narrow the selection as candidates may eliminate themselves and you will instead attract candidates who share your values. Make sure this culture is specific and defined, rather than the cookie-cutter “we work hard and play hard”. Just as you do when searching for ideal clients, identify negotiables and non-negotiables.

Have a plan in place to find these candidates. Create a great ad for hiring that will stand out and attract interest. Also seriously consider referrals. 85% of positions are filled through networking so be sure to let people know you are searching – including your current team members. It’s likely that the people who are already entrenched in your culture will be able to identify others who would be a good fit.

4. Prepare to Actually Hire!

Design a process for receiving applications, develop questions to ask and decide how you will make the decision on the final choice. Resumes will give you some basic information about skills but you want to ask questions that will go beyond that, as you can train for skills but not for attitude! Some types of questions you might include in the interview are “tell me how…” questions – giving them a scenario and seeing how they would handle it. And of course ask what questions they have for you, so the candidate has the opportunity to

Have a current offer letter ready so you can hire as soon as you’ve come to a decision. Finally, when you find that ideal new team member and are ready to offer them the position, be sure you have an onboarding and training plan in place including an employee manual with policies for your firm. You don’t want to lose that great new hire because you weren’t organized enough to convince them you value them as much as the clients you serve!

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Drue Lawlor

Director of Business Transformation Coaching Drue leads our coaching and consulting. As a NCIDQ certified designer she and Gail co-developed the 12-month Strategic Business Transformation Group Coaching. The program leads the way in teaching designers how to build or redesign their businesses for profit and success. Outside of Gail Doby Coaching and Consulting she is the co-founder of Boomers with a Plan B. She is driven to help clients create a safer and healthier homes. You’ll find her in Senior Magazine and a contributor to the following books: Design for Aging: Post Occupancy Evaluations and Interior Graphic Standards, second edition.
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