Few decisions will have as big an impact on your firm as those involved in hiring interior designers for your firm. The right hire can catapult your business to the next level. A wrong hire can be counterproductive, disruptive and expensive.
Hire before you need to
The time to hire is before you’re feeling overwhelmed. You never want to hire in a rush or under pressure. If you need help in a hurry, outsource or engage a freelancer. Take time to plan, prepare and conduct a proper search. Keep in mind the maxim: slow to hire, quick to fire.
Some tell-tale signs that it’s time to start thinking about hiring interior designers are when you or the other designers on staff:
- have so much on their plate that they can’t do their job effectively.
- are working too much overtime.
- are burned-out.
- and their productivity and creativity are suffering as a result.
That is often the case for solo owners with a growing business.
Aside from replacing a former staff member, another time to hire is when you have more work in the pipeline than you can possibly handle and still maintain your high level of standards, quality, and excellent customer service. A third reason is to free up you or another staff member to work on other areas of the business as part of a plan for future growth or expansion.
Know why you’re hiring
Whether you’re considering hiring your first interior designer or your fifth, be clear about why. Do you just need a design assistant who can take over some routine tasks so you can spend more time on other things, or do you need someone more experienced who can manage projects and/or design other types of projects? The latter will command a higher salary but also produce more revenue. Hiring inexperienced and inexpensive employees is a false economy.
Bringing on another interior designer is not just an HR decision, it is also a business strategy, with long-term consequences for your firm. Don’t just focus on the immediate tasks and duties you need this person to perform. You want to look for more than just a good fit. You want someone who can add another dimension to the firm. These may be other than design qualifications, such as management or team leadership skills, communication skills, retail or product sales experience, or knowledge of related areas like real estate, construction or product development.
Hiring is never easy, but it is especially difficult now. As we found in our 2022 Interior Designer Fees, Salaries and Hiring Survey, firms are having a tough time finding qualified candidates and holding on to them once they’ve interviewed them.
All the more reason why you want to make the most of your investment of time and money by taking the proper steps for hiring interior designers.
- Develop a clear and complete position description for the job.
- Contact friends and associates to let them know you’re hiring. Don’t just rely on job boards.
- Review candidates’ portfolios thoroughly and verify that included projects are actually their work.
- Vet applicants before interviewing them by checking references and previous employers.
- Take into account people, leadership and time management skills as well as design and business skills.
- Use a multi-phase interviewing process that includes testing for required skills and experience, peer interviews with other employees or outsourced personnel, and a strategic interview with managers or owners.
Diversify your team
There is no magic number as to how many designers you should have on staff. You should add designers as the demand for business grows and remains sustainable. What matters more is the quality of your team.
You also want to have a strong cadre of back-office personnel to support your design team. These may include administrative assistants or business managers, bookkeepers or accountants, and marketing/public relations or communications and/or social media specialists.
As your firm grows, your role will gravitate away from doing design to being the CEO of your business. Once you have several designers on staff, you may want to consider hiring a creative director as well. That will allow you to spend less time managing designers and projects so you can work on your business rather than in your business, setting a course for its and your future.