Hiring For Junior Designers: Here's What We Look Out For

Design AKÏN

We love our designers, down to the very last pixel.  


However, looking for the right ones to join our AKIN team certainly isn’t the easiest of tasks — as for any other agency out there, we’re sure. Quirky portfolios may hold our attention captive during the initial interview, but we’ve also learnt that fancy prep work doesn’t quite communicate actual competency and creativity in their day-to-day junior designer tasks. 


For AKIN, we’re always on the lookout for young talent, with the intention of training them and eventually placing them in a leadership role. This calls for characteristics beyond just their technical and creative capabilities.  


And if that’s not enough criteria to work with already, we’re also looking for someone who would fit right into our AKIN culture, and become friends with us outside of work. Tall orders for sure. 


All that said, here’s a list of characteristics we look out for when hiring Junior Designers! 

They have the know-hows for Adobe Suite 


While it’s not everything, software competencies are still very much a huge consideration in qualifying a Junior Designer. We expect, at a most basic level, for them to at least know (and understand!) the basic keyboard shortcuts, naming conventions and functions to get the job done efficiently. 


To reduce ambiguity and inconsistency, we’ve created an easy design exercise to judge our junior designers on these competencies (see below). These exercises give us a clearer and more consistent assessment of their technical skills across a number of commonly used tools, while noting how they fare while working under pressure! 


They are a doodle master  


We take doodling (very) seriously. 


From our experience working with designers, we’ve learnt that these random doodles do tell a lot about a person (not that good drawings would necessarily equate to great designers — they’re rather different things here!). Besides giving us an otherwise elusive look into their minds, these works also show their fun and quirky side. 


We also have a couple of creative exercises (be patient, we are getting there) that allows us to test a potential candidate’s ability to think out-of-the-box, as well as their on-the-spot reactivity. They may be super-duper random, but that’s what we’re looking for – creative thinking! 


They are Hawkeye (in-training)  


The devil’s in the details. Tidiness goes all the way down to each pixel and pica, even if they aren’t really noticeable by the naked (and untrained) eye. But trust us when we say it makes the world of a difference. 


Something else we look out for is how well they organise their files — logical naming conventions, consistent grouping of layers, and the sorting of tools. These are often seen as unnecessary, troublesome and time-consuming, but good designers would know how helpful they are — especially when you’re scrambling to look for a particular layer in a file from a couple of months back. File names like “[FA]_DESIGN FOR CLIENT_FINAL_v2_TO PRINT” are a big no-no.  


They don’t wait to be told what to do 


In a relatively small team like ours, every member has the potential to contribute in a big way. All of us, regardless of seniority, should take the initiative to think ahead, and to uncover opportunities to improve ourselves and advance the business. 


However, this isn’t an easy characteristic to judge. One thing we try do when interviewing a potential hire is to take some basic references from their prior work experiences and school co-curricular activities. 


We also make it a point to have them share more about their inspirations and thought processes behind the work in their portfolio. Through this simple exercise, we’ll also be able to find out how they learnt these skills (whether on their own or otherwise), and whether they’re comfortable pushing themselves out of their comfort zones. 


They share their “toys”  


Working in an agency has lots of perks, but also comes with certain downsides not-so-fun-stuff. 


Aside from a high-pressured and fast-paced environment, client management can also get a little frustrating at times. In such scenarios, we’d want to look out for someone who is able to work well with other team members, and soldiers on with a positive attitude despite despondent times (i.e: nobody appreciates a pessimist constantly reminding them how terrible the situation is).  


But how can we tell that from just one interview? By prompting them to tell us about their experiences working in a team (even for projects in school), we can draw out information through the way they describe their experiences and work processes. Be sure to look out for how much (or how little) they credit or discredit the rest of the team! 


Our AKIN fam 

To us, all these qualities in potential hires make great fits at AKIN. We have devised our design exercises in our hiring kit to tease out the above qualities. These exercises are also a yardstick to how aligned these candidates are to our methodologies and thinking processes.  


Feel free to use our design exercises for your own hiring, but do remember to adapt it to suit your own agency’s culture and design standards! 


Let us know how it goes in the comments section below!

Interested to be part of our workfam? Drop us an note at oh@helloakin.com to meet up with the team! 



Written by Elizabeth Tan 

Updated by Hanson Ng (Nov 2019) 

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