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

Hiring Design

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

However, looking for the right ones to join the 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 akïn, 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 start-up 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!

1. Technical Capabilities


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. 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!


2. Creative Thinking (aka Doodling)


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 equate to great designers – they’re totally different things here!). Besides giving us an otherwise unobtainable insight into their minds, these works also show their fun and quirky side (and we’re a really fun-loving bunch).

We also have a couple of creative exercises devised 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!


3. The Eye for Detail


The devil’s in the details – and there’s no saying more true and applicable than in the world of design. Tidiness goes all the way down to each pixel and pica, even if they aren’t easily 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 organize 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 in times when you’re looking for a particular layer in a file originating four months ago, not named “[FA]_DESIGN FOR CLIENT_FINAL_v2_TO PRINT”.


4. Taking Initiative and Being Proactive


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.


5. A Team Player


Working in an agency environment 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 they way they describe their experiences and work processes. Be sure to also look out for how much (or how little) they credit or discredit the rest of the team.



To us, all these qualities in potential hires make great fits at akïn. In addition, the way we’ve devised our design exercises in our hiring kit also allows us insight into how well they are aligned to our methodologies and thinking processes.

Feel free to download our design exercise for your own hiring processes – and remember to adapt it to suit your own agency’s culture, design standards and expectations.

Download Design Exercise

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

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