Publishing and print media have declined in recent years, and new generations of “drag-and-drop” software allow non-designers to quickly and cheaply create posters, logos and more. But if you want a truly customized design solution (print or digital) that will help build your brand, you need to hire a graphic designer.

It won’t be easy. Research for the latest Robert Half Salary Guide shows that graphic designers are in high demand as firms look to connect with consumers in fresh and innovative ways.

Candidates with the most sought-after skills, especially web and mobile experience, quickly find jobs and often receive multiple offers. If your hiring process is too slow or your compensation lags the market average, you risk letting top talent slip through your fingers.

So how do you hire the best graphic designer in this hyper-competitive labor market?

Define what you need

Understanding what you need this person to do on a daily basis should drive the hiring process. If you need someone to create designs for a website or mobile app, for example, try to find a web or UX (user experience) designer. If you’re looking for someone to create a logo, look for branding expertise. Choose a designer who can take one design and roll it out to multiple pieces, from print and email to web and social.

When writing the job description that serves as the basis for the job posting, carefully consider the duties associated with the role and include a short list of job responsibilities/requirements. You can list everything else as nice-to-have attributes. Don’t scare away candidates with too many demands, and avoid too much jargon.

To generate more interest in the position, provide additional information about your company culture and benefits. Make it clear whether the role will be office-based, remote or a hybrid of the two. Many creative professionals have adapted well to telecommuting in the COVID era. If you don’t have much latitude in boosting compensation for your opening, allow flexible work arrangements, giving candidates the chance to work when and where they’re most productive. It could tip the balance in your favor as far as their accepting your job offer.

Also consider whether you need a permanent employee or if a contract professional would best suit your needs. If you’re not sure or simply want to streamline the time-consuming process of bringing new talent on board, engaging the services of a talent solutions firm could be a wise move.

Seek the right skills

Every designer should live and breathe Adobe Creative Cloud. These programs — and particularly InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator — are the gold standard of design software.

Of course, don’t get so caught up in technical skills that you forget soft skills. Because graphic designers work with people in other departments and are often charged with presenting ideas to clients, they must have excellent teamwork and communication skills. Look for a variety of characteristics and traits, including the ability to think strategically, take constructive criticism and interact well with people in and outside of the company.

You also need to carefully review candidates’ portfolios. Look for similar examples to the projects you want your new graphic designer to take on. And remember that a few dazzling designs in a portfolio don’t necessarily make for a strong graphic designer. Is the work on brand for the client? Does it convey the right message for the audience? These are vital aspects to analyze because you’ll need your new hire to get it right for you and your clients, too.

Ask the right questions

When you’ve narrowed down your pool of applicants based on their resumes and portfolios, it’s time to start conducting interviews. This is your best opportunity to get to know candidates better and determine if they will succeed in your organizational culture.

To make the most out of the interview, use a variety of question types. These general questions will help get the candidate warmed up:

  • What are your sources of inspiration for your design work?
  • Tell us about a time when you changed direction on a project based on constructive criticism?
  • What excites you most about this position?
  • What elements do you look for in a creative brief?

Also consider including questions about work style and values to assess if they’ll thrive in your organizational culture:

  • Do you feel more comfortable working in a large team or a small team?
  • Can you talk us through how you present your ideas to a senior designer or art director?
  • What would you do if a client asked you to edit an image in a way you considered unethical?
  • Are you happier and more productive working remotely, in the office or some combination of the two?
  • How would your colleagues describe your communication style?

Finally, go through the applicant’s portfolio with them. (If the interview is online, you can do this using the screen-share function). Ask specific questions about the types of design work and programs they’ve used to help you confirm their hard skills. And you should also ask the designer to explain their involvement in a particular project. Try these questions:

  • What were the main strengths and weaknesses of the initial brief for this project?
  • How did the project evolve from the initial brief and what role did you play in shaping its course?
  • What were some of the challenges you faced during the design process?
  • If you had to re-do this project, what would you do differently?

Try to arrange for other team members to talk to the candidates as well. They can provide valuable feedback and may help spot any red flags.

Offer the right compensation

Last but not least, keep in mind that candidates with extensive experience or those with in-demand skills are likely to demand higher earnings. You’ve got to be willing to pay competitive rates if you expect to secure top talent. Robert Half’s annual Salary Guide can help you determine starting salaries, and you can fine-tune the listed salary ranges to your location.

Today’s candidates look at more than just salary. Highlight your flexible work options, benefits and perks like paid time off, subsidized tuition and employee discounts.

Your goal is to find — and hire — a graphic designer who will make valuable contributions and become an integral part of your organization. Focus on weeding out the wrong candidates, edging out your competition for the right ones and gaining a great new employee.