Deb Kline: Hiring Habits & Horror Stories

Deb Kline has been a working creative professional since she graduated with a BFA in Graphic Design from the Hartford Art School. Currently, she is Director, Branding Packaging & Merchandising at Group 4 in Avon, as well as an Adjunct Professor at the HAS and President of the CADC for the 2007-2008 season. We talked with Deb about what she looks for in new hires and freelancers.

What do you look for when hiring?
Talent is a given. But in addition to that — how they think, what their process is.

What types of communication would you say you most commonly respond to?
Resumes and promotional mailers get my eye first — something physical put on my desk tells me a lot about a designer. Websites or samples help when you want to get a taste of who they are before you commit to an interview.

What can a candidate do to help their communications stand out from the crowd?
A simple, clean, well-presented version of who they are and what their style is. But be creative in the form of delivery.

What examples stick out in your mind from materials you’ve seen/received?
Two come to mind. One was a “paint can” resume delivered to the front desk. Being that we are mostly a packaging firm, their resume and samples showed up as a package. The other was a student that just created a beautiful hand-made envelope out of unique (yet appropriate) materials.

What are some tell-tale signs in an interview of a good or bad fit?
It’s hard to describe; it’s an intangible communication/personality thing. You just know if that person will click and work well in our environment.

What stands out as your worst interview “horror story”?
It didn’t even make it to an interview… They sent a resume, and followed up with a phone call. It was one of our craziest times; we weren’t looking to hire, and I hadn’t had a chance to respond. They then left a nasty message demanding that I speak with them.

It’s really important to remember that when you send unsolicited resumes, you need to be sensitive of what may be happening on the other end!

How important is it to you what school the candidate attended?
I’m not sure if the specific school is important but rather, what did they learn? And did
they “learn to learn”—as we are learning everyday.

What schools have you found produce the best talent?
I am very biased on that question… Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford is my top pick, but UConn and Central all have produced great talent as well.

Where have you most commonly found the best candidates?
Creative and Core77/Coroflot… But the best are still personal referrals.

What do you know now on the hiring end that you wished you knew when you were looking for your first jobs?
That it’s not all about them. It’s about the type of work we do and the type of position we are looking to fill, the personality and “fit.” I have seen many candidates I would have liked to hire, but the timing just wasn’t right.

Do you have any specific advice for recent graduates?
Be patient but be persistent, be flexible and willing to try anything for awhile to get some experience.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of using full-timers versus freelancers?
Full-timers bring experience, consistency and reliability; freelancers can bring fresh perspective at times or add talent in areas that are lacking or not our specialty.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of hiring someone full-time versus trying them out on a freelance basis?
It’s great if you can freelance first — it gives both parties time to “try each other out.” But more often than not it just isn’t an option.

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