Aptitude Test Ideas to Qualify Creative Talent

Creative and Design professionals are in demand across industries. How can we be certain they perform on the job just by looking at their portfolio?

There are so many risks when hiring new creative talent. How can we be sure the chosen candidate is the best fit for the job?

Hiring talent is challenging.

This is especially so in an increasingly connected world, industries amalgamate resulting in jobs becoming hybrid and skills gap widens.

According to Workable, it takes an average of 54-56 days to hire someone in the creative or design field. That’s 11 working weeks of sifting through resumes and portfolios, contacting candidates and conducting interviews.

It’s estimated that the cost of a bad hire is 30% of their annual income.

For example, a mid-level UX designer with 6-8 years of experience under their belt takes home an average of $67,225 per year (data source). So a poor hiring decision to fill a mid-level UX role would set the company back by $87,393. This excludes the time within the 56 working days the hiring manager and human resources spent in recruiting for the role.

Hiring the wrong talent can be costly.

As we have just seen above, there are substantial costs in recruiting for talent. So what can companies do to mitigate the risks in making poor hires?

For the longest time, pre-assessment tests are used to screen candidates’ fit with a company. There are a variety of tests to put candidates through.

However, when it comes to screening creative functions like designers and developers, the pre-assessment tests are often overlooked in favour of the traditional portfolio.

Is the portfolio an accurate portrayal of a candidate? After all, it is a curation of the best work produced. It hardly showcases the thought process of the candidate among other soft skills.

Making a good hire

At Cogs, we work with digital agencies, design consultancies in placing creative talents in their business. Our talent consultants facilitated hiring processes for companies that require assessments. They’ve observed challenges and benefits in having assessments as part of the pre-employment screening.

While assessments lengthen the overall recruitment process and demand more resources from both the candidate and hiring manager’s perspectives, its results outweigh the downsides.

Companies can witness the technical abilities of the candidate, how they respond under (time) pressure and how they reason and communicate.

In any case, you are considering to screen creative talent or preparing to go for an interview, here are some test suggestions we have from our hiring clients:

  • Skill Assessment: An oldie but goodie. Get candidates to fill in forms with questions that lead to uncovering their hard and soft skills. This is rather one-sided, although the company is designing questions tailored to their hiring criteria and if one is overly strict with requirements, they may just end up with false responses that they have no means to verify.
  • Whiteboard Challenge: The hiring manager will work with the candidate live, on a problem in a certain timeframe. This enables the hiring manager to understand or experience working (attitude or culture fit) with the candidate.
  • Pre-Hiring Project: Get candidates to work on a case and present solutions during an interview like a pitch session. It allows you to observe a candidate’s real skill set that you cannot determine from just viewing their portfolio alone. It also shows you how a candidate works with your company and its products.
  • Design Hackathon: The only public assessment among the other suggestions. Traditionally held in by the Tech industry, Design Hackathons are gaining traction. They are a breeding ground for new ideas and for identifying talents.

As designers, no doubt test/assessments are time-consuming, especially when you are still employed. And then, there’s the fear that your solutions might end up getting ‘adopted’ by the prospective employer without a job offer. Should you put your all into a project in what might be ‘free work’?

To avoid any feelings of disappointment, have a conversation with the hiring party.

If your submission did not make the cut, seek feedback from the team on how you could have succeeded or found what they were looking for. If you didn’t walk away with a new job, at least you have more insight to help improve your body of work.

While there is no ‘best test’ in the market to screen designers, including one as part of your hiring process allows you to refine your selection of talents.

Tests are designed to qualify and evaluate the competencies of a designer. If your hiring requirements are vague, setting up questions that disqualify candidates actually makes your decision-making as a hiring manager easier.


Looking to hire better creative or design talents? Reach out to any of our Cogs consultants specialising in creative and design recruitment below. 

 Beth HarriesClaire SadlerLoris ShalaMorgan Fletcher

Berlin: Jan PautschJulian KlomsdorfAnna Pokhylko

Hong Kong: Natalie Hallows

China: Katrina Sun

Singapore: Amreen Rahman

Click here for design and creative job opportunities.

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