How to use a job board

By Rob Williams

Since 2013, I’ve helped hundreds of designers find clients. This has lead to also occasionally helping companies choose which designers to hire.

If you’ve ever been through this process, you know it can get tedious quickly. The entire point of a job board is to expose you to a large audience.

That means your company name, job details, and contact info need to be public – and as a result, job boards are a haven for spammers.

The result of this if you’re someone posting on a job board is your responses will breakdown like this:

Those are already terrible odds. But something that makes it even worse is that it’s not always readily apparent what group an applicant belongs to.

Sure a portion of spammers will stick out like a sore thumb, but some are harder to spot – which puts you behind the eight ball.

Worse, most platforms that are supposed help you by curating and providing portfolios directly on their platform put the emphasis on teh wrong things.

Namely, portfolio screenshots.

You know, screenshots of work… those things that tell you almost nothing you actually care about as a hiring person because they lack the context of important information like, oh I don’t know; what work was actually done by the designer, what problems they were trying to solve, and who they worked with on the project.

(We actually recommend not using job boards or designer platforms at all but that’s an aside.)

As a result, Folyo has needed to developed some strategies for helping companies figure out who is a great candidate very quickly.

These strategies have been used with real clients to make sure the designers we choose are really the best available, and it works amazingly well. So what do you do?

1 First off, make sure all designer applications go to one place.

Too often hiring managers assume they can deal with the influx of applications directly in their inbox. That’s a recipe for disaster.

This is especially true if you have different positioning or multiple projects going at once (which Folyo usually does) but even if you’re just focused on hiring one person, it’s deceptively easy to lose track and get unorganized fast if you don’t put applications in a different folder.

What Folyo does is create a specific folder for each new project.

Then we have designers email a specific address for that project. Since I have a catch-all setup for my domain, I don’t need to do anything different besides tell designers to email: project_name@folyo.me.

Next, we create a rule in Mail which puts all email to this address in that folder and presto the applications are all there waiting for me to review when I have time.

You can also accomplish this with Basecamp’s email forwards or something like Typeform. However, I strongly recommend using email because it’s one less thing to manage.

2 Come back to the folder later and remove all spammy responses.

The first thing I do once I’m ready to review applications is remove all of the spammy responses. As mentioned above, I estimate that about 75% of responses from job boards are be pure spam.

And it makes sense because talented designers don’t have time to check a job board everyday. (That’s also why Folyo is a referral newsletter, not a job board. We go directly to top designer inboxes and we only send to vetted designers.)

The good news is 99% of spam is easy to spot because, by definition, there hasn’t been a great deal of effort put into it. Spammy emails will have these characteristics:

  • Long and generic – these are usually templates
  • Weirdly short – these mean zero thought has been put into an email
  • Way too many links (anything above 5) – not worth the time it will take to review
  • Doesn’t seem to be written by human – weird words or communication is a red flag I tend to remove immediately

Note that I don’t really recommend using a job board or even a designer platform.

Instead of a job board Folyo uses an email newsletter which sends your job directly to vetted designer inboxes. That means there’s no chance for spam because spammers don’t have access to your job.

When someone joins my referral newsletter I personally check them out and make sure they’re professional. Unlike a job board which will be posting your email, company info, salary data in public for every site crawlers and Indian spammer to collect, Folyo is private.

3 As you review the remaining applicants, put a premium on relevance.

At this point you will have discarded about 75-90% of emails applicants. Phew! That was fast. The next step is to look at the portfolios or proposals that were sent in.

The ironic part is that you will quickly notice that talented people are at a quality level that’s pretty similar. You might even have 10+ designers left all seem to be good enough.

That’s why I recommend you use skill as only one third of the qualification criteria you’re looking for (more on that in the last step).

Instead of spending a bunch of time at this step reviewing portfolios in-depth, what I like to do is click on the remaining 5-20 candidate portfolios you have and just give a cursory look at quality level.

You may find that a few aren’t at a level that you’re comfortable with. Obviously you’ll want to discard those.

But my guess is that most of the remaining candidates will be at a pretty high level.

This is where you want to look for relevancy. Look for specific skills you need. For example, if you’re a non-profit look for designers that sent you non-profit projects from their portfolio.

If you’re a Shopify store look for a designer who sent you Shopify projects. Contact those designers first.

It sounds simple, but it’s amazing how much better the results will be when you’re consciously ranking the designers that put some care into what they’re showing you a bit higher.

4 Offer to schedule 15-minute calls with at least 10 designers.

Don’t worry you probably won’t have to jump on calls with 10 different designers. This is another test.

In my experience 30-50% of the time, designers won’t get back to you about scheduling a call, even after you send them a calendly link where they can grab a time in seconds.

Oh and by the way use calendly. Not only will it handle scheduling a call but it will connect to Zoom (so you can have recordings of your interviews), plus it will let you batch your interviews so that you can do them all on the same day. Here’s how to set that up:

Now when you send over your calendly link, all the designers will see one option where they can grab a time. You’re able to spend a few hours on one specific day with all of your interviews on that day.

You’re in total control. You can schedule interviews as quickly or as far out as you want. It won’t balloon to take up several weeks, which easy during the hiring process.

So why do I recommend having a call anyway? What will you even talk about with the designer?

Great question. You’ll want to ask each person to do a walk-through of a recent, relevant project they’ve worked on. Tell them simply: you’d like them to share their screen and walk you through a recent project.

This walk-through is 100× more helpful than a portfolio screenshot.

On the call tell them you’re interested in hearing about the results, the thought process that went into their design work, and how many people they worked with.

Here’s what a great call looks like:

Much of your decision will come down to things beyond the work. It’s shocking at first but true. Which brings us to our last point.

5 When choosing your designer, use the following 3 criteria: skill, attitude, and passion.

Congrats! You’ve made it to the final step which means you now have 3-10 video recordings of your potential designers.

You’ve done the hard work and now you get to the rewards. You can calmly review each interview and are able to pause, take notes, and compare each one on your own time. That’s power!

The last step will help you know how to make the decision. You won’t want to make the common mistake of basing it entirely off of skill.

Often, as we’ve talked about already, skill is the least important part of the process.

Skill is something that every professional designer should and will usually have. That’s what allows them to be a professional.

However, fitting in with your particular personality and team’s workflow is going to be a much more specific thing.

That’s another reason why a video is great, it lets you reference the designers for two additional criteria: attitude and passion.

These are things that you will look for and hopefully see shine through in your calls. It’s very hard to fake attitude or passion.

Personalities will either mesh naturally or not.

This is something that is crucial for you to figure out before you hire someone and start work on a project together.

Usually, it’s pretty straight forward. Look for designers that:

  • Ask questions before they answer
  • Provide context for decisions
  • Don’t talk down or condescend others, even in passing
  • Are humble and down to earth

Once you’ve found someone you think fits the bill, it’s not easy. However, because you’ve followed this process you can feel total confidence in trusting your gut because you know your decision is based in a real system.

It’s now time to trust that decision and hand over the reigns of the project to the designer and let them do their job.

Don’t hire a dog, then bark yourself

David Ogilvy

I really hope this process was helpful for you. Good luck hiring for your job or project!

Additionally, if you’d like me to handle this entire process for you I’d be honored.

I can not only do everything outlined in this post for you (a savings of 10s of hours) I’d also be happy to send your project or job out to 5,000+ vetted designers I trust.

Usually I can point you to 3-4 really great options in under a week.

It’s all costs a $500 flat-fee and you don’t pay anything until after you’ve found a designer that’s right for you.

It’s a huge time savings for any hiring manager or agency owner and I’d love to help you take hiring a designer off your plate.

Click here to get started

About Rob Williams...

I run Folyo which can help your remote company find the right designer in the next 7 days. I also host Freelance, a podcast about how you can be more effective at independent work featuring remote companies like Basecamp, Converkit, Highrise and more. If you're a designer looking for clients, you can also get a free 14-day trial of my referral newsletter today.

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