Hiring Interior Designers: 5 Steps

interior designer holding laptop

If you own an interior design firm, you’ve walked through dozens of homes and offices that look like they came straight from the pages of a home décor magazine. You also know how much time and energy goes into every single design decision, including the heavy task of hiring interior designers.

When you’re hiring a designer for your firm, it’s essential to find someone who has the technical skills to design beautiful spaces and the soft skills to stick to budgets and timelines and collaborate with clients and coworkers.

With the right team in place, you can focus on the tasks that will grow your business and delegate some of those day-to-day design decisions to your staff. How do you find someone you can trust to help your most discerning clients create a space they will love and rave about?

Hiring interior designers who share your vision and have the skills to get the job done isn’t easy, but these five steps will set you up for success:

  1. Attract talented interior designers with a well-written job description
  2. Screen applicants down to your top picks
  3. Take a detailed look at your top candidates’ portfolios
  4. Remember to check references
  5. Use the interview to find the best fit for your firm

1. Write a Job Description to Attract Top Candidates

The first step to hiring an interior designer is writing a job description that clarifies the role, responsibilities, and requirements. Tailor your job description for every opening to attract candidates who are qualified for the role and excited about your firm.

You’ll want to structure your job description as follows:

  • Summary. Describe the position, company mission, company culture, and generally use this opening section to “sell” top talent on the job opportunity and encourage them to read on.
  • Responsibilities. Interior designers might be responsible for managing a team, setting a budget and timeline, leading the client relationship, making 2D and 3D models, sourcing furniture and décor options, making purchases, and scheduling deliveries and returns.
  • Work hours and benefits. State whether this is full time or part time, and the typical work hours; include relevant perks like health insurance, 401(k) matching, and bonuses.
  • Requirements. It might be necessary to have an undergraduate degree in interior design or certain certifications, knowledge of specific computer-aided design (CAD) or project management software might be a “nice-to-have.”
  • Call to action. This is where you tell candidates how to apply for the job, whether they need to send their resume and portfolio to a given email address or apply on the company’s website.

2. Screen Applications to Narrow Your Candidate Pool

After posting the job description on a job board and your firm’s website, you’re ready to sift through applications. Speed up the process by using an applicant tracking system (ATS) and resume screening technology to filter for the keywords from the job posting, like residential, commercial, schematic design, and design development.

When you’re setting keywords and reviewing resumes and cover letters, focus on the skills and responsibilities a candidate gained at each job. Hiring interior designers requires an open mind about each candidate’s professional background.

An interior designer with all the “must-have” requirements who is missing a few “nice-to-haves” could be the right hire for your firm. A talented interior designer with a growth mindset can shift from residential to commercial projects and learn new skills and software faster than a client can choose between ecru and ivory bedding.

The final step of the screening process is to conduct phone interviews. A short call should help you to evaluate soft skills every interior designer should have regardless of seniority level, such as active listening, focus, and clear communication. This is a good time to discuss details like the salary range, benefits, and hours so the interior designer can decide if they want to move forward with the hiring process.

3. Thoroughly Review Their Design Portfolios

The main things you’ll want to evaluate in a candidate’s portfolio are the quality of the work and whether their approach to interior design is the right fit for your firm. Even a highly skilled designer may not be the best hire if their aesthetics aren’t right for your clients, since the job involves meeting the needs, tastes, and budget of each client.

As you review top candidates’ portfolios, you may want to ask yourself whether the designer…

  • Designs spaces with an intuitive flow of design elements
  • Employs an adequate variety of design approaches
  • Uses design elements and space creatively and with proper restraint
  • Is able to create intriguing designs without breaking the bank
  • Matches the designs with the function of the corresponding space

4. Check References

Even if their resume and portfolio stand out from the crowd, you’ll want to get a sense of how they work and correspond with both clients and employers. Be sure you check references before you hire interior designers, which should include past clients as well as former employers. Red flags could include a habit of going over budget or regularly taking too long to complete jobs.

Keep in mind that interior designers are the face of your company when they go out to homes, businesses, and other clients’ spaces. A client’s pleasant experience with a designer could help you with more client referrals and repeat business.

5. Ask Insightful Questions to Find the Right Fit

There is only so much you can tell from the interior designer’s resume, cover letter, portfolio, and a 10-minute conversation. A longer interview process gives you the opportunity to learn more about the interior designer’s experience, skills, and professional values so you can determine if they’re the right fit for the role and company.

You’re here to learn more about hiring interior designers, so you’ll probably want some pointers on interview questions to ask. Here are some examples you can customize based on your company’s needs:

  • Please walk me through three projects in your portfolio. What was your strategy for each?
  • What would past clients or coworkers say are your main strengths and weaknesses?
  • Walk me through your process from start to finish. What is your favorite stage of the interior design process?
  • Are you comfortable leading the client relationship? What account management tasks have you been responsible for in previous roles?
  • Please tell me about a time you worked with a difficult client or on a difficult project. How did you handle it?

Find the Right Interior Designer for Your Firm

Hiring interior designers starts with writing a targeted job description, screening candidates, reviewing portfolios, checking references, optimizing interviews, and finally selecting the right interior designer for your needs. Start the process today by posting a job for free on Monster.