Hiring for creativity – How to identify it?

In 2019, a survey of LinkedIn showcased that creativity is the most important skill in the world from the soft skills, right after cloud computing as the first hard skill. It should come as no surprise that creativity is highly valued – as a transferable skill, it brings plenty of benefits across various industries.

Plenty of candidates state that they are creative, so they market themselves better as applicants.  But as a good recruiter, how do you know that one is actually creative?

Summary (TL;DR)
Creativity is a valuable soft skill of employees for its multiple benefits for businesses. For recruiters, there are a couple of cues they can look for that identify as creative traits. Those are when the candidate is: collaborative, thinking critically, passionate, managing time differently, and being able to give and receive feedback. Google is a company that has perfected their hiring and has a special way of searching for “smart creatives”.

Why is creativity important?

So, why is that creativity scores so high among experts and public opinion? One of it is vast benefits is that at its roots lies innovation. Consequently, that brings new ideas, better initiatives, a pulse and a competitive advantage to companies. It is always essential to hire creative employees – even for fields that are not typically known for having a creative edge.

Encouraging stats identify that:


  • Companies hiring for creative employees in the team are 5 times more likely to achieve 10% revenue growth goals than companies where creativity was not a priority
  • Organizations were 50% more likely to report a strong market leadership position over their competitors

How to identify creativity in candidates?

Surprisingly, pointing out the creativity in an applicant is said to be the easy part. The more challenging aspect comes in how you can, as a recruiter, nurture those creative traits of candidates and for managers with employees so that its advantages shine.

Here are the creative skills that you can look for in candidates:  


Critical Thinking

Giving and receiving feedback


Time management

1. Collaborative

Being able to collaborate with others and adjust ideas is a creative trait. After all, creativity rarely happens individually and depending on the company’s size; projects go through multiple people and departments before their completion and getting the final version. In an interview, see if the applicants have led some teams or participated in collaborations or projects.

2. Critical thinking

Those who think critically can be creative as well – the two traits are not mutually exclusive. Creative employees with critical thinking can come in different “forms”: some analyze situations and bring efficient solutions based on them, others come up with ideas that are non-standard. 

During the interview stage, it is worthwhile to ask the interviewee how they approach a critical decision for them.

3. Giving and receiving feedback

A trait of emotionally intelligent people and indicating creativity is being able to give and take direction. That’s because one needs to be able to see the bigger picture and how decisions affect the business’s goals: in this way, to let go of the wheel when it is needed, adjust strategies and ideas etc. As a recruiter, ask how candidates react to negative feedback, how they approached a change of strategy during a task etc.

4. Passion

What is creativity without a passion behind it? Passion is the fuel and the driver of creativity. Otherwise, employees will burnout. If an employee does the job beyond the paycheck, they are also more engaged and happier in what they do. Seek to understand why a candidate wants to work at your company, why they chose their career path and so forth.

5. Time management

The stereotype that creative people are disorganized and running late artists might be true. But there is a twist to it: newer studies point out a link between creativity and lateness. Those are traits of Type B personalities. The twist is that those people like to take their time when doing tasks and do not do well under pressure (stress does not motivate them unlike Type A personalities). Being busy is not considered necessarily as being productive for Type B personalities. 

When hiring, look at how candidates prioritize and manage deadlines.

Business case: Google

Famous for its innovative and creative workplace (among the exceeding services), Google is in top positions in the lists of Forbes and Fortune for the most desired companies to work.  As such, over one year, Google receives more than 1 million applications. Among those, less than 1% gets a job offer in the company. Being such an attractive workplace and having many candidates to review has given plenty of fruit for the company’s staff to analyze and perfect their hiring process. And by making the necessary changes for Google’s tailored needs, the company has managed to reduce 10 hours of recruiting processes a week to 1.5 hours while managing to do the same amount of work for hiring.

What is it that Google’s hiring managers and team found out to work for their team, and how do they identify the needed creativity in applicants for the company’s unique culture? After years of research, experiments and studies, here is a list of points that work for Google:


Aim for quality over quantity of candidates

Google’s recruiters hire for what they call “smart creatives”. Those are people who search to find solutions to problems and are not the ones causing trouble.  Smart creative’s mindset is towards making a change, disrupting industries and those employee’s primary drive is not money rewards. Those employees will not only find solutions to recurring challenges but will do so in the most efficient and smartest way.

To find those creative and “out-of-the-box” thinkers, Google’s team has a way to identify them, and it does not include unconventional questions such as “How many golf balls can you fit in a pool?”. In fact, Google’s research showcased that those brainteasers do not indicate whether the employee is creative in general or could do the job any better – just make the interviewer feel smart. Instead, the company’s hiring team find it best to ask structured interview questions related to the job positions’ task.

Internal sourcing

Interestingly, Google firstly searches for candidates within the company. With more than 60 000 employees, they have a big candidate pool to chose from. After all, among the best people on your premises, they are likely to know other great potential employees. Google makes the exception of using an external hiring agency mainly when going to new and unexplored markets.

Adapting recruitment strategies

While Google is attracting talent across the globe and their recruitment strategy goes well, it is tailored to the company’s unique needs. Google’s employees have monitored, analyzed what works and what it does not, and adapted accordingly to their specific practices. However, there is one common point: to survive and to thrive, businesses need to adapt. Think about your specific organization’s needs and how is the market going. What does creativity mean to the particular position you are searching to fill?

Using recruitment technology

Lazlo Bock, Google’s SVP, mentions that the enterprise has set a high-quality bar for its candidates. The company does not make compromises, and the selection begins before the interview. The recruitment team decides on attributes they are looking for in a candidate and has a clear picture of what to look for.  Google’s SVP goes a step further and advises hiring people who are better than you with no compromises.

To be able to identify and fact-check that who their hire is a great candidate, Google utilizes recruitment tech and makes data-driven decisions, thus aiming to eliminate subconscious hiring bias.

See how you can hire for creativity with Whaii Match

Are you certain that what you, as a recruiter, identify is objective? Are you missing some hard or soft skills while screening applications?

For the selection phase, there are tools out there that help you set aside your subjective gut feelings and review applications “blindly” – with no candidate demographics to impact your hiring decision. Only the skills, personality, values and culture that matches to your company’s unique preferences.