Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

10 Insider Secrets Revealed: How to Recruit Creative Thinkers

By Anthony Hughes | Aug 10, 2015 | Assessing Applicants
a drawing of a face and a brain made up of words like design, creative and inspirations


Is creativity important to your business? It should be.

Having the ability to think creatively is obviously a necessary skill for managerial, business development and creative roles (shock).

However, it is also a highly desirable attribute for any type of role you might be recruiting for; creative thinkers excel at business, it’s a fact.

Why do you think that super-successful companies like Apple, Facebook and Airbnb started asking weird interview questions like…

What would you do if you were the one survivor of a plane crash?” (see more of these weird and wonderful questions here.)

It’s highly unlikely that they’re assessing any real, concrete, practical skills… what they really want to know is whether their candidate is creative.

So, this week, we’ve outlined the ten most important secrets to hunting down, assessing and winning over creative thinkers!

1. Get Your Job Advert Right.

First things first; you need to actually attract creative personalities to apply for the job – and that means you really need to get your job advert right.

Job advert with title 'testicles wanted'Recruiter Pro Tip

Many recruiters assume that to attract creative thinkers, you have to write ultra-“creative”, fantastical and out-there job adverts like this one.

But this is a myth!

Superficial things like silly job titles (Marketing Jedi) and extreme “quirkiness,” if not pulled off correctly, can sabotage your recruitment drive altogether.

Click HERE to see how NOT to do it, with 10 of the worst job adverts you’ll ever see.

So what is important?

a) Stating the benefits. You must show potential applicants exactly why they should apply for your job. Remember, creative people are attracted by opportunity… they don’t want to be tied down and stifled with one job. Your ad will become a lot more appealing if you can showcase your focus on employee training, and development.

b) Show SOME personality. As I said, you don’t have go crazy… just make sure that your job advert says something interesting about your company and culture. A generic, boring and stagnant advert is surely not going to attract vibrant staff.

c) Mention creativity. You can’t stop uncreative job candidates from applying, but you can encourage creative people to apply! If you talk directly about creativity, innovation and imagination then relevant candidates will genuinely relate to the ad and are far more likely to apply.

Easy right?

If you’d like more tips on how to write great job adverts and attract world-class staff – check out our checklist HERE.

2. Use Social Media.

a big facebook LIKE thumbs up

FrameAngel at

93% of recruiters use social media as a part of their recruitment strategy.

Why? Because it adds an entirely new and different pool (or pools) of potential candidates for them to target, improving efficiency, speed and cost-per-hire.

Where do you think creative people hang out? (Aside from hipster bars and alternative bars!)

Chances are they’re going to have a few social media profiles and many will be quite active on them, so what a great way to find fresh creative thinkers! (Or screen your current ones).

At the very least, you should get yourself on LinkedIn.

Need some tips? We wrote a recent blog on this very topic – who’d of thunk it?

3. Utilise Your Current Staff.

So many recruiters forget to tap into their own resources to find great new staff members.

Think about it; we hang around with likeminded others, so who better to recommend staff full of energy, creativity and imagination than current staff members who have all those qualities?

Recruiter Pro Tip

Employee referrals will offer 3 main benefits:

  • Cultural Fit. If people usually hang around with likeminded individuals then referrals will be similar to them in nature and therefore more likely to fit in with the business culture (assuming the referee does).
  • Staff Engagement. Involving staff in bigger-picture decisions has been proven to improve employee engagement and performance (they feel more a part of the company) so that’s a huge benefit.
  • Your Employees will screen them for you. It’s highly unlikely that a staff member will recommend anyone they don’t think is suitable or who’ll cause trouble. They’ll fear being judged by you and others which is certainly not worth the risk.

To ramp up the speed and quality of your employee referrals, you could even offer a prize to the person who refers the successful new recruit!

4. Get Your CV claws out.

Horror movie CV - Joe Kelso Presents Resume, the reckoningAs you can imagine, I’ve seen a fair few CVs in my time, so I know how exasperating it can be to receive a supposedly ‘creative’ application that’s just all wrong.

But don’t be too judgemental!

Particularly the creative industries, can be very competitive and in some circles (for example, graphic design) it’s pretty much expected that you send a stylised and unique application.

It’s much more important to read through the text, using a critical eye to pick up on the things that stand out (although they might be shrouded in pomp and hyperbole).

On the other hand, do NOT assume that a candidate is creative, just because they send you a jazzy CV – brave, yes – but creative, maybe not.

There are thousands of resources online which showcase some of the weirdest and best CVs and cover letters (in fact, we posted a blog about them, just a couple of weeks ago)…

If you’re impressed with the layout and the content, then contact your candidate, but don’t just contact them because their CV is “pretty.”

5. Host a More Creative Interview.

interview in a cafe

stockimages at

Why do you hope to attract creative thinkers with a wholly uncreative interview experience?

Don’t just stick to your normal routine… do something a little bit unique.

Creative people will be repelled by generic interviews in which they are sat down and questioned for a whole hour (especially if you’re reading from a sheet, goodness forbid!)

Always remember, that recruitment is a two-way street and creative thinkers are much more likely to accept a job because they genuinely want it, rather than for money, benefits and other superficial reasons.

If you want to impress creative people then be more spontaneous, don’t be boring and host your interviews like casual conversations rather than the Spanish Inquisition.

Recruiter Pro Tip.

You could take your interviewees out for lunch, dinner or a drink to set the tone of a more casual interview.

There are, of course, questions that you’ll want them to answer (see below) but using a more relaxed atmosphere can really put them at ease and get their creative juices flowing.

And remember, you’re representing the business so the better they get on with you, the more interested in the job, they’ll be.

Bore them to death in the interview… and you’ll lose them.

6. Ask the Right Interview Questions.

There are, of course, certain things that you will want to know about your candidate and it’s still a good idea to have some sort of plan before your interview.

Just make sure you’re not asking dreadful generic questions like ‘tell me about yourself.’

Instead, ask questions that make the interviewee have to think before answering.

For example, to find out more about their personality, you could ask…

  • Tell me three things about yourself that I don’t know…
  • If you could be any fictional character, who would you be..?
  • What motivates you?

Creative individuals will really excel at these questions, putting forward interesting (positive) answers that naturally show their creative nature.

They’re also likely to do more creative things outside of work, like music, blogging, painting etc.

To find out more about predictable questions NOT to ask during an interview click here.

7. You Could Ask More Difficult Questions…

Do you really want to test your candidates’ creativity? Are you a fan of more high-pressure interviews?

Then you could be a little more harsh and ask your candidate to answer…


Often used by companies to assess problem-solving, analysis, creativity and performance under pressure…

“What is unusual about the following words: revive, banana, grammar, voodoo, assess, potato, dresser, uneven?” Forbes 

For more examples, click here.

Left-field Questions.

Often used to deliberately drag candidates out of their comfort zone, forcing them to think hard about their answer…

“How honest are you?” Allied Telesis

For more examples, click here.

cartoon businessman shouting angrily

Mister GC at

To be honest, at Coburg Banks, we find both categories of questioning a little too harsh.

Being confident isn’t the same as being creative and you could miss out on some really great candidates if you attempt to scare them to death with horrible questions.

Of course, on the other hand, if you need creative thinkers who can also perform under pressure,these questions are ideal.

8. Challenge Them!

Did you think our brainteasers were harsh?

Read our blog post – The 10 Weirdest Interview Tasks, Set by Cruel Interviewers – and you’ll soon think again.

If you’re really desperate to catch your candidates out and test their ability to think on their (creative) feet, then you could get them to complete a creative task during to interview.

Asking them to create an animal out of drinking straws or a cootie-catcher without paper, might seem ridiculous but it would show off some artistic talent.

On the other hand, you could ask them to complete relevant creative tasks like…

  • Getting potential marketers to write a compelling short story.
  • Getting designers to design (or even critique) a page of your website.
  • Asking potential sales staff to sell your pen to you.

Chances are, your more passionately creative candidates won’t take offence and will complete the task enthusiastically and in good humour.

9. Look for Passion x3.

a) A Passion for Creativity.

Creativity and passion tend to go hand-in-hand, so always be on the lookout for candidates who are enthusiastic and ready for a challenge

  • Do they seem excitable and determined when you ask them to complete a surprise interview task?
  • Do they think strategically and creatively when you ask brainteasers?
  • Do their stories of past successes demonstrate creativity, passion and commitment?

You should look out for all of the above closely.

b) A Passion for their Job.

Passionate creative thinkers will spend time outside of their day-job reading, researching and learning about their industry.

Often by asking a simple question like ‘what industry books or papers do you like to read?’ you can reveal first-class candidates who are willing to go the extra mile.

c) A Passion for the Company.

Creative thinkers can be incredibly loyal, if passionate about what they’re doing.

It’s important to assess how much they really know about the company before making any decisions; you’re looking for candidates who’ve done their research and seem genuinely enthused by what they’ve learnt.

10. Watch Out For Arrogance.

Some people mistake overconfidence and arrogance for creativity… you’ve probably met the type; loud, brash, ‘eccentric’.

But those who shout the loudest shouldn’t necessarily be your first choice.

(In fact, often those who shout the loudest are actually the most likely to irritate others).


There are so many reasons to recruit creative thinkers (click here to read more about them).

However, there’s a big difference between people who are “unique” and “out-there” and genuinely creative; you certainly need the skills and the personality to back it all up.

Just be wary and remember to also assess your candidate’s empathy, compassion and ability to get on with the rest of the team.

Honestly – we’ve heard some real horror stories in our time of self-proclaimed ‘creatives’ who clashed with the rest of the team, simply couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do what they were hired to do and refused to take criticism on board.

Yes – you want leaders… but you also want people who’ll knuckle down and make you some money!

Good luck.

PS. Would you like to discover more top notch interview questions and techniques to bring out the best (and worst) in your candidates? Click Here to sign up and we’ll send you a weekly email to brighten up those terrible Tuesdays!

- Anthony Hughes

Anthony Hughes

Anthony is a recruitment veteran of 18 years and is also one of the original founders of Coburg Banks. He now trains recruitment consultants on the best methods to utilise when sourcing and assessing applicants for their clients. 


> More blog posts by Anthony Hughes

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