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Leading creatives share their insights on the soft skills they look for when hiring employees.

John deWolf RGD, Principal at Narrative Environments Studio

"There are two things I look for in potential employees. FIRST—in a portfolio—I seek thoughtful designers. What you write about your work matters just as much as what you show (perhaps more so for this employer). However, the portfolio tells me very little about who you are; to be honest, many portfolios are similar. Meanwhile, when reviewing resumes, I look for soft skills, particularly for recent graduates. Second, I am interested in how you interact with people, ideally with clients. Don’t leave out key parts of your background like serving tables, customer service, administrative support and summer camp counseling. These experiences likely provided you with invaluable transferable skills. Draw on them! Keep a record of the experiences you have with resolving issues and interacting with people and be prepared to share them as a way to demonstrate your skills to employers."

Erika Hamilton-Piercy RGD, Vice President and Creative at Matrix Four Limited

"Building a flourishing, cohesive agency means aligning great people with top-notch skills that work in tandem with each other’s strengths. 

A few of the soft skills I consider valuable are:

  • Time management and organizational skills
  • Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking
  • Attention to Detail
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Teamwork and Collaboration"

Vida Jurcic RGD, Partner and Co-Creative Director at Hangar 18 Design Continum

"If I had the choice of hiring a brilliant designer who’s an asshole, or a pretty good designer who is super nice, humble, confident and open to learning and growing, I would always choose the nice person. Assholes can stink up your company culture, which spreads to how clients perceive you. The best employees are those with an admirable work ethic; the good listeners who empathize, are ready to adapt and pivot as necessary and are open to learning and growing. The hard-working souls who really care about doing the right thing for the project, the client and their employer. Being a good listener and willing to challenge peers and clients in a respectful, positive way leads to both personal growth and the quality of the work that is output. At the end of the day, we spend a major chunk of our lives with our employees, so nice goes a long way."

Cecilia Mok, Senior Designer at Sinai Health Foundation

"A soft skill I look for in potential employees is curiosity. It is not only a great motivator and driver for action, but a key to growth. It is the seedling that opens oneself to other perspectives, ideas and solutions. It does not assume that one already has all the information regarding any problem, situation or creative brief. Curiosity will naturally lead to an open posture for learning, leading to a desire to investigate deeper meaning and knowledge before diving deep into creation and iterating prototypes. Curiosity will invite feedback and collaboration from team members and stakeholders without fear of different opinions and critiques. The curious mind will consider room for improvement and be willing to change for the better."

Elana Rudick RGD, Founder and Creative Director at Design is Yummy

"Communication is an essential soft skill I value in potential employees. During the interview process, I look for candidates who can articulate their thoughts and past work clearly, listen actively and engage in respectful discussion. With much of today's work happening remotely, honest communication is even more crucial. It ensures that ideas, feedback and information are understood, fostering a collaborative and efficient work environment." 

Nelson Silva, Chief Creative Officer and Principal at Works Design

"One crucial soft skill I seek in potential employees is resourcefulness. The ability to find inspiration, access reference materials and thoroughly understand the client is invaluable for any designer. In today's hybrid or remote work environment, resourcefulness is even more essential. A long, healthy career involves learning from others through peer observation, mentor questions and industry leader inspiration. Staying current is also key, achieved through industry associations, group chats and learning about emerging technologies. Finally, developing your approach is vital for independent growth, building confidence and eventually mentoring others."

John deWolf RGD

Narrative Environments Studio

Throughout his 30-year career, multi-disciplinary designer John deWolf has designed print, exhibitions, signage and wayfinding, brands, and interior environments. His many skills include designing accessible, inclusive communication systems, particularly for diverse audiences.  Design is not only physical and aesthetic, but also cognitive and experiential. Process, program, system, story, service, and experience are integral to Mr. deWolf's interdisciplinary approach. As a counterbalance to consumer culture, Mr. deWolf advocates sustainability, inclusivity, and social and community awareness.  John is driven by a desire to preserve culture and heritage, and develop public initiatives that benefit the community.

Vida Jurcic RGD

Vida Jurcic RGD is a founding partner and Co-creative Director of Hangar 18 Design Continuum, an award-winning Vancouver design and branding firm with a legacy of strategic solutions spanning two decades. She has been an in-house art director/designer at the Hudson’s Bay Company and Woodwards Department Stores and has worked at various advertising agencies, including DDB and BBDO. She has judged many regional and national design competitions and sat on scholarship juries including the BC Arts Council. In addition, Vida currently teaches at the IDEA School of Design, Capilano University and has taught at Vancouver Film School and Langara in the past. She is an avid design history buff and part-time musician/Morris dancer.

Elana Rudick RGD

Design Is Yummy

I'm the Founder & Creative Director of Montreal-based design studio Design Is Yummy. Over the past 15 years, I've had the opportunity to collaborate with countless creatives, build successful design teams and foster meaningful relationships with clients. I speak on design and the business of it and mentor for the UI/UX Design Career Track at Springboard. When not working on my RGB glow, you can find me picking through design books or at home baking with my 2 small humans.


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