I’ve known Joanne Weaver for the last few years and she’s someone that I admire tremendously. We both started our own creative recruiting businesses at the same time and she had the brilliant idea of collaborating on projects. We met, clicked immediately and have been pals ever since. Joanne is a force of nature. She runs a very successful business AND is presently recording an album! Lucky for us, she has kindly agreed to talk with me about her business as well as her creative pursuits.
ME: Can you tell us about what you do and the types of candidates and clients you work with?
JOANNE: I own The Joanne Weaver Group, a creative digital recruitment firm based in NYC. I opened my doors 3.5 years ago and recently teamed up with Rebecca Levi, who is JWG’s Recruiting Manager. She and I share many key and integral values, yet are different enough that we complement each other beautifully.
We work with people who live, sleep, breathe, eat, tap dance and dream in digital user centered design, clients and candidates alike.
ME: Do you know why your clients hire you specifically?
JOANNE: They probably initially find me through word of mouth. I’m guessing they stay because they like the way I do business and how I deliver. I often think I could have been a pretty good UX practitioner since many of the qualities that make a good recruiter are the same that make a good IA (Information Architect). I consider myself creative and a good evangelist on behalf of others and on behalf of UX, which you can well imagine are valuable assets in my line of work, as well as being pretty anal retentive (I say that lovingly) and philosophically aligned with the concept that creating amazing user centered design is a practice in kindness and affection for one’s fellow humans and our overall quality of life.
ME: I’m sure you see many portfolios. What do you specifically look for in order to work with a candidate?
JOANNE: When I look at a portfolio I often get a sense within the first few seconds as to whether or not this is someone I could work with. It’s an overall design / aesthetic / sensibility thing, no matter if you’re a designer or IA.
The first question I ask is pretty obvious: “Is it usable?” Can I navigate easily and find what I want? How is the content organized? Is it a seamless experience that engages me, or am I confused and full of ennui, wondering how to get back to the main menu?
Then I’ll check out the overall quality of the work contained within, and gauge what clients they could be a match for.
ME: What are some common mistakes people make in their portfolios?
JOANNE: Not recognizing that the portfolio is, in the public’s eye, a representation of yourself in every which way, and an extension of “your public brand,” and it should be treated as such. Even little oversights can tarnish its overall shine, and conversely, little fun touches that delight and surprise can go a long way and make me emotionally connect with your work…and isn’t that what we as people are trying to accomplish in our own way, at the end of the day?
Mistakes: Me closing what I think is a tab within your portfolio and I close the whole thing; no clear “back” button or “next project” button. Not showing enough projects. Showing way too much stuff with no clear organization.
Nice Touches: Offering a pdf/doc version of your resume for download. Including a hyperlink to your portfolio + email address on your resume (“Every click is sacred”, as Monty Python would have written had the internet been invented back then). Fun eye candy, not in Flash.I also like to see a little personality on the site. Clearly marked links that take the viewer to your blog or photography site, or other outside interests, are cool—keep it professional, eh!—or if you like to present that stuff separately, I like getting a link to both things, so I know more about you, as a person, and what makes you tick + how your mind works. This helps me work with you more effectively and enjoyably.
ME: If you could create your ideal candidate, what would they be like?
JOANNE: They would be a great communicator, inherently put their trust in me as I do with them, be open to constructive feedback, be transparent and forthright with me, do what they say they’re going to do and have integrity behind their words. And they send me lots of referrals of their friends who are as fabulous as they are!
ME: I’m big on people finding satisfaction in their lives. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your Satisfaction Quotient?
JOANNE: I’d say I’m an 8.
ME: Could you explain why you chose that number?
JOANNE: Well, I’m generally quite satisfied in my life and feel like I’ve got a lot of interests and pursuits going on that bring me happiness, and I’m pretty able to grasp the levity and joy in life no matter what the situation. So why is it an 8 and not a 10? I’m never 100% satisfied. Never. There’s always unrest. There’s always something I could be doing more of; better, bigger, faster. That’s a very Western way of existing in the world, and I’d probably be a lot happier if I was better able to be fully present and relax into each moment, but hey, it’s what I know, for better or worse, and it’s worked pretty well for me so far as a life strategy. I probably would’ve given up being an entrepreneur long ago if I didn’t have some burning desire to succeed and be a better version of myself the next day. It’s a blessing and a curse, I guess.
ME: Outside of work, what gives you great satisfaction?
JOANNE: Music, both the practice of it—I’m a singer—and the enjoyment of it. I also enjoy writing a whole lot, even though I’ve been doing less of it. Tinkering around on my piano; I love Satie. Or just making up atonal stuff and singing along. I love living in NYC and existing in such a hotbed of creativity and inspired quirkiness. I often wondered during this last (ridiculous + long) NYC winter why in the world I didn’t move back to the Bay Area, which is where I’m from. But then recently I popped into 55 Bar over on Christopher Street one Sunday evening with a friend, and without much fanfare or announcement, a jazz trio popped in and they just, quite simply, transported us to another place by way of their jaw-droppingly-amazing music for 3 hours. It was magic. It was then that I remembered why I live here.
ME: Could you tell us about the album that you’re working on?
JOANNE: Yes! I’m very excited about it, and we’re in the end of the “final vocals” stage right now, so it’s close to being done! I met composer/producer Andre Fratto through a mutual friend, Emmy-award winner Brian Scibinico -and Andre and I planted the seed to do a trip-hoppy, spacey, atmospheric reinvention of some favorite old jazz standards. We both love these songs and their timeless lyrics that still hold so much human truth today. We aim to honor the spirit of the songwriters and all of those who have performed and embodied these songs themselves, while repackaging it for a modern audience, so they can have access to these songs too and either discover them for the first time, or re-discover them anew.
I also perform with a straight-ahead jazz quartet called The Kitchen Table Quartet (we’re so new, we don’t even have music up online yet, but watch that station!). At a rehearsal, I played them a little taste of what Andre and I had done to “Nature Boy” and they really didn’t know what to make of it, yet they were intrigued…. it definitely got a reaction! I really got a kick out of that.
ME: What gives you the courage to do this?
JOANNE: It’s a mixture of love and fear.
Love for the musical craft itself and the opportunity to purge and share my own personal stories and feelings through musical expression. For the playfulness and fun that comes from experimenting musically with others and building off each other’s ideas to create something totally new, and my desire to learn how to become a better performer, to share more of myself.
Fear of dying with regrets. I turned 35 recently and for some reason, that number put things in massive perspective. Life moves so fast. I don’t want to blink, wake up an 80-year old lady, and think to myself, “Dammit. I never went for it.” That puts the fire under my chair.
I took a sabbatical from my first recruitment job in NYC when my father died suddenly in ’06. I realized all too immediately that life was short, not a guaranteed thing, and that I had to re-evaluate what I was doing with my life to ensure that I really loved it and that I was on the right path…a path that would allow me to both experience and give the most joy to the world by using the talents that I was born with. Earlier this year, I made a promise to myself that I would no longer be so stingy with my art. I’m doing my best to follow through on that.
ME: What obstacles are you facing?
JOANNE: My ego. Putting myself out there artistically can feel scary and make me feel extremely vulnerable. Vulnerability is a wonderful and necessary part of being an artist, but it can also feel quite uncomfortable and unsettling. Singing feels like such a direct expression of myself that I (errantly) tie my entire identity to it. To loosely quote Erykah Badu, “I’m an artist. And I’m sensitive about my sh*t.” So I need to get over that mental hurdle, realize that this art I’m putting out there is NOT about me, it’s a selfless gift that is made solely to give away to others and inspire and delight them, and perhaps help them feel something themselves. It always feels so good to treat a performance as a gift to each and every audience member in the room.
ME: What advice would you give to someone else who has a dream they haven’t fulfilled yet?
JOANNE: Do it. DO IT!! What are you waiting for? And why the hell would you wait when you only get one crack at this life? It’s so much easier just doing your dream than sitting around fretting and being pissed at yourself for not doing it. That’s exhausting. Believe me, I know. Even if “your dream” means doing something super small, just to drive it forward in one little way, the mere fact alone that you’re taking that action is so much bigger than what it seems. It affects you so much more profoundly than you could ever imagine….there’s beauty and grace and truth in it, and it totally changes your self-regard in immeasurable ways.
ME: Where can people listen to your music?
Joanne: I don’t have a lot of stuff up yet—I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops once this new album is done + out the door—but here’s a funny, gospel-inspired “Chickens In Love” song that I wrote and performed for friends in ’09 as their wedding present. It’s also how I met Andre for the first time.
ME: Where can people find you to get them a job?
ME: Are you going to your 3rd Burning Man this year? How will my readers recognize you if they’re there too?
JOANNE: Haha, yes, and it’s actually going to be my fifth! You probably won’t recognize me there, as I have a penchant for wigs, but my camp and I are putting together a karaoke camp, complete with stage + sound system, so if you see someone caterwauling “Me & Bobby McGee” up onstage and there is a rubber chicken involved, you should probably just come up and introduce yourself, as it’s probably me. Maybe it’s me. Or probably not. Actually, it’s not me at all. But you should definitely introduce yourself to that person because that sounds like a good time.
ME: Thank you so much, Joanne. This has been a lot of fun.
JOANNE: You’re so welcome! This has been the first forum for me to merge my business and my art together, and it feels great. Thanks for giving me that opportunity, and for being a force of nature yourself, Anne!
To connect or work with Joanne:
The Joanne Weaver Group (company website)
LinkedIn (personal profile)
LinkedIn Group (job listings: main)
Twitter (job listings: secondary)
To listen to Joanne: