How To Recruit A UX Designer

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The Web has entered an era of user-centricity. If businesses are to attract new customers and retain existing ones, they must create websites and apps that deliver intuitive and tailored experiences. Whether you run an online retailer or a not-for-profit community website, the user experience is mission critical.

As a consequence, we have seen a real surge in the need for talented user experience (UX) designers who can help turn vision into reality. How do you attract, recruit and retain UX talent in your business?

Hiring a UX Designer1
(Image credit: openwourceway2)

If you are anything like us, you’ll be keen to learn from leaders and innovators in our industry, which is why we’ve assembled some luminaries from the UX community to share their insight and experience especially with the Smashing Magazine community.

We’d like to say a big thank you to the experts who made this guide possible. They all have a unique perspective on UX, and their work intersects with it in very different ways.

We asked each of our experts 10 questions. Their perspectives give you a 360° view of how they tackle UX recruitment in their organizations. Jump to the section that grabs your attention, or read through the complete guide for all of their insights.

The Questions

  1. How did you learn to hire?
  2. Do you hire with your head or your heart?
  3. In a sentence, what makes for a great UX designer?
  4. How do you advertise UX positions in your company?
  5. What one question do you ask every candidate?
  6. Do you have a particular method of assessing candidates?
  7. Do you hire based on years of experience or achievements and portfolio?
  8. How do you retain talent?
  9. What kind of culture do you try to create?
  10. What skills would you like to see in more UX designers?

1. How Did You Learn To Hire?

Very few people would say they’ve “learned” how to hire, because this would imply that they’ve stopped learning, and of course we all continue to learn every day.

Many of the experts I spoke with continually develop and hone their hiring skills, but their advice hinges on three principles.

Find a Role Model

Tom Wood of Foolproof: “My role model is David Ogilvy. He had a really clear and public view about the qualities he looked for in the people he hired. His quote, ‘If we each hire people smaller than us, we will become a company of dwarfs, but if we each hire those larger than ourselves, we will become a company of giants,’ is a call for everyone in a position to make a point to step up and challenge themselves through the quality of people they hire.”

Martin Belam of The Guardian: “I’ve been on a lot of interview panels through the years and picked up techniques from people such as Mags Hanley, Lorna Leddon and Karen Loasby.”

Learn From the Experiences and Mistakes of Others

Justin Cooke of Fortune Cookie: “Like everything we do at Fortune Cookie, we have never stopped trying to improve our recruitment process. This was achieved by learning from mistakes, through experience and from others particularly asking recruitment agencies and candidates for feedback on how we could be better.”

Find Your Feet

Ultimately, you need to blaze your own hiring trail and go with your instinct. As Kara Pernice of the Nielsen Norman Group emphasizes, “Asking advice from other people who have successfully hired behooves you, but there is nothing like experience.”

Peter Merholz of Adaptive Path says, “I rely a lot on intuition, which has proven mostly successful.”

2. Do You Hire With Your Head Or Your Heart?

Logic and instinct both have their place in the hiring process, and the decision will nearly always be made partly with your head and partly with your heart.

You will likely use your head to determine whether the candidate has the requisite skills, experience and attributes. And then to a certain extent you need to follow your heart and your instinct in deciding whether a candidate is a good fit for your culture.

The experts I spoke with validated this idea, explaining that they initially look at hiring from a rational point of view.

Justin Cooke: “At the first stage we look for the rational, but the ultimate decision has to be based on an emotional connection.”

Peter Merholz sums this up perfectly: “I would say the head is the initial barrier — if I can’t rationalize the hiring decision, then it won’t go anywhere. But after the head makes a decision, the heart plays a part, particularly in thinking about ‘softer’ matters, like personality and cultural fit.”

Stu and Odette: “It’s a balance of finding a person with the right attitude and personality, twinned with skills needed to do the actual job.”

Kara Pernice: “Both, but you have to know you can deal well with each other. And I usually get that feeling from my gut rather than my brain.”

Ultimately, the final decision comes from your head because, as Tom Wood explains, “If you make a mistake with hiring in a small or medium-sized business, you can cause real problems for yourself.”

3. In A Sentence, What Makes For A Great UX Designer?

If you don’t know what you are looking for, you will never know when you’ve found it. Nowhere is this philosophy truer than with hiring.

A real appreciation not only of what makes a superb UX designer but of what kind of person you are looking for is essential if you are to recruit successfully.

What makes a great UX designer is, of course, a matter of opinion, but there is a consensus that a UX designer must, in the words of Martin Belam, “make good stuff and make stuff good.” They must have an ability to interpret and empathize with the user, to simplify the process and to execute a design solution.

Peter Merholz: “An ability to take an empathetic view of the user, and to interpret that into a systematic design solution.”

Justin Cooke: “Someone who can make the complex simple, beautiful and ever so slightly fun.”

Stu and Odette: “Someone with the passion and curiosity to constantly learn more about how people interact with digital products.”

Kara Pernice: “Great UX designers have a desire to innovate and gather knowledge about potential users and customers, and the humility to know that their first design iterations will rarely be great.”

Tom Wood: “The willingness to collaborate with both the end user and the business client during the design process.”

4. How Do You Advertise UX Positions In Your Company?

There is a clear shift in the way UX roles are being advertised, in line with the increasingly social nature of the Web. Interestingly, Stu and Odette still succeed in finding candidates through specialist recruitment agencies, despite the perceived decrease in their popularity.

Here’s how our panelists fill their UX vacancies.

Tom Wood: “Our site, amplified by Twitter and LinkedIn activity.”

Kara Pernice: “We have the luxury of having our boss write a newsletter that reaches many UX professionals, so that is our biggest marketing tool when hiring. It works for us because people who read the newsletter have a sense of what we are about.”

Peter Merholz: “We have our ‘Work with us’ page on adaptivepath.com, and then we reach out through various channels to spread the word: Twitter, our blog, LinkedIn, UX industry mailing lists.”

Martin Belam: “We have our own recruitment portal site, and I usually tweet and blog in a personal capacity to help drum up candidates.”

Justin Cooke: “On the Fortune Cookie website, on LinkedIn, on totaljobs.com, on industry websites like Econsultancy and BIMA, at events and conferences, and through our employees, who receive a bounty to anyone they recommend who we hire.”

Stu and Odette: “UX Jobs Board and specialist recruitment consultancies.”

5. What One Question Do You Ask Every Candidate?

One thing that is universally agreed on is that there is no “right” way to interview someone, so I asked this question of our experts to see if we could at least draw out common themes.

Martin Belam asks of candidates, “Can you describe to me a project that when badly wrong. Why did it go wrong, and what did you personally learn from it?”

Failure is a topic that is all too often avoided in interviews, but a question like this helps the interviewer understand how a candidate copes with failure — failure being inevitable in any career. It helps you determine whether they are capable of humility and also to see how they have professionally developed as a result of failure. This seemingly innocent question can tell the interviewer a great deal about the candidate.

Justin Cooke: “What is the most amazing thing you have seen on the Internet this month?”

Justin’s is a great question to ask because it helps you understand if the candidate is as passionate as they say they are. (Do they keep up with the latest trends, or do they just say they do?) It also helps you to see the kinds of things that they get excited about; the question might just reveal whether the individual is a good cultural fit for your team and the kinds of projects you do.

Peter Merholz: “What is the thing that gets you out of bed every day and wanting to do this kind of work?”

As an interviewer, you undoubtedly want to understand the motivations of the person you are speaking with. After all, motivation is the key to a happy, productive workforce.

That being said, if you flat out ask a person what motivates them, they’ll probably lie to you with the usual interview spiel about their satisfaction in doing a good job.

Asking someone what gets them out of bed every morning is a roundabout way of asking the same thing, but you’ll catch the individual on the hop, and they’ll probably give you a more honest answer than had you asked what motivates them.

Finally, Tom Wood always asks people about their ambitions, “to see if they will push themselves — and us.” This is a superb question and allows you to determine whether the person has planned their professional life in the near and long term or are just plodding.

6. Do You Have A Particular Method Of Assessing Candidates?

Assessing a candidate’s suitability for a job is certainly one of the most, if not the most, challenging aspects of hiring, so understanding how the best in the business do it is helpful.

Some clearly like to go the practical route and judge a candidate by assigning them a task during or following the interview. Justin Cooke says, “Nothing beats setting a task. The output is always fascinating.”

Kara Pernice allows candidates to do most of the talking and gives them simulations to perform, “such as, give a short presentation and send us the video. This can’t truly demonstrate how they would do, but it’s a start. Sometimes we agree with a candidate to first test the waters by hiring them on a contract basis or as an intern. If we are all happy and still interested in the end, we hire them.”

Peter Merholz, Martin Belam and Stu and Odette feel that the process is fairly simple and that a candidate can be assessed based on their credentials and personality. Peter Merholz says, “It’s pretty straightforward: do they have the practitioner chops (across strategy, research and design), and do they have the right personality and cultural fit?”

Martin Belam adds, “I expect anyone in UX to have a significant online presence, and I’m always surprised if they don’t.”

To anyone reading this who is seeking a career in UX, a strong online presence is definitely a prerequisite.

7. Do You Hire Based On Years Of Experience Or Achievements And Portfolio?

I was surprised by the responses to this question. I assumed the quality of the portfolio would weigh more heavily every time, but that wasn’t the case.

Tom Wood responds, “Of the two, experience is probably the one I favor most, simply because anyone can catch a break on the projects they work on and the results they get (success has a thousand fathers, after all). Because of the emphasis we place on working directly with clients and end users, there’s often no substitute for the life experience that makes you comfortable in the company of these groups.”

However, Stu and Odette says, “The latter. You can get people who have been in the industry 10+ years and still haven’t produced good design work.”

Peter Merholz adds that his company generally favors the portfolio, but “if we’re hiring for a more senior role, where things like client-management skills are crucial (and perhaps even more crucial than super-awesome design chops), then experience definitely is a factor.”

Martin Belam supports this by saying, “I think in any team you need a mix of skills and experience. I enjoy mentoring people and bringing younger people into the profession, so I look more at what I think people will be capable of achieving and how they will go about it, rather than years of experience and qualifications.”

Justin Cooke adopts a completely different approach, saying “Years of experience and portfolios are useful inputs and metrics, but we are more interested in a candidate’s answers to our questions and their response to the task that we set.”

8. How Do You Retain Talent?

To someone outside of the UX community, talent retention might not seem like a critical issue, given the state of the economy and how many people are looking for work. But UX is a fiercely competitive market, with agencies and consultancies vying for the attention of the right UX folks.

The level of attention given to talent retention by the people I spoke with is fascinating. Here are what seem to be the key factors in retaining the best UX designers.

Opportunity

Kara Pernice: “We try to give people opportunities they are interested in.”

Self-Actualization

Tom Wood does it “by thinking every day about what motivates our people and making sure we do everything we can to help them realize their personal goals and ambitions. Beer also helps.”

Autonomy

Peter Merholz: “There is no UX consulting firm that allows the autonomy and freedom that Adaptive Path provides. Also, our commitment to sharing ideas, through writing, speaking and teaching, is unparalleled and attractive to our team.”

Professional Development and World-Class Training

Justin Cooke swears by “never saying no to a training request; employing brilliant leaders; listening to everyone’s ideas and auctioning them to make us a better agency; continually communicating how we are doing; starting at 10:00 am; tracking the market to ensure that our salary and benefits packages are among the best in the industry; and ensuring that we understand everyone’s career goal and mapping out a plan to make it a reality.”

Breathing Room

Stu and Odette: “We’re a pleasure to work with, and we only focus on a set number of projects, so as not to stretch people too far. The quality goes down if you do.”

9. What Kind Of Culture Do You Try To Create?

This question follows on the last one, because culture is obviously central to talent retention, and there are clear crossovers between the answers to the previous question and how this filters down through the culture that these leaders are trying to promote.

“Constellations are more interesting than individual stars.” This is the eloquent way in which Tom Wood describes the team culture he is trying to foster.

Justin Cooke supports the notion of a team culture by adding, “We are aiming to create a passionate team that cares for each other and is 100% committed to improving the digital world to make the real world a better place.”

Kara Pernice focuses more on the individual, describing the culture that she is trying to foster as being more autonomous, with “professionals producing high-quality, rigorous work that improves design for clients and UX professionals.”

10. What Skills Would You Like To See In More UX Designers?

I was most looking forward to hearing the responses to this question, not only for the insight, but also because they will help job seekers hone their skills in the most sought after areas.

The thing many of the experts seem to be looking for is holistic in nature — a well-roundedness more than particular design skills.

Client-Facing Skills

Tom Wood describes the need for more charming UX designers, who are “comfortable thinking in the same room as clients.”

Strategic Thinking

Justin Cooke looks for “a stronger understanding and awareness of the entire customer journey; a desire to improve the entire service rather than just the experience, and brilliant good storytelling.”

Stu and Odette add, “The ability to pragmatically design for digital products, rather than being able to talk solely about UX in general. Our industry is suffering from too many talkers and not enough walkers.”

Research Ability

Martin Belam says, “I wish people would read more widely, and more about some of the traditional design skills.”

Facilitation

According to Peter Merholz (and I tend to agree here), “Facilitation skills are becoming increasingly crucial in our work; being able to coordinate cross-functional teams and get the most and best out of them.”

Summary

UX is a hard skill to teach; no formal credentials are required, and no two career paths or job descriptions are the same. In fact, pinning down exactly what UX is can be difficult. It can mean different things to different people. Some UX design positions require only graphic design skills, others mainly planning and wireframing. Most, however, require a combination of design, planning, negotiation, conflict management, objectivity, leadership and openness. Above all, a good UX professional must have a natural appreciation of the human mind and be open to new attitudes and approaches and to exploring the impact of real people on the commercial environment around them.

Recruiting and hiring great UX professionals can be both challenging and fun. Quite often, the “right” person will be wildly different from the person you initially expected, and skill, judgement and intuition are required to pick them out.

One thing is for sure, though: UX skills are in high demand and short supply. It’s a candidate’s market, and companies need to try now more than ever to attract and retain the best minds in the field if they are to succeed online.

(al)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/4371000486/sizes/o/in/set-72157628736893483/
  2. 2 http://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/4371000486/sizes/o/in/set-72157628736893483/
  3. 3 http://www.nngroup.com/
  4. 4 http://adaptivepath.com/about/team/peter-merholz
  5. 5 http://www.guardian.co.uk/
  6. 6 http://superuserstudio.com/
  7. 7 http://uxjobsboard.com/
  8. 8 http://www.foolproof.co.uk/
  9. 9 http://twitter.com/justincooke
  10. 10 http://www.fortunecookie.co.uk/
  11. 11 http://www.bima.co.uk/

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Matthew Ogston is the CEO and Founder of JobPage.com, applicant tracking & social recruiting software for startups and Web design agencies. You can connect with him here and on Twitter.

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  1. 1

    Far easier to just hire me :) Great article, hope employers read this

    1
  2. 2

    If you are in the UK you can use http://www.creativepool.co.uk we then communicate the vacancy to our community of 95,000 plus digital professionals of which over 2000 are UX/UI/IA’s. We have filled over 50 interactive roles for our clients in 2011…. and we don’t charge placement fee’s

    -47
  3. 3

    Great article, I really like the mindset / attitude that is conveyed about hiring UX designers!

    3
  4. 4

    “This industry suffers from too many talkers and not enough walkers!” I COMPLETELY agree with this statement. When we hire – we do a very intense interview process. We include white boarding and brainstorming in our interviews so we can see how the UX designer thinks and processes through the problem.

    13
    • 5

      Thanks Jen for your comment!
      When hiring UX designers I too believe it’s incredibly important to understand how both their brain and personality handles complex and everyday simple challenges. I also expect UX Consultants to come to an interview able to present their preferred process for communicating and co-ordinating the client and technical teams during a website project.

      4
      • 6

        Oh, dear. I don’t have a preferred process as such. Over a decade of UX experience has taught me that this would be pointless. Tools and techniques need to be chosen to suit the specific challenge at hand – that would include the business problem to be solved plus the internal culture of where you are working. So, the preferred process would include the whole business and how that would operate. Jen’s approach seems sensible provided the interviewers have a truly open mind rather than simply look for their own approach. Fundamentally you need to judge how good someone is at a craft.

        1
    • 7

      +1 for brainstorming and whiteboarding during the interview.

      2
    • 8

      -1 for brainstorming. The New Yorker has a great article titled “Groupthink” that encapsulates the problems with the technique. For example:

      Keith Sawyer, a psychologist at Washington University, has summarized the science: “Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.”

      Using this as a tool to evaluate candidates may yield a lot of false negative.

      10
      • 9

        FYI, the “Decades of research” which the New Yorker article does not bother cite is probably in reference to various research including Osborne (’63) , Diehl & Stroebe (’87), Karau & Williams (’93), McLeod, Baron, Marti &Yoon (’87) to name just a few. The important thing to note here is that none of these studies were explicitly aimed at determining if brainstorming truly works better than individual work, rather to determine how different forces such as anonymity within a group, social differences and pressure can lead to different output in group vs individual tasks. Additionally, they all are studying ad hoc groups formed by strangers for the purpose of study, and not established teams of coworkers who have working relationships and rapport. I believe these things matter and can greatly influence tasks like brainstorming.

        So what I’m saying is that New Yorker piece is a bit misguided in saying outright that research proves individual ideation trumps group brainstorming, and you definitely should not take it as justification to stop utilizing group brainstorming.

        1
        • 10

          The original poster said that she used brainstorming to help evaluate job candidates. She wasn’t referring to the method in the context of “established teams of coworkers who have working relationships and rapport.” The candidate would almost always be the lone outsider in the room — which if anything would amplify some counter productive social dynamics likely increasing false negatives.

          I’m not saying brainstorming is worthless. I’m just saying its not be as effective as we’ve all been encouraged to believe — especially in the context of interviewing a job candidate.

          4
    • 11

      Jen, are you guys looking for any walkers now? I love walking! :)

      1
  5. 12

    Great article and so relevant to the user experience community at the moment. As a user experience recruiter at Consortia and having worked with some of the panel interviewed above, I understand too well the frustrations felt by many when recruiting user experience skills into their team.

    One of the key challenges being felt at the moment is the free sharing of information in the form of a portfolio prior to being interviewed for a position or even when going through the interview process. On several occasions now I have been representing good talent who have not been able to show prior work, as a result have not been successful.

    My advice to counter act this is to set a design brief where the individual cannot provide the necessary portfolio.

    0
    • 13

      Thanks Ryan. For design and development roles, I personally won’t accept, or even read, a CV unless it can be accompanied by a portfolio, or a list of URLs that they have worked on. If all of their commercial work is confidential and can’t be shown, I’d expect them to realise this before applying for the job and get to work producing their own online portfolio that demonstrated their capabilities.

      I know this comes across very harsh, but IMHO it’s one of the best ways to find great UX professionals who are not afraid of going that extra mile.

      3
      • 14

        Exercise caution. Nobody in the UX profession can seem to agree what a UX portfolio should contain. There’s rarely enough information in a UX job advertisement to shape a specific portfolio for an application. Prospective employers/clients then reject prospective interviewees as the portfolio doesn’t include exactly what they want to see, even though it might showcase a fraction of the work the individual has previously completed. Requesting portfolios in advance of interview is a really lazy way of shortlisting people IMHO.

        1
        • 15

          “There’s rarely enough information in a UX job advertisement to shape a specific portfolio for an application.” – yes i agree.

          What i’m suggesting is an online demonstration of a small cross-section of work the applicant has produced, results they have achieved, clients they have worked for, approaches/processes they have used OR even just a single page talking about who they are and what makes them tick.

          I wouldn’t expect a ‘portfolio’ to be customised to the job they applied for… it’s more about who they are in general. And of course there are exceptions, some of the best people i have hired did not have a ‘portfolio’. But what they were able to demonstrate was a list of client websites that they had worked on, how they were involved, and what they achieved.

          This is the approach that works for me… it won’t work for everyone.

          2
          • 16

            So effectively, you are asking for them to demonstrate that they have done. While I agree with the sentiment, I couldn’t disagree more with the portfolio request in advance of the interview as the solution. Portfolio’s or URLs are far less interesting to me than the story of the work and how, why the person did it.

            It’s always felt like it says more about the hiring manager than the recruit. I refuse to submit a portfolio before hand and in the cases where I show up to an interview with one, on only 10% of the time do I ever have to even turn on the computer.

            Nothing beats a conversation

            1
      • 17

        I disagree that a portfolio effectively demonstrates desired qualities in a UX designer. The portfolio is mostly an archaic throwback to print and TV ad agency work, where a creative was supposed to show their “book” that demonstrated all of the brilliant ideas that poured forth from them. It has little relevance to UX work, which is difficult to judge divorced from the sales, product development, and engineering processes that it’s a part of.

        At best, a portfolio is an unrealistic snapshot of the work a UX person might actually do once hired. It’s safe to assume a candidate will only include examples from the their best-looking or most successful projects, but that doesn’t tell you anything about their work on the projects that failed or lost money. When I hire, I’m far more interested in hearing about how a candidate describes their work and thought processes than I am at looking at cherry-picked pictures.

        3
  6. 18

    Great article! Nice and thorough, very helpful to have real advice from those with lots of experience in the UX community. I particularly enjoyed the tips in the How Do You Retain Talent section. Nicely done! Thanks for all the great pointers :)

    1
  7. 20

    This is great information. We’re currently hiring and no one likes high turnover rates and the employees that you bring into your company and how you bring them in should be a very vital component to the hiring process. I think it’s easy to forget that we need to brush up on our interviewing skills from this side and it really is an art.

    Kadee
    @produxs

    0
    • 21

      I agree Kadee with you comment – “it really is an art”. Hiring is a lot like art… there’s often no right or wrong, you can get better with practice, and everyone asked has their own opinion on the matter :)

      3
  8. 23

    “The ability to pragmatically design for digital products, rather than being able to talk solely about UX in general. Our industry is suffering from too many talkers and not enough walkers.”

    Best quote EVER by Stu and Odette!

    4
  9. 24

    “But UX is a fiercely competitive market, with agencies and consultancies vying for the attention of the right UX folks.” – Resulting in a slue of snake oil salesmen. Be mindful.

    5
  10. 25

    The first thing I look for when working with a UX designer, is to find someone who recognises that the term UX designer is an oxymoron. You can no more design what a user experiences than you can design what food a person enjoys. You can test the user experience – but you design the interaction, the information architecture, the visual style etc. while paying attention to the user experience testing to help guide all the surrounding activities.

    For me, someone who claims to be a UX designer is either someone who is just going with the popular use of terminology, which I find lazy – or genuinely does not seem to understand the nature of user experience and the essential crossing of several fields including computing, aesthetics and psychology.

    I desperately wish sources such as Smashing Magazine would educate users instead of promoting inaccurate use of terminology. It’s so much more difficult to sustain a conversation between long term usability professionals who use the well established titles and people who have come into the area since UX became a catchphrase for everything vaguely related to usability.

    6
  11. 26

    Next, what’s really needed is a good article, target toward businesses/organizations, on how to utilize a UX designer.

    Organizations that do have UX designers… or even a full-blown UX Department… don’t always understand what the heck they do, or how to get maximum benefit from their skills. So, they relegate them to button and rounded-corner makers.

    6
  12. 29

    Here is one really simple tip for recruiting top talent – so simple in fact that its usually overlooked.

    1. Don’t insult your candidates.

    Corollaries
    ————————
    1 – If you’ve scheduled an interview, don’t be late and don’t flake out at the last minute. Doing so tells the candidate “we treat people with contempt.”

    2 – Don’t ask dumb questions. Dumb questions tell the candidate that you’re clueless, and that you likely hire other clueless people. Talented people regardless of discipline want to work with other talented people, not the clueless. (Some of the questions the contributors always ask are sadly kind of dumb).

    3 – Don’t makes your candidate take a design test. Design tests are just plain insulting. A test tells your candidate “we see you have a masters in design and a decade of experience — but we don’t believe you.” Do your executives have to take an executive test? Do your accountants have to take an accounting test? Do you sales staff have to take a sales test? Nor should your designers.

    4 – Don’t have anyone in HR interview the candidate. HR specializes in dumb boilerplate questions and is unqualified to provide answers to the candidate’s questions. Not only will they insult your prospect with their inherent cluelessness but getting interviewed by HR tells the candidate that the position isn’t important. Talented people strive to be important — that’s why you want them.

    So your typical recruiting method tells your design candidates that (whether its true or not) while you are hopelessly clueless, you hold them in contempt, think they’re lying, find their services an thus skills unimportant.

    Perhaps this isn’t the best way to attract design talent. And it can all be avoided without tricks by treating your candidates like real people and being genuinely interested in who they are and how they work.

    24
    • 30

      I completely agree with your point 3 ] – Don’t makes your candidate take a design test and point 4] Don’t have anyone in HR interview the candidate. Although I would add to point 4, that the HR can ask or entertain questions about the company, policies, the interviewee’s attitude towards work and the sense of dedication and commitment he/she has.

      I myself have been subjected to various design tests during and after interviews, and most of them were short and inappropriate enough to gauge the level of understanding a UX designer is supposed to have. This is after seeing the portfolio, taking a phone interview and discussing the overall career span of projects.

      I can share one of the tests…it was to design a web based product interface without giving out the details, content, scenarios, target audience and the applications that are going to be highlighted in the interface. I was clueless!.. I tried my hand at something and finally as guessed did not make it to the final round. How would you assess a UX designer based on a test which is supposed to be done at home, and there are very few details given out with a time limit? Sometimes there were time limits to a time consuming assignment…and sometimes there were no limits to a shorter task.

      It really depends upon the interviewer. The entire process becomes very subjective because of that. There should be some level objectivity to it and the reasons should be so clear, that they can be shared with the interviewee without any fear of offending or feeling offended (reactions of some may be offending) or being put into an awkward situation.
      When I used to take interviews, I used to try and gauge the potential of the candidate by asking about a particular scenario. I used to judge the team sharing, team co-ordination skills, communication skills, and the enthusiasm to learn and adapt to the new trends and technologies. For me the knowledge of using Tools was secondary to the knowledge of the required skill, intuitiveness, dedication and honesty of the candidate.

      The above article is quite insightful, thanks for writing it.

      4
    • 31

      This is such a good point – I wish I’d thought of it when I gave my ideas contributing to the article.

      You’re right, the prospective employer has a big role to play in communicating what the working environment is going to be. Only part of this is explicit: painting a picture in words about the company. Mostly it’s implicit: what messages you send by your behaviours and attitudes around the interview process.

      I don’t agree with every one of your support points – some of the techniques you’ve slated do work if they are done right – but your overall point is really valuable. Interviewing isn’t a one-way process.

      1
    • 32

      Agreed! good points.

      0
  13. 33

    I really struggle with the “To anyone reading this who is seeking a career in UX, a strong online presence is definitely a prerequisite.”

    Does that mean they have a twitter devoted to UX? A blog? Post stuff about their personal life? Being a private person by nature this does not gel with me at all. I agree an online portfolio is a great thing to have, but “a significant online presence” sounds like you’re discounting people who have a reason to keep their personal details private.

    9
  14. 34

    Yeah! I do agree that hiring a UI/UX/Web designer is a tough job. Not being HR, I did hiring for one designer and I felt that it is quite difficult to find a good candidate. However, it’s a fun too as you get a chance to interact different-different people :) I just luv to hiring candidates :)

    0
  15. 35

    Very useful article. It always helps to see how others (especially well established folks like these) regard the key issues about what makes a great UX professional.

    One skill that I’d like to suggest as being critical is the ability to observe without making judgement. Not only does this help build great empathy with users, I find that the best insights for creative problem solving arrive through this ‘side door’ to the mind.

    3
  16. 36

    Interesting article. Thank you.

    I have to admit, I wouldn’t be able to give Peter Merholz a job if he said ‘chops’ in the interview, but I’m sure he’d get over the disappointment.

    1
  17. 37

    Hi Matthew, I enjoyed the article as well as the comments!

    I wanted to chime in with a part of the recruitment puzzle that has been touched upon but which is of supreme importance, and that is what the Usability Professional actually wants to do. This seems like Recruiting 101 but it is a largely neglected part of the recruitment process. After a long and arduous search, when the Holy Grail UX Designer is finally found, it is difficult to bring oneself to ask him what he/she truly wants in case it’s not the job you have to offer. However, getting this part right is one of the strongest predictors of successful recruitment and retention of a talented UX Designer.

    Being able to assess those desires and match them up with what a hiring manager actually wants is a rare and difficult task indeed, which requires deep market knowledge, reach, and trust.

    Must a candidate be submitted to the rigors of a typical screening process (portfolio, resume)? Absolutely. But don’t forget to put on your UX hat (sorry Callum I got tired of typing Usability Professional : ) and ask yourself, “What does this person truly want out of his next job?” It’s as much an indicator of success as seeing his high fidelity prototypes in the latest version of Whateveryouworkwith.

    Justin sums it up well when he talks about retaining talent: “…tracking the market to ensure that our salary and benefits packages are among the best in the industry; and ensuring that we understand everyone’s career goal and mapping out a plan to make it a reality.”

    When you’re dealing with talent in a market of high demand and short supply it is equally important if not moreso to make sure folks are genuinely invested and don’t have one foot out the door. Because there are 10 people lined up behind you ready and waiting to Recruit that UX Designer.

    5
  18. 38

    A really good article, particularly like the How Do You Retain Talent part. Thanks for sharing.

    0
  19. 39

    Personal experience UX frankly you need as a web designer or developer.
    If you have to recruit someone to tell you what is a user friendly aspect of portraying a website your frankly that idiotic to even be in business, the whole term UX just ego’d around the overall industry in miniseries.

    All web designers and developers are doing now is trying to prove something to one another. Fanatically many organisations include in their portfolio or organisations websites terms like UX, and that frankly shows who ever that UX designer clearly has no knowledge of the term “Target Audience”.

    In my opinion as stated previously a designer or developing body should acknowledge user experience protocols themselves using it as a position is like asking for a window wiper to seriously go over your monitor so you do not get provoked by dust.

    Sorry if you thing I am wrong but personal experience, as for the article though I enjoyed the read and believe you stated relevant points as to if you were actually deeming to recruit someone in that state of position.

    Overall nice article but have a massive vendetta towards UX Job placements and I believe many other developers do also as their are so many more terms being used for positions that never existed previously, and frankly as stated true leading development organisations should employee people that acknowledge UX efficiently.

    Its silly that its such a major competition because user experience can be used in any job and frankly its not because you do not need someone to tell you how its meant to be formatted to suite users.

    0
  20. 40

    Very good article. As the founder of a small web design and internet marketing business, these have all been things I have faced. Anyone hiring a UX designer should read this, definitely a great resource!

    0
  21. 41

    In a situation where UX talent is hard to find then I think I flexible attitude to when and where someone works is a huge motivator and can easily put your company ahead of the rest.

    People really like being treated like adults with respect to how and when they work to achieve good results (look up ROWE for more details). I think this is especially the case for a creative role like UX where you often need space to think for deep thought.

    A recent job I saw stated “we will expect you to work circa 3 days from home” … definitely put them at the top of my list.

    Not sure why more companies don’t use this…

    0
    • 42

      Hi Sir,

      I am Balwant, I am working as a UI designer in a India based software company.

      I want to some advice from you, hope you will help me.

      I have completed 12th and BA 2nd year appearing from Ignou, it is an open university, I was wondering for do some degree course
      which can help me for get job in big company. Can you please recommend me some degree course, like BCA,BBA,B.SC etc.

      Please help me for take a right decision, I will be thanking to you.

      0
  22. 43

    I think Meg and some others touched on additions to the recruiting process that facilitate longer term success. One issue I encounter time and time again (I’m a UX recruiter) is delays and disruptions to the recruitment process. These happen for largely two reasons 1) Hiring manager is too busy – ok that can happen 2) Poor hiring culture within the firm.

    Example 1 can set the process back by days or worst-case weeks, but example 2 can create delays of several months. Regardless of what the extenuating circumstances may be, candidates liken speed of the process to how much they’re desired by the employer. A swift yet diligent recruitment process speaks volumes and reassures the candidate that they are valued already. Even the best and most attractive employers will struggle to convert an offer than has taken five months to arrive.

    Plan ahead and plan to dazzle your prospective new employees, not just with the brightly coloured office furniture and cool coffee machine, but also the communication and engagement process. It’s a no brainer that a quick turn-around can also reduce the chance of your favoured candidate being hired elsewhere while the hiring manager is playing find a slot in the diary.

    1
  23. 44

    A good six months+ since my last comment I can add that even UX researchers are now being asked to provide portfolios showing project work. This catches a lot of people out as they’ve never done it before and haven’t keep examples of their work.

    There’s an interesting thread in Karl Smith’s IA group on Linked In….is there a common consensus in the UX community about what is good UX and what is bad UX, and it looks like people feel there isn’t. This impacts hiring greatly. Here’s my comment from the group:

    “From experience I often see the same UX candidate interview at various firms and feedback for the same person will range from poor UX designer to super star UX designer. There’s little consistency in hiring manager’s interpretation or valuation of a candidate’s UX experience. What is consistent though is the appreciation for seeing certain company names on a CV/resume. Thus it’s far easier to predict whether a candidate will have a good interview to application ratio than it is to predict a candidate’s interview to offer ratio. This is fairly unique to UX – it doesn’t apply in technical recruitment.”

    Sean Pook – Director – http://www.experiencetalent.com

    0
  24. 45

    Hi Folks, I am developing a management platform for my own company (architectural, engineering and construction) and now preparing for public launch (the business plan was to develop it for internal use but as soon as it was ready, launch it as a by-product).
    I need a UX designer to help improve the user interface now that “new customers” will start testing the waters of the system.
    Anyone to recommend? Or where to start looking for?
    Much appreciated.

    0

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