How to hire a UX Designer

Follow up article to my recent post “Hiring a Junior vs. Senior User Experience Designer”. I encourage recruiters and hiring managers that are new to understanding what UX is, to read this post ;)

Feb 25, 2016 · 4 min read

Due to the overwhelming positive response I received from readers regarding my last post, I have decided to write a follow-up post and give more insight as to “how” I recommend to go about interviewing a Junior (and even Senior) UX Designer.

One of the readers (Mark Lubow, Co-Founder, FootStream) that reached out to me asked this:

Hi Jill — I enjoyed your posting about hiring jr/sr designers, especially considering my company is at the tail end of working with ATL GA students in the immersive UX class.

Per the article, if you were a hiring mgr without any real experience in this area (like me), I’m curious what three questions you would ask a candidate?

When I received this question, and similar questions, after the article posting, I realized I needed to share my answer. Here it goes —

In addition to seeing a UX Designers portfolio (with case studies in it), here are some basic questions that I would ask Junior and Senior UX Designers:

  • Why did you choose UX as a career?

(I am looking for a response that tells me how excited and passionate they are about their work and what they do. If they don’t know how to answer this with enthusiasm that resonates with you, it would give me pause.)

  • What parts of the UX process do you feel like you are good at? (You may even ask “What parts of the UX process do you enjoy doing the most?”)

(I’m looking for basic knowledge of the terms and again looking for passion about what they do. I’ve added a link for you so that you can see the basic terms. Note: a recent Jr grad may not know what a “red route analysis” is.)

  • What parts of the UX process are you hoping to grow and expand your knowledge?

(This will let you know if they have a “growth mindset” and if they are life-long learners looking to grow, learn and improve their skills.)

  • I would then suggest that you give them a sample scenario for an app idea.
  1. Tell them your idea (i.e. the classic “To design an app that would be the Uber or AirBnB for X.” I also recommend keeping the idea separate from work related to your business, otherwise, I recommend you pay the designer for their time giving you ideas and possible solutions.)
  2. Tell them who your target market would be (i.e. Busy mom who needs to cook dinner, but has no time to go to the grocery store.)
  3. This is where you ask the designer to walk you through their process.
  4. What I would look for is:
  • More questions to you about your key measure of success, revenue model, partnerships, etc. Or, if you have an existing product, what metrics do you have and can they have access to your current users.
  • That they would do a Competitive and Comparative Analysis
  • User Research (you can ask what types they would do: Surveys, Interviews, Contextual Inquiry)
  • Persona
  • User flows
  • hand sketching
  • wireframes (low — mid fi)
  • user testing
  • iterations
  • then hand off annotated wires to UI and dev (more senior designers will know how to sync up with developers in a more agile (less waterfall) way.
In this image: Kelsey Klemme

If you have the opportunity to have the designers come in and do what we call a “whiteboarding challenge”, I highly recommend it!!!! You can see what their process is and have them show you with the sample app or product idea. Ask them to think out loud as they work through the challenge. You’ll be able to see how they think and communicate. You’ll also get a sense of personality and communication skills.

I would have them go through all of the first steps, and get up to 1 or 2 hand sketches of the key screens in the app. I would look to see how much they start writing down from the very start (i.e. Your key measures of success and goals; who is your target audience and draw up quick details for a persona; scenario, user flows, and then sketch 1 or 2 screens.)

The whiteboarding challenge should take about 30–45 min max.

I sincerely hope this is helpful to those looking to hire UX Designers.

— Huge “Thank you” to Mark Lubow, Co-Founder, FootStream, for letting me post your question and my response in this article!


P.S. I am not a fan of laborious design challenges given to designers to create at home, in a vacuum. Good UX Designers ask a lot of questions.

P.S.S. I am also not a fan of design challenges that are essentially garnishing free work from designers. But this is a topic for another time ;)

Jill DaSilva

Written by

CEO at Digital Karma: digitalkarma.io; Educator + Consultant + Public Speaker for Product Design (UX) and Strategy

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