Part 3: The latest on hiring design facilitators

Eric Morrow
Aug 21, 2018 · 6 min read

Moving into my sixth month at ConsenSys, I’d like to share some more of what I’ve learned about creating a hiring process for design facilitators.

  1. Back to design facilitation! Spokes to hire full time researchers.
  2. What specifically does a design facilitator do at ConsenSys?
  3. Changes to the interview process. Adding in the rapid fire section as a way to gauge versatility and ability to think on one’s feet.

Design Facilitation as a service

As more people and teams in ConsenSys have become aware of design facilitation and have requested workshops, we’ve been learning more about what Spokes and Circles expect and desire from facilitation and the team. In my first post on hiring design facilitators, I wrote that I thought design facilitators should be able to do at least these four things: 1) Run workshops, 2) Advocate, inspire, reflect, 3) Be client facing, and 4) Teach and model. In my second post on hiring, I wrote about updating my thinking on design facilitators vs design strategists. “A strategist is a design sherpa, actively guiding the team and carrying part of the load.” A strategist will primarily help with — 1) Facilitation, 2) Design research, 3) Design mindset.

As more spokes (ConsenSys startups) hire on product designers with a wide range of skill sets, the thinking and demand has come back around to the beginning. That means more “pure” facilitation from design facilitators, with full time design researchers and product designers embedded on teams. I don’t think spokes will stop asking for facilitators to share their previous product development experience and opinions. However, the strategist and research parts I considered in my second article won’t be the primary focus when interviewing for and hiring facilitators.

Roles and tasks for design facilitators

The facilitation team has been working on defining what a design facilitator does at ConsenSys. The motivation behind creating this sort of rubric is to make it clear to ourselves, new hires, and colleagues at ConsenSys what design facilitation is all about. We were heavily inspired by the design thinking learning journey as discussed at the Design at Business Facilitator Unconference in NYC in 2017.

For our facilitator work specifically, we wanted to zoom in on the space between practitioner and well-versed. Some highlights:

1. Qualitative — we were very interested in hiring people with a specific sort of personality to be part of the facilitation team. Qualities likes humility and a growth mindset play an outsized importance. Also self-motivated, inquisitive learners, who would be outspoken with their opinions and preferences.

2. Design Thinking facilitation at a team level — This is the base skill level we are looking for from “early in their journey” facilitators. It is what Ann F. Novelli and I focused on in our facilitation training at IBM.

3. Managing a pipeline — This is when a facilitator starts taking steps beyond the skills needed to manage the planning, delivery, and follow up from a workshop. There are aspects of understanding research (to maximize the value of workshops,) remote facilitation to work with distributed teams, and helping teams get to a good design thinking pace or rhythm.

4. Facilitation as more than just design thinking — A facilitator at this skill level begins to focus on more than design thinking. Aspects of leadership, writing, and creating a DT/facilitation vision come into play. Taking a greater role on teams and lending your voice beyond an impartial third party or laser focus on design thinking principles. There is also a sense of greater reflection on how facilitation can have a bigger impact on the organization in general and product development in particular.

5. Design Thinking at an organization level — This is when a facilitator starts creating the space for other facilitators to do their work inside of a company. Now there is increased focus on building a hiring process, setting compensation, advocating for design thinking, and standing up the facilitation practice.

We have also spent a lot of energy considering what compensation should look like for a design facilitator, along with several variables. Those include are geography, experience, startup vs enterprise, salary vs equity split, quality and depth of work, pay to not lose good people vs pay enough to get good people, and hiring for experience vs hiring for growth. I believe the topic has enough depth to warrant its own post, which I will link to here once it is written.

Updates to the interview process

Our interview process has slowly rounded into form and has become much less fluid over the past several months. The one major addition has been a rapid fire round of questions that we ask candidates to respond to on instinct. The purpose of this is to see how candidates do “on their feet” or “on the fly.” Much of facilitation is responding to changes in the moment and the rapid fire section allows us to evaluate a facilitator’s skill in this area. All of the questions are drawn from real world ConsenSys scenarios, such as “Spoke team wants to do prioritization” and “Internal Ops asks can you help us define our conflict resolution process.”

Here’s what the interview process looks like from start to finish now:

  1. Applicant applies through our careers website. Having a unique description of the role attracts unique candidates.
  2. They submit their LinkedIn profile and a short video in response to a prompt. We’ve found we can get a much better sense of a candidate from this video than from a cover letter and resume.
  3. The candidate meets with the lead design recruiter for a short conversation about career goals and salary requirements, and to consider cultural fit.
  4. The candidate meets for an hour with a design facilitator to cover three main topics — 1) response to a design prompt, 2) scripted questions, 3) open and transparent Q&A. I wrote about the design prompt in the last post and the scripted questions in this one.
  5. The candidate meets with several ConsenSys employees in the geography where they want to work. ConsenSys isn’t only designers after all! So candidates meet with people in a variety of roles.
  6. The candidate runs a remote workshop so we can assess this facilitation skill that is crucial for a distributed company.

We are very well aware that this is an intensive and time consuming process. We try out best to give candidates immediate and constructive feedback about where they are in the process and if they are going to the next step. My goal is to keep the whole thing to under a month, but we aren’t quite there yet. It is more realistically closer to two months at the moment. We also feel like this process does an excellent job at helping us recruit the best candidates for the role and gives candidates the best sense of what the role will be like.

Thanks for reading!

We’re currently focused on hiring for facilitators in London, Paris, San Francisco, and Dubai (as of August 2018.) Please do get in touch if ConsenSys sounds like a place you would enjoy working.

Eric Morrow

Written by

Director, Design Thinking and Strategy with ConsenSys