Advocating for and Hiring UX Designers, Part 2

Finding and interviewing UX candidates

By Josh Christopher, UX Creative Director at projekt202

In a previous post, I wrote about identifying how many designers your company may need, as well as advocating for those roles. Below you will read my thoughts about attracting and vetting UX design applicants.

Salaries and competition

UX Designers are in huge demand right now. The role in general is expected to have a steady 18% job growth in the next 10 years. I have seen numbers that are closer to 30% growth in the number of UX jobs since 2013. Simply put, it is hard to find talent, and to keep it because demand is high. Plus median salary for a UX Designer is in the $90k range nationally. This leaves a lot of companies unable to compete on salary and add the amount of resources they need.

There is another thing, the average national salary for Web Designers is in the $50k range. This is problematic because most Web Designer or pure visual design portfolios can look very much like that of a UX Designer. This requires that someone familiar with the industry — vet experience, review portfolios, interview, and create/cultivate a culture that allows you to hang onto your talented hires.

One other thing to avoid when trying to attract folks, is exhaustive job descriptions. Unless your company has a high level of UX maturity it is doubtful you will be able to attract designers that are happy and competent at ethnographic research, front-end development, ‘rock star’ design, and communication. My recommendation would be to specialize, or hire a director level designer to scale a team.

Design Interview Challenge
One of the things we do at projekt202 to evaluate UX’ers is we have them do a UX challenge. This is part of our interview process and takes about 30 minutes. It helps us to see how the candidate may think through a hypothetical design problem. Interviewees are made aware of the challenge before coming in, with a message like the following:

We would like to take up to 30 minutes of the interview and have you work out a problem on the whiteboard. For this, there are no wrong answers, the team is mainly interested in seeing how you work through a theoretical UX challenge. We will provide you with everything you need to complete this task and you won’t need to prepare anything in advance.

When they arrive, we typically give a tour of the office, and then we sit down and explain the challenge in greater detail. We give them a handful of prompts like the below, to choose from.

Once the candidate picks a challenge they are interested in, we then give them a lot more ‘research’ on the problem, to help guide them in their solution. For the challenge itself, we draw three columns on a whiteboard, and let them go to town. Below is how we describe what we are looking for in those 30 minutes.

The best solutions to the challenge include a high amount of context into the scenario the participant selects, and tend to be highly visual and well articulated. Again, this isn’t a pass/fail test, it is more an opportunity to observe their process in action.

Portfolio Reviews
After the Design Challenge we typically move on to portfolio review. I review a bunch of portfolios, but the thing folks who aren’t rooted in this industry don’t realize, is that it isn’t difficult to have a good looking portfolio these days. There are a lot of resources out there for folks to download that can be leveraged to demonstrate visual prowess in software design. A few of the things I really try to get a handle on when someone is demonstrating their portfolio are the following:

  1. Can they articulate rationale for business decisions made along the way?
  2. Where was there tension, and how did they compromise?
  3. What was the extent of their involvement in the project?
  4. What did they do to empathize and understand the needs of the end user?
  5. Did it get made, what was that process like?

Remembering it all, and aligning
Lastly, after each interview we do a couple things, we normally have a retro where we discuss the session at length. We also document, in the same way for everyone. Frequently, when I interview it is difficult to remember what I really enjoyed/had reservations about with each candidate. Sometimes the initial interview can happen months before the team makes the decision to extend that person an offer. Having a way to go back and see detailed notes helps immensely.

Please feel free to comment if you disagree with anything written above, I am always eager to hear another perspective. Also don’t forget to hit the 💙 if you enjoyed the article. It lets me know I shouldn’t give up, despite my atrocious spelling and grammar.

Please reach out to me or projekt202 if you are curious about how we might assist you in this process.