Our hiring process for the design team at Auctane
Interviewing as a design candidate can be a difficult, frustrating process. Often, it’s because the hiring process isn’t always thought of as something that is deserving of a company’s time, empathy and thoughtfulness. A careless process is opaque, unfair, uncommunicative and dehumanizing. I know — I’ve been a candidate in poorly designed hiring experiences, and I’ve been a part of creating hiring processes that probably didn’t feel great for the people on the other side.
At Auctane (the parent company of ShipStation, ShippingEasy, ShipWorks and ShipEngine), I’m proud of the work we’ve done to curate our hiring process. I know it’s not perfect — but I can see via candidate feedback that it’s miles ahead of where we started.
For designers who are thinking about interviewing with our company, I wanted to provide a window into our process, and the philosophy that girds the systems we’ve created to hire the best talent.
A step-by-step breakdown of our hiring process for the design team
1. 30 min phone screen
We might exchange messages over LinkedIn (I send a pretty good cold email) or you might submit an application through our candidate portal. If your resume matches our experience requirements and your portfolio passes a quick scan, we’ll set up a phone screen. This is a 30-minute conversation where we look to do a few things
- Learn about your career
- Hear about your approach to design and teamwork
- Tell you about the company
- Tell you about the role and career ladder for designers
- Let you ask questions
2. 60 min portfolio review
This is one of my favorite parts of the interview process. I get to sit down with candidates for 60 minutes and have them walk me through a case study of work they’ve completed in the last year or two. I get to ask them why they made various decisions, what the results of their decisions were, what the impact of the project was. I ask about the make up of the team and how they interacted with various stakeholders. I summarize it like this:
- Outputs — what did you make?
- Outcomes – what was the impact of your work?
- Sense making – how do you handle a problem with ambiguity?
- Presentation – in so many ways confidence and presentation shows your level of experience and seniority
I always share my method of evaluating a candidates’ presentation before our meeting. It’s based in part on the book Org Design for Design Orgs. In adapting this template, I was worried that it would be overwhelming. Candidates tell me that they appreciate the thoroughness of the evaluation document, that it helps them prepare for our conversation.
3. Meet with the other members of the product and design team
If a candidate does well on the portfolio review, I set up meetings with a member of the product management, design and engineering teams. This is a 3x 30 minute interviews with 1–2 people. I give each interviewer a suggested interview format, but I leave this part of the interview open. Hiring is difficult — I want other voices to help me triangulate the things I heard and saw, to make sure I’m not missing something. At this stage we form a hiring committee, and from this point on a candidate’s progression is up to a vote from the team. A candidate moves on to the next step when they have unanimous approval from the team.
4. Last round
The last part of our interview consists of a 2-hour block–the first hour is a whiteboarding exercise. I know these are controversial. We don’t use examples from our own industry, and in point of fact there is no right answer — we’ve done this exercise lots of times, and we have assumptions about the ‘right’ answer, but there’s no way for us to go and test them. We’re really looking for how a candidate takes feedback, adjusts to limitations, and how they use design process to understand a problem and create solutions.
The second hour is a portfolio presentation to a wider group of stakeholders. This allows us to invite more people into the room so they can ask questions and meet the person we may be considering to hire.
After that we decide whether or not to make an offer.
What happens if we decide to discontinue the interview process?
When I was first learning to hire, having to say no to so many people was a painful part of this process. I framed it to myself that I was having to turn people down. This was before I understood the value of giving people feedback during the interview process, even when that feedback was that we weren’t going to continue.
Hiring and Careers at Auctane
If you are offered a position at Auctane, the chart below will help you get a sense of expectations around each role. It also shows skills at each level as you look to grow in seniority.
What if we don’t continue the interview process?
This can happen for lots of reasons. Sometimes we’ve already found a good fit for the role. Sometimes the fit of your skills to the open role isn’t right. We do our best to over-communicate during the process. I’m especially proud that we give candidates feedback about their interview. If we decide to stop the process, we let candidates know why this happened. In my years and years of interviewing for design jobs, I’ve never gotten good feedback about why I wasn’t a good fit for the role. Candidates invest lots of time and energy into interviewing, I want to be able to provide them value for the time spent.
We express our team and company values through our hiring process
We attempt to take a curious, transparent, and fair approach to hiring.
- At the moment, all hiring activity is done by the designers themselves
- We take an curious approach to interviewing to try and minimize anxiety
- We should be able to clearly articulate the skills required of each role
- Candidates should know how they’re being evaluated at each stage
- Candidates should know where they are in the interview process
- Candidates should get feedback based on their interviews
- Our process is based in part on Org Design for Design Orgs — it is the closest thing I’ve found to a widely-accepted career framework for the design world
Thoughts or comments? Please add them below!