A Founders Guide to Hiring UX Designers in 2022

Gene Kamenez
Cameron Chapman
Alesya Denga
Crafted by industry experts
Updated on October 14, 2022

Looking to hire the ideal UX designer? Our expertly-crafted guide from UX managers will help you nail the essential steps of the design hiring process.

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Defining your needs is the key to finding the right designer for your team.

As you read this guide, you will learn what type of designer you need and how to find one. We'll educate you on how to screen designers, conduct an effective interview, and onboard new design teammates.

Let's get to it!

Chapter 1

Why your business needs a designer

Some say content is king. Others say product is king. But without good design, your product and content both become the kind of self-proclaimed kings that rule over imaginary kingdoms with no one in sight. In today’s customer-centric digital world, the combination of product, content, and user experience design is the key to climbing the throne of business growth and success.

Assuming that you already have content and product covered, it might be time to focus on the third aspect — UX design — if you haven’t already. If you’re wondering why UX design is so important, these stats might help. According to one study, companies that invested in design were able to outperform those that didn’t by almost 200% on the FTSE 100 Index. The study also reported that for every £100 spent on design, companies were able to amp up their revenue by £225. Drew Hamlin, Senior Director, Product Design at Slack confirms that “Hiring a designer will lead to a return on investment for you and your customers: there’s a straight line between making your product easier and more delightful to use and customer and business success.”

But does this mean every business out there needs a UX designer? More importantly, does it mean that your business needs a UX designer?

Who needs UX designers?

The short answer to this question is that every business that interacts with human beings could benefit from having a UX designer. But, that’s no way to justify bringing on a UX designer to your team, so let’s dive into it in more detail.

A company usually needs to hire a UX designer for one or more of these reasons:

  • When their designs are outdated and are directly affecting their brand image and sales. Government websites, banking portals, and educational websites commonly hire UX designers for this purpose.
  • When their content and product are both great but their sales fail to take off. Companies that are hesitant to invest in design due to a lack of awareness or overconfidence in their product usually end up hiring a UX designer later on down the road.
  • When their offering is design-heavy and necessitates a focus on user experience. For example, e-commerce platforms, SaaS (Software as a Service) providers, travel booking agencies, and the like.

According to Netflix’s Principal Product Design Recruiter Carrie Cardona, any company should hire a designer if they want to create usable products that meet both user and business needs. "It's really all about creating a great experience for users. It should be so good users don't even notice it,” she says.

“If you’re working in a highly saturated product space, hiring a designer, and ultimately a design team, is essential because it will allow you to compete on a world-class level,” adds Drew Hamlin, Senior Director, Product Design at Slack. “While some early startups that are still searching for product-market fit may be able to be scrappy, as products mature, the need for design increases exponentially.”

The logic is pretty simple. Good design inevitably means good business. But in what ways?

How can a UX designer help you?

While UX designers aren’t an overnight solution to all your design problems, they can certainly bring a lot to the table and make sure the user experience is memorable in the long run.

Understand customers and appeal to the right market

A good UX designer will be able to communicate your product’s message to your target audience and ensure that their experience is positive. They do this by combining solid user research with tried and tested design principles.

At the end of the day, users won’t remember the exact visuals or copy on your product, but they will remember how it all came together to make them feel. Does your UX make them feel satisfied and empowered? Or does it make them feel confused and irritated?

Test your ideas before you build them

It is no secret that it is incredibly expensive and time-consuming to build and rebuild a product. User testing before launch is a great way to make sure that the product is tailored perfectly to fulfill your users’ needs. It also helps eliminate any ideas that are not based on data. This way, you’ll be saving a ton of resources and making decisions that you can easily explain to any product stakeholders. Good UX designers are experts at doing this kind of user research and putting into practice their findings.

Build customer trust

Another great advantage of having a UX designer on your team is that they can ensure that your product’s design is consistent in a way that allows users to recognize your brand right off the bat every time they come across your content. Not only does this set your brand apart from others but it also gives you the edge of coming across as trustworthy. “If you want customers to choose your product, hiring a designer is a great way to chart a path toward that goal,” says Drew, “because it’s an investment in delivering an experience that’s better for customers.” It is quite natural that users would be wary of poorly designed websites and apps since they come across as unprofessional.  It is quite natural that users would be wary of poorly designed websites and apps since they come across as unprofessional.

Stand out from the competitors

Chances are that your product isn’t one of its kind, and even if it is, it won’t be for long. Competition already exists or is bound to arise in every field. So, how do you make your product stand out? Among many other ways, making sure your UX is top-notch is a good place to start. After all, people are naturally attracted to things that are attractive and perceive them as better quality than things that aren’t.

Capitalize on trends

Having a professional designer on your team helps keep your product on trend and up-to-date. Many stakeholders tend to offer their opinions on the product design. However, only a designer can ensure that the decisions made based on the best industry standards and not just what’s trendy at the moment. They can also discern when capitalizing on those trends makes solid business sense.

Expand your social media presence

Even if you have a great social media team, you can experience high bounce rates and drop-offs if your product’s UX is not good enough. Having a UX designer will make sure that what users are promised on social media is what they actually get. It will also make sure that your social media efforts actually translate into more business in the form of increased reach, sales, or subscriptions.

Achieve your business goals

It should be evident by now that UX designers do more than just spruce up your product. They ensure that the way your users feel about your product and company is in line with the way you want them to feel. In turn, they allow you to fulfill your business goals while making sure that your users’ needs are not compromised. This balance is essential to a successful business model.

Think of investing in a UX designer as investing in the future of your business — with the right talent, you’ll be able to reap the rewards in heaps.

Chapter 2

How to decide what kind of designer you need

Let's say you've already finished the hiring process and a designer has joined your team. Now, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Why did you hire them?
  • What outcomes do you expect them to accomplish?
  • Do they fit your company's culture?

Unfortunately, one of the most common hiring mistakes is losing sight of your company's goals and values and hiring people who don't have relevant expertise, experience, or what it takes to be a good fit for your team. The financial costs of hiring the wrong candidate are tremendous, not to mention the time and effort that go to waste.

How can hiring professionals and CEOs prevent such hiring failures and find the best design candidate without a fuss?

Assess your company's needs

Consider the question of why your company needs a designer in the first place. Sometimes, teams see that every company has a dedicated designer on their team and decide without due research that their product also needs one. While the vast majority of products will eventually benefit from a dedicated designer, not every company needs to hire a full-time, in-house designer right away.

Drew Hamlin, Senior Director, Product Design at Slack compares the design stages of a product with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. When basic needs for food, water, and shelter are satisfied, people can build friendship, health, achievement, self-esteem, and desire to become a better version of themselves on top of this core.

We might look at the design process as a pyramid too. “The core of this pyramid is the product's ability to solve a problem. Then, as a product gets mature, it goes up the ladder,” Drew says.

When should you start thinking more seriously about your first design hire?

  • When your team has a lack of design expertise that prevents your business from getting to the market or engaging with the audience.
  • When aesthetic, user-friendly, and functional designs will give you a competitive advantage over other products with poorly designed interfaces.

Different types of designers carry out different roles — they may work on the user experience, evaluate usability, conduct user research, or take care of the visual parts of your product. To understand what type of designer you should hire, you should first assess your company's needs. Does your team require a specialist for a one-time task? An in-house designer available full-time? Or maybe you need to hire several people for multiple roles?

Assess the design team's performance to identify the most time-consuming tasks or tasks that no one seems to complete correctly. For example, you might realize that you don't know your users well, and the product lacks data about users' needs. Or you might have received feedback that your interfaces aren't appealing or are confusing to users. Depending on your problems, you can decide what design specialist will help you most.

Determine the type of designer you need

Think of your new designer as a solution to a specific problem. Knowing what gaps you have will help you define the type of designer and what skills they should have to solve these problems.

UX Designers

UX designers are responsible for establishing a positive interaction between users and the interface. They also aim to make products efficient, delightful, and accessible to everyone. UX designers advocate for users' needs and balance them with their company's business goals. Their responsibilities include:

  • Applying the findings of user research,
  • Creating user personas,
  • Outlining the information architecture,
  • Designing user flows, wireframes, and prototypes,
  • Conducting usability testing and other user-focused tasks.

UI Designers

Some professionals underestimate UI designers, assuming they're only responsible for the visual aesthetics of a website or an application. In reality, UI designers also keep user experience in mind and are primarily focused on implementing designs that meet UX needs. They're highly knowledgeable of design principles and theories of composition, color, and typography and use their mastery to create aesthetically pleasing designs.

Product Designers

Product designers are high-level product managers of the design process. Like UX designers, they ensure the product's user experience meets the needs and expectations of end-users. However, they're also responsible for collaboration between departments, making sure teams meet deadlines, solve problems at various levels, and lead multiple UX and UI activities to ensure that the final product is consistent, user-friendly, and functional.

Visual Designers

Visual designers (also sometimes called "graphic designers") create eye-catching, sleek designs and deal with typefaces, colors, imagery, and other visual elements to properly represent a product.

UX Researchers

UX researchers do all of the fieldwork related to providing a great user experience. They plan and organize user testing and surveys, moderate user interviews, and analyze and articulate user data.

It’s common for many designers to possess diverse UX skills and some can combine the duties of a UX researcher and UI/UX designer, for example. This type of designer is called a generalist. “Generalists are a great choice for companies that are just starting out in their journey with design,” Drew says. At first sight, generalists may seem perfect as they have proficiency in multiple disciplines. However, be cautious when hiring generalists as they may lack the required level of expertise to solve your more complex design challenges.

Conversely, design specialists have deep domain expertise and are more likely to produce best-in-class work.

Decide what skills you’re looking for

When you know the outcomes you want a designer to accomplish, you can specify the desired skills and competencies. For example, if you want a new hire to investigate the needs of your target audience, you should look for qualitative and quantitative research skills in addition to strong communication skills. Critical competencies for a UX designer role may also include attention to detail, integrity, proactivity, persistence, creativity, and openness to criticism.

Collaboration form and budget

Financial constraints may require you to adjust your expectations about the type of designer you can afford for your needs. However, keep in mind that you cannot hire a design professional with little experience or a new graduate and expect them to work as efficiently as senior designers.

Freelancers

Freelancers are the best fit for small and specific tasks and might charge you from $10 to $100 per hour or more, depending on experience and location. Unfortunately, freelancers usually work on multiple projects and won't always be available to reply to your messages instantly. Plus, sometimes, the quality of designs might suffer.

In-house designers

In-house designers represent the most expensive group. The average salary across 102 countries is $54,588, with the highest average of $102,614 in Switzerland. However, having an in-house designer means having a full-time high-end specialist with skills tailored to your product needs. Ideally, they're dedicated to your project alone and become experts of your brand and style.

“Having in-house designers increase your chances on the market, but it's also perhaps a luxury, or at least a goal you may need to work toward over time,” says Drew. He compares having your own team of designers and working with agencies/freelancers with owning your own house and renting one. The benefits are great, but it'll cost you more.

Design agencies

Netflix’s Principal Product Design Recruiter Carrie Cardona shares that design agencies are a safe bet for small companies and startups. They have experience working with various industries and offer various design services, including research and analysis. One of the most significant pros of engaging with agencies is having a complete design and operations team at your disposal (so-called "DesignOps"). Additionally, agencies that care about their reputation deliver high-quality work, conduct in-depth design processes, and maintain tight deadlines.

On the flip side, agencies will cost you more than hiring a freelancer, as many of them charge by the hour for any activity (e.g., a phone call) associated with the work.

Sadly, there's no one-fit-all solution when hiring a designer. You should estimate your budget, communicate with your team, understand the core objectives of hiring a new team member, and consider many other aspects (like the level of expertise, skills, and competencies) vital for your team and your business.

💡Be specific when defining the goals, needs, and deal-breakers when hiring a designer. You're more likely to find a candidate perfect for your company if you know what gaps you need to fill and what qualities and skills you're looking for.

Chapter 3

Where to find your ideal designer

You know the kind of designer you want and the kind of role you want them to perform on your team, so what’s next? Recruitment! But before you think of recruiting, define all the details of the role in the form of a thorough job description to ensure that you and the job applicants are on the same page.

A good job description acts as a vetting agent that only brings you candidates who fulfill your requirements. It also informs applicants of what your company can offer them in terms of scope of work, growth, and remuneration — making sure that their time or effort isn’t wasted.

How to write a job description that attracts the right talent

You may wonder if having a job description is optional while recruiting. The answer is absolutely not. Irrespective of the medium of recruitment, have a job description in hand to provide to any interested candidates. It is one of the best ways to attract talent. So the next question is, how do you write a great job description that attracts the kind of talent you’re looking for?

Describe the company

Start by describing your company — what you do, who you serve, what are the products and services you offer, and what your vision is as a team. It might also be a good idea to briefly describe your company culture. Are you a fast-paced organization with an emphasis on deadlines and results? Or are you a laid-back team that focuses on quality of output and work-life balance? Neither approach is wrong per se, but each person thrives differently under different environments, and letting them know what they can expect when working with you can help them make an informed decision.

Decide on a title and describe the job

The next natural step in the job description is to indicate the job title with a clear focus on the seniority level. Are you looking for a Junior UX Designer or a Senior UX Designer? Once you’ve coined the title, go on to describe what their day-to-day would look like in your company. What are the tasks they would have to perform? Who are the team members they would work with, and who would they report to? This step will further reduce the pool of prospective candidates and only attract those that match your expectations.

💡Pay attention to the tone of your UX job description since it often serves as the first impression of your company culture to prospective candidates. Make sure that your tone is reflective of your brand identity.

List your requirements and nice-to-haves

Once you’ve got the basics covered, get into the nitty-gritty of things. First, explain what your non-negotiable requirements are. "Some companies require a specific degree for a design position. Of course, minimum qualification is required, but we'd like to see a candidate's skills," shares Carrie Cardona, Principal Product Design Recruiter at Netflix.

The qualifying criteria for candidates can be tailored according to your needs and include:

You can also mention a few negotiables or nice-to-haves. For instance, if you think that it would be convenient if candidates are located in your time zone when working remotely, but it isn’t mandatory, go ahead and mention it.

💡More often than not, it might be impossible to find design candidates who match every criteria. Be flexible in your approach and consider hiring promising candidates opportunistically. If they, for example, match 6-7 out of the 10 skills you’re looking for, consider if the remaining skills can be learned on the job.

Tell them how to apply and the deadlines

You could follow all the steps above and still not get the right candidates for your job if you skip the final step of letting them know how to apply. You could invite them to click on the apply button on a job listing, send an email to your HR representative, or follow a link to an application form. Also, don’t forget to clearly mention the application deadline, if there is one.

Here’s an example of a great job description that leaves no detail to question.

Where to find designers

Once you have your job description ready, decide on where you’ll carry out your recruitment. This decision depends on factors such as your recruitment budget, the type of candidates you’re looking for (freelancers or in-house specialists), and your recruitment deadlines.

The places to look for designers include:

Job listings and active recruiting

UX Job lists on apps such as Uxcel Job Board, Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Monster, Work in Startups, AngelList, etc., are a good way to start posting jobs to attract full-time, in-house designers. These platforms are widely popular among job-seekers, so posting on such platforms tends to attract a large pool of applicants.

You can also carry out active research and recruit candidates on apps like LinkedIn by reviewing their profiles and contacting them with a proposition directly if they seem like a good fit.

Freelancing gig platforms

If you are looking for freelance designers to work with on a part-time, ad-hoc basis as and when design needs arise for your team, gig platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, and DesignCrowd are your best bet. Here, you’ll be able to find freelance designers, interact with them, review their work, and place orders with them. Payment is usually made upon delivery and there is usually room for iterations and dispute resolution.

💡Your part-time freelancer can easily be brought on to your team full-time if you find yourselves to be a good fit.

Portfolio websites

The existence of portfolio websites like Behance and Dribbble has made finding designers easier than ever. All you have to do is sign up on these websites and wade through portfolios until you find the one that impresses you. You’ll be able to find both freelancers and designers looking to join you full-time through these portals.

💡When contacting designers through gig platforms or freelance websites, first send them a preliminary message introducing yourself, your company, and why you’re reaching out to them. Based on their response, you can continue to carry out the conversation over messaging or schedule a meeting to go over the details.

Social media ads and groups

Use the power of social media to your advantage and let the world know that you’re hiring — it has the highest chance of reaching the right talent if done correctly. Most job listing portals allow you to share your post on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. You can also go one step further and create exclusive ads to run on these platforms.

Uxcel Job Board

Make use of Uxcel’s Job Board with a pool of more than 140,000 designers  — many of whom have completed assessments, hold skill badges, and have verified designer status. These tools are tailored to assess relevant design topics so that you can find candidates who possess the skill sets that are most important to you. You also have the added benefit of only getting a pool of 100% verified candidates that are carefully vetted by the Uxcel experts, speeding up your recruitment process and helping you find the right candidate in no time.

Check out our blog on the 10 Best Job Boards for UX Designers for more insights. Of course, in addition to these platforms, there are more traditional methods of word-of-mouth referrals and recruitment agencies. It is up to you to weigh the pros and cons of each and choose the one that best fits your current needs.

💡If you come across an interesting design candidate but are unable to hire them for whatever reason at the moment, keep their information on file with their consent. If a new role opens up, you’ll have saved yourself the effort of starting the recruitment process all over again.

Chapter 4

How to screen candidates before the interview

Finding a designer who’s perfect for your company is not hard if you've created a plan and stick to it. Let's say you've done your homework — you've listed job requirements, the desired outcomes, and qualifications you're looking for, and are ready to sift through a pool of candidates. What comes next?

Once you receive the applications or find the applicants yourself, it's time to start screening candidates and decide who passes and who isn't suitable for the role at hand.

What is screening and why you should do it

Screening is the process of analyzing a candidate's CV and portfolio to find out if they fit the open position and the company.

It's an essential step in the hiring process where you learn more about candidates, assess their CVs and portfolios, and sort the wheat from the chaff. In other words, screening helps quickly eliminate inappropriate candidates for the job position and move forward with the search.

Drew Hamlin, Senior Director, Product Design at Slack recommends defining a clear set of criteria for a position, like visual design, interaction design, communication skills, technical skills, etc., before the screening. It'll prevent you from bias and help you stick to your plan.

Analyze portfolios

A good portfolio presents the right selection of the best projects a designer has worked on. It doesn't have to include all projects unless it's a junior position. Depending on the role, you can pay attention to different qualifications.

Carrie Cardona, a Principal Product Design Recruiter at Netflix, believes a portfolio is the most crucial part of evaluating a designer's skills. A portfolio demonstrates whether a candidate knows how to tell a story and narrate how and why they made certain design decisions.

Hiring managers expect a candidate to demonstrate how they contributed to a project and hear about their challenges and what a candidate learned from this experience.

If you hire a UX designer, see if the portfolio:

  • Describes a UX problem a project solves
  • Contains UX research findings, analytics, or other relevant user-centric data
  • Includes steps of the design process like ideation, research, analysis, validation, and design
  • Shows if the problem was solved and what they learned from it

Hiring a UI designer requires a portfolio that:

  • Is consistent and uses the same typefaces, colors, icons, copy, and other visual elements throughout the interface
  • Is tasteful and reflects brand identity
  • Demonstrates usable, functional, and appealing interfaces that solve users' problems
  • Uses real content — interfaces with dummy text look unprofessional
  • Is easy to read — high readability indicates a candidate's understanding of visual hierarchy and white space

Analyze CVs

CV evaluation can be tricky. After all, most job seekers know how to polish their CV, hide the low points, and make it look more professional and appealing to recruiters. Hiring managers get tired of black & white resumes. “A candidate’s resume is a chance to show a designer's personality and make it fun and simple,” says Cardona.

Prioritize the most critical skills for the position

You'll waste your time finding a candidate whose CV meets all requirements. Instead, determine the most important qualifications and focus on them while reviewing a candidate’s CVs.

Pay attention to responsibilities in past jobs

Responsibilities relevant to your job description may signal a good potential candidate. However, stay aware that some candidates may deliberately adjust their CVs to meet your role needs.

No prior experience is not the end of the world

When hiring a junior designer, don't give up on candidates with no work experience. Check if they attach links or files with their graduate, volunteer, or hackathon projects that illustrate their qualifications. If they don't, these candidates might not be interested enough in the job.

A prestigious university isn’t a silver bullet

Drew points out that many hiring managers give too much weight to the university a candidate attended. A prestigious university doesn't guarantee a candidate's excellent performance, and you can simply miss talented candidates who didn't go to a prestigious school. “Hire for skills, experience, diversity, and potential,” Drew recommends, “not just because of an association you recognize.”

CV formatting matters

If a designer's CV lacks breathing space, is too long, and hard to read, it's a good sign the person isn't cut out for this position.

Assess if a candidate keeps up with design trends

The last section of a CV usually includes additional information about conferences, workshops, or other field activities a designer has participated in recently. It demonstrates a passion for working in design and an ability to learn continuously and keep up with the latest trends.

💡In Carrie’s opinion, good resumes include information about a candidate's involvement in design communities like AIGA. It tells a lot about a designer's passion for working in the design industry and becoming a professional.

Diversity

According to a Forbes study, companies that promote a diverse and inclusive culture get more ideas and foster innovation and business growth. Plus, by forging diversity and inclusion policies, you can engage and hire more top-talented people regardless of their backgrounds, ages, genders, religions, sexual orientations, and other characteristics unrelated to job performance.

Avoid biases in the early stages of hiring new people and focus on evaluating their skills, competencies, and potential that make them perfect candidates for a job.

What techniques might help?

  • Stick to rigid procedures that apply to all job applicants and eliminate favoring particular candidates.
  • Assess CVs blindly blocking out information that indicates age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, or other demographic information.
  • Involve diverse people to evaluate CVs and portfolios.
  • Establish clear, objective criteria that don't adjust to candidates and evaluate skills and competencies fairly.
  • Use neutral language in job descriptions and beware of words that might intimidate older candidates, women, LGBTQ people, and people of different religions. You can use online tools like Textio or Gender Decoder to spot gender biases in your job description or other hiring materials.

Ask promising designers to take skill tests

It might happen you have selected a few candidates to move forward with but still doubt some of their skills or just want to pick the best ones. UX assessment tests are a perfect tool for assessing practical and theoretical knowledge of a certain discipline, analytical skills, and the ability to handle stress.

From Color to Accessibility to UX writing to Design Principles, Uxcel offers a wide range of UX skill tests to verify design candidates. They’re a quick way to assess skills, taking a maximum of 20 minutes to complete. You can simply send a candidate a link to a test and see if they measure up to your job requirements.

Invite shortlisted candidates to the interview

Once you narrow down a pool of verified designers that you might consider moving forward with, it's time to invite them to the interview.

Send them an email and a link to a calendar where candidates can select a suitable interview date and time. It's especially helpful if you're interviewing a handful of designers.

💡Notify candidates who didn't pass the screening by sending them an email. It creates a good impression of the company's attitude toward hiring. You never know when you might re-encounter those people, so it's better to part on good terms.

UX screening isn't easy, as it usually involves many rejections and trains hiring managers to stay neutral and learn how to say "No." However, screening saves time and helps find candidates who might become your next hire and boost your business to the next level.

Chapter 5

How to conduct an interview to choose the best designer

Interviewing a candidate is a stressful experience for both sides. Like an interviewee, a hiring manager or anyone else responsible for interviewing personnel might worry about saying something wrong and losing a talented designer.

Planning an interview helps minimize stress and overthinking. Furthermore, a well-organized interview fulfills two goals:

  • You feel prepared to properly assess a candidate's skills and values.
  • It makes candidates trust your company and its manner of running a business.

Before the interview

Define your needs

It might be hard to evaluate a candidate if you don't know what qualities and skills you're looking for. Spend some time documenting your expectations and use this list for assessing candidates during the interview.

Suppose you're looking for a UX designer. A successful candidate should know how to facilitate quantitative and qualitative research, have excellent communication and analytical skills, and be proactive, flexible, and open to criticism.

You might also look for:

  • Familiarity with UX design tools such as user flows, user journey maps, wireframes, or user personas.
  • Mastery of design software like Figma, Sketch, or Adobe products, and prototyping tools like InVision or Framer.
  • Knowledge of user research methods, metrics, basic principles of user psychology, and design thinking methodology.

Review a candidate's CV

You should walk into the interview knowing all the relevant details about a candidate's background, places they've worked, skills, competencies, and other essential information. It will help you shape your interview and ask the right questions. Plus, it demonstrates respect for the candidate and proves your company takes hiring seriously.

Know your role

Quite often, a few interviewers participate in the interview. For example, it could be a hiring manager, design lead, and CEO. It's essential you know your role and what questions you're supposed to ask. Two (or even three) heads are better than one, and you can be confident that all points are covered and no question is overlooked.

During the interview

Establish a strong rapport with the candidate

Although job interviews more often occur online today, it doesn't mean candidates would feel less nervous. To help them relax, start with small talk and allow them to take a few minutes to settle into the call and make sure they’re feeling comfortable. It can help calm their nerves and puts them at ease.

“We always try to create a welcoming, stress-free environment,” says Drew Hamlin, Senior Director, Product Design at Slack. “An interview should aspire to resemble real work, which is rather a day-to-day marathon than a sprint.”

Introduce the interviewers and cover the interview's agenda

In the beginning, an interviewer should say a few words about their job position at the company, define any other essential information about the company or the role, and set the interview agenda.

💡Make sure to leave 5-10 minutes at the end of the interview for answering the candidate's questions.

Ask questions about a candidate

Use open-ended questions to get greater insight into the candidate's past experience, personality, and ability to solve problems and handle critical feedback.

Open-ended design interview questions and phrases starting with "what," "who," "tell me more," "can you give me an example of…," "what makes you feel that way," "what do you mean by saying that…" invite candidates to be more reflective and conversational.

"Tell me about your work" is the question that helps recruiters to evaluate a candidate’s design process. "We ask designers to paint their designs verbally and conduct self-reflecting on their challenges," says Carrie Cardona, Principal Product Design Recruiter at Netflix.

"Rather than asking people what they will do in hypothetical situations, we prefer to create an environment where they can reflect on their past experiences, how they solved problems and overcame challenges, and what they learned from them," shares Drew.

Take note of a candidate's posture, tone of voice, and language. Observe whether they can hold eye contact and if they are relaxed or fidgety. It may give you signs on how to lead the conversation and receive helpful answers.

Adrian Pittman, a Product Design Director at LinkedIn, shares the perfect formula he uses to evaluate designers. It consists of three components:

  • Polish — the ability to deliver finished, speckless designs.
  • Scope — a designer’s experience of taking a project end-to-end and knowledge of all design process stages.
  • Collaborativeness — a candidate’s ability to collaborate with other departments to deliver a top-notch product.
💡Avoid asking questions about a candidate's age, sex, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, genetics, or disabilities. It's also inappropriate to ask about their current compensation.

Carrie stresses the need to evaluate a candidate's ability to balance user needs, creativity, and business needs.

“You can ask a candidate questions like, ‘How can you as a designer influence business? How do you imagine a collaboration with other departments?’ Your goal is to find out whether a designer knows how to collaborate with project managers, stakeholders, and developers and understands the value of looking at a problem from different angles,” says Carrie Cardona.

Evaluate their portfolio

The main goal of design portfolio evaluation is to find out if there's something more behind beautiful layouts. It lets you assess if a designer can:

  • Tell a story behind each case,
  • Explain what led them to a solution,
  • Conduct proper user research,
  • Clarify how research findings influence the design,
  • Describe challenges they've encountered.

The way candidates speak about their portfolio can give you an understanding of their presentation and communication skills. "It's not a good sign if a designer insists only on one possible solution. There's never a single solution," points out Drew Hamlin. Look for designers who are open to discussion and willing to examine a problem from the perspective of developers, project managers, or marketing professionals.

💡Take notes during an interview with paper and pen. Firstly, it shows respect for a candidate. Secondly, using a laptop may break eye contact and distract everyone with incoming notifications.

Conduct a cultural fit test

The purpose of a cultural fit test is to reveal if a candidate's values, beliefs, and behavior fit in with your company's culture. Keep in mind that you don't have to hire your clone or your new best friend. It’s perfectly okay for a new designer to have the same cultural values but to also take a different work approach and bring new challenges to your team.

"We call it not a culture fit test, but a culture add test," says Carrie. “We care about what a candidate can bring to a company and how a company can help a candidate grow.”

Likewise, Drew Hamlin supports the idea of a culture add test. “Our product serves the needs of customers with different backgrounds, religions, genders, races, etc. We need to work to make sure that our team is as diverse as our customers.”

Possible questions in a culture add test could be:

  • Describe the work environment or culture where you would feel the most productive and happy.
  • Describe the management style that will motivate you to work harder and go the extra mile.
  • Do you prefer working alone or as part of a team?
  • How would your past coworkers describe your working style and contributions to the team?
  • How do you feel about making friends with coworkers? Have you had best friends at your previous jobs?

Ask a candidate to do a test assignment

Sometimes, employers ask candidates to complete a test assignment and discuss it during the interview. We recommend thinking twice before giving a test assignment to a candidate with 5+ years of experience. Designers who already have enough experience under their belt spend a lot of time and effort building their portfolios. So, not all designers would agree to spend more time and effort on a test (especially one they aren’t being paid for).

However, homework design assignments certainly make sense for assessing junior talents who don't have enough projects in their portfolio. In this case, a test assignment can help reveal their skills and qualifications.

Keep the task limited in scope and time and focus on checking creative thinking rather than technical skills only.

"I'm not a big fan of home assignments. At our company, we prefer conducting live design sessions that are more interactive and demonstrate how a candidate can tackle a problem," says Carrie.

The live design session features a small group of relevant teammates who are invited to join in to simulate a real team discussion with a candidate. The candidate's goal is to find a solution for a design problem and demonstrate their ability to consider various points of view.

💡Make sure to provide clear instructions for the test assignment like the deadline, the required format of the submission document, and other important information you want them to keep in mind before they begin.

After the interview

Write your feedback about the candidate while it's still fresh and as soon as the interview is finished. Even if your gut tells you that the ideal candidate has been found, avoid discussing this impression with other interviewers until the debrief.

If you feel inspired to find a designer with an ideal skill set that perfectly matches your job description, you might be surprised to hear that it's not the best approach. Instead, you should look for the RIGHT candidate for your company and team. Otherwise, you might overlook a creative and talented person just because they don't know how to operate all types of design software or aren't familiar with all user research methods.

Learning a tool is not rocket science, but it can be much more challenging to find someone who gets along with teammates, learns from their mistakes, is eager to learn, adjusts quickly, and takes initiative with their work.

Chapter 6

How to make an offer and onboard a designer

You've screened, interviewed, and tested your potential candidates, and now you've selected the best fit. What’s next? It's time to make a job offer and introduce the new team member to your company's workflow.

Extend an offer

Netflix’s Principal Product Design Recruiter, Carrie Cardona, says that most companies conduct hiring 100% remotely these days, using a blend of video meetings and online tools. This includes extending job offers online. The offer can be attached as a PDF or simply contain all the information in the email body.

Start the offer by congratulating the candidate on having been selected. A job offer usually includes the following information:

  • Job details
  • Contingencies (if applicable)
  • Starting date of employment
  • Compensation and benefits
  • Deadline by which the candidate needs to either accept or reject the offer
  • Your contact details
  • Any other relevant information

Don't worry if the candidate doesn't accept the offer right away. Highly qualified specialists might have several offers on the table and will need time to consider their options. Give them 3-5 days to reply. Be generous if they ask to extend the deadline but don't do it to your company's detriment.

Negotiations

Salary negotiations happen either before or after the offer extension, depending on the company policy.

Some companies prefer to conduct a pre-offer meeting to ensure that the candidate is interested in the job, see if they have other offers, and understand if the company can meet their salary expectations.

Other companies offer a follow-up meeting after the candidate accepts the job offer, where more details can be ironed out. At this stage, the candidate can still try to negotiate their salary before signing any papers.

As an employer, avoid lowballing your future employees. Check out the industry rates for the position you are hiring for and make an offer accordingly. If you try to pay as little as possible, some candidates will reject the offer without attempting to negotiate. Others might accept, but only to get some experience with your company and leave shortly for your competitors.

If you are interviewing a great candidate and want to make sure they choose your company, consider offering them more than the median. Also, leave some room for negotiations if the candidate wants to bargain.

Notify other candidates

Once your chosen candidate has accepted your offer, notify the other candidates that the position has been filled. Avoid doing so before your selected candidate takes the offer, as they may still reject it.

Thank other candidates for their time and efforts, and keep them in mind for future job openings. Optionally, you can give them feedback on the skills that you think they are lacking but make sure to do it in a friendly and respectful manner. Overall, keep the lines of communication open in case your first choice doesn't work out.

Onboard the new designer

A new team member’s onboarding is similar to product onboarding. Its goal is to explain what the team does and the new member's role. A clear onboarding leads to a better-performing team member.

Remember that just like a candidate needs to make an excellent first impression on a potential employer, the opposite is also true. A new team member is more likely to stay if they feel that the company cares for them and wants them to succeed. In 2013, the Aberdeen Group did a study on onboarding. It revealed that 86% of respondents felt that a new hire’s decision to stay with a company long-term was made within the first six months of employment.

Onboarding widely differs from company to company, but here are some topics you need to familiarize the new hire with:

The company

Its size, office locations, departments, the company values and culture, working hours, privacy and security policy, and basic HR information. For onsite positions, an office tour is an important part of the onboarding.

The people they need to know

Explain the role of the people the new design team member will need to interact with. For example, who to ask for sick leave and who to turn to for fixing computer problems. Normally, a new designer should meet the:

  • Office manager
  • HR manager
  • Project manager
  • Product owner
  • QA engineers
  • Developers
  • Design team members
  • IT department members

The workflow and the tools the team uses

The new team member must understand the work process, how the team communicates, what programs they use, what team ceremonies they need to participate in (daily meetings, retrospectives), the work process between the design team and the product managers, and others workflow-related details. As well as how does the team approaches continuous UX/UI training.

Explain each step of the design process, detailing both the what and the why. Ideally, have your new teammate shadow an existing designer as they go through the process on a real task. Junior positions may require a more qualified and experienced designer to train the new hire for a period of time.

The product

The new team member needs to understand how many products the company has, what each product is, who its users are, how the design system works, how often the updates are released, and similar details.

Onboarding tips

Give your new teammate some quick wins

Give your teammate the tools to start contributing quickly so they feel like a valuable team member — these can be small design tasks that they can help with right away. If they get stuck, walk them through the team's design process and explain it more.

Alleviate information overload

In today's fast-paced work environments, new employees often overestimate how quickly they're actually expected to get up to speed. Pace the amount of information the new hire is exposed to.

Create an individualised onboarding plan and spread out the sessions over a few weeks. This is especially important if onboarding is done online, as overbooking a new team member can cause screen fatigue.

Help establish connections online

When running an online onboarding, it's crucial to help the new team member establish connections with the team. Here are some ideas you can implement when onboarding a new person online:

  • Introduce them on Slack or another messenger that your company uses.
  • Schedule a meeting with the manager and the design team to welcome the new member.
  • When designing the onboarding plan, mix serious talk sessions with virtual coffee meetings. “Remote work is a challenge because it doesn’t have the opportunity for hallway conversations. So we have to rediscover new ways to work productively in this new world, and with a focus on what works best for employees,” says Drew Hamlin, Senior Director, Product Design at Slack. “Companies should make sure to create time and space for employees to be themselves and  be able to socialize.” Doing so helps the new designer get to know the team less formally.

Build rapport and encourage them to ask questions

Encourage the new designer to ask questions, as it's crucial when learning how to work in a new environment. When introducing the team, explain to whom the new designer can address specific questions. For example, workflow questions can be directed to the senior designer and office-related questions to the HR manager.

On your part, get to know them better: ask questions about their life, where they come from, and what they like to do. This will help you create more effective relationships and support the new team member better.