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 decided what type of designer your team needs, 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 design 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.
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 and UX management 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 want to 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
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 UX designers 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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 skills assessment is 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 UX 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" before making an offer. However, screening saves time and helps find candidates who might become your next hire and boost your business to the next level.