What UX recruiters should stop doing?

Smita Dessai
7 min readSep 15, 2022

Many UX Designers start doubting the knowledge or capabilities once they get rejected in an interview and that’s natural. UX as subject is very vast and candidates should not be expected to know every thing in this avalanche of stuff which UX domain has in it (of course considering the role you are hiring for). I think recruiters should “Empathise a bit with candidates also” 😇

I had written an article on how I feel about the design portfolio round and now I will be talking about what happens in an interview after that. Mostly, the next step after portfolio round is submitting a take-home design assessment or taking a live whiteboard challenge.

Please note my thought below will not help you judge the candidate’s nature or behaviour. This article is to only help pick the right candidate based on their UX design test submissions or whiteboard challenges 😇

I will be speaking about some of my experiences with interviews I went through from the year 2021 to start of 2022. However, I am not mentioning the company names due to privacy reasons. 🤫

Interview A — Here the interviewer was looking for the specific answers to the questions being asked. The answers were already in their mind and they were asking probing questions so that the conversation could somehow lead to that answer they are looking for.

Interview B — The recruiter asked very basic questions about the test submitted and the big question asked was why the design thinking method was not used to show the process. It was clear that they lost interest in the candidate the moment they saw some other framework.

Interview C — The whole interview process for this company was a worst experience. “This one was actually among the top product companies”.

  • The first round of portfolio presentation had more than 10 panelists which itself was very strange at the start. Do we really need the whole team to be there when you are interviewing a candidate?
  • Then the test discussion was totally silent from the panelists side and only the candidate was expected to speak. Basically it was not a two way discussion! Don’t know what was the purpose here!
  • Third discussion was then for panelist to talk about the test and candidate was not allowed to answer anything. There were assumptions thrown from recruiter however, candidate was not given chance to explain their thought process. Whatever thought process candidate has needs to be actually spoken in the previous round.

Interview D — In the portfolio presentation round the interviewer lost interest in the work because they wanted to see the case studies of similar domain like their company deals with. We say UX designers should be domain agnostic and while interviewing them they check for specific projects in candidate’s portfolio. Isn’t it ironic? “This one was also with the top product company”. I understand this might be relevant however, we can give them an assessment and judge on that rather rejecting just by seeing the portfolio.

Interview E — The job description was for the UX Researcher and the questions asked were more on the visual design. This interview had gone into a very wrong direction and there was no way for a candidate to argue with getting the right set of panelists.

Interview F— The first round was a technical screening round and all questions were asked based on the theory. For eg. Laws of UX, Heuristic principles, Different design frameworks, Personas, Empathy mapping, etc. None of the questions were related to the background, experience of the candidate, project they worked on, skills they have, tools they know, nothing among this was asked. This was a rejection based on theory knowledge which was expected to be accurately conveyed the way it’s in books.

Interview G — The interviewer here was asking for a design solution which captures most of the private data of the users. For eg. Chats, Location, Messages or Mails. It did not get through because, I mentioned that it is not right approach to use the data without asking user’s consent or there are different ways to capture what we need for our product to function and we should not allow our product to read user’s personal data.

Interview H — The panelists here were more interested in the solution rather than the process candidate used to come up to the solution. They wanted to see an end to end product considering all aspects in short span of time like accessibility, hifi designs, process, innovation, new features, creativity etc. I always thought the important thing to judge in a test round is the thought process/thinking and communication a candidate brings in. Solution is important of course however, expecting all the artifacts from a candidate can be very time consuming.

Consider interview process like a problem statement or a project and think about UX frameworks and methods we use at work to understand about our users

We choose among various frameworks and methods to understand our users, needs and context. Why not do same for designers while we interview them? Having good experience for the candidate in the interview process is very important and interviewers should see their candidates as their “users”.

No matter candidate gets selected or rejected but, the experience of that session should either give good outcomes or they should be able to leave the room with new learnings for growth. The last impression should not be demotivation or feeling of failure.

Let’s look at the some of the frameworks/methods we use while designing and how they are connected with interview process.

  • Diverge and Converge — What does the double diamond approach teach us? Why do we use diverge and converge method? Because, we get many hands and minds involved in solving a problem which offers a diversity of insights. In diverge stage the candidate works independently on the test and comes up with various ideas (which of course might not be completely right). But, in Converge stage when we discuss the solution in a group, we sure can get a sense of understanding which helps us to know if candidate is going in a right direction and what/how do they think. As a recruiter you may have different ideas but the same ideas will never come up with a different set of people. Hence, looking for same answers might not give justice to the candidate’s performance.
  • Design Reviews — What is perception and why we take third eye opinion while designing? Why do we need design reviews? Why not do this while interviewing? We sure fail while we design independently at work hence we have workshops for reviews wherein we get fresh perspectives. Assessing candidate’s test is similar to the design review where it is expected for a person to miss out a bit because of time constraint or lack of real user research etc. Do not pick on visuals if test agenda is to see problem solving skills. Make sure to convey or check the agenda of test. Is it to assess the visual design abilities or UX design abilities? We can decide based on what is expected and what or how much is done by the candidate.
  • Choose right audience — Choosing right recruiters/panelists is same as how choosing right users is important for our research. I need not explain much here because I think it’s self explanatory 🤔. If we have Visual Design specialist for UX Design interview then it might not lead to a good path. The candidate should be assessed by the right set of panelists to get a good hire.
  • Crazy eights — Why do we do crazy eights activity for layouts and wireframing solutions? Are all 8 perfect and right? No! So, if the candidate comes up with ideas which are diverse and closest to the problem statement then I think they are good to go. We can always discuss with them and understand what assumptions they took and how did they reach to the solutions/ideas.
  • How might we’s — We can consider how might we approach when candidate lists down their future steps or future scope at the end of the test. Let’s understand that they have put that section in their test due to time limits and they have thought about the extensive solution for the problem statement. Yes, just mentioning the future scope is not enough, but it is also important that the scope is technically feasible, it matches the needs of the user, it creates value for business etc.

Design frameworks and methods can vary depending on the design problem you are solving. It is not possible to stick to one method for all problems. Sharing some of the interesting articles here which helps us think about how to choose a method to solve the problems. There are many more which exists and we have to also fit this in the company or team structure and culture of work.

I see a complete UX framework getting build for our interview process wherein recruiters will have a process laid out with the “candidate as their users” and “interview as a problem statement” 📜 ✔

Hope you too could relate to these experiences 😊

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Smita Dessai

All the articles written by me are my thoughts of reimagining everything with creating useful products for the users and sharing my experiences in real world :)