design exercises and/or portfolio review during interview

7 Feb 2011 - 4:27pm
3 years ago
47 replies
7750 reads
Amanda Nance
2009

Hi all, Have any of you ever given design problems/exercises to someone interviewing for an Interaction design position? If so, how well did that work, and how did you come up with the design problems? It seems that the design problems cannot require a lot of background about the users or specialized domain knowledge since we have limited time with each candidate.

One person has suggested to me that reviewing a candidate's portfolio would be a better approach. I was thinking a combined approach might be useful. What do you think?

All ideas and experiences welcome!

-Amanda

Comments

7 Feb 2011 - 5:52pm
inge.debleecker...
2009

I personally like to view the portfolio off-line on my own time, rather than during an interview. The interview time is better spend talking with the candidate in my opinion. A simple redesign exercise is a good way to explore the candidate's thought process during design, and it doesn't take long; you can give the candidate 30 minutes or so to come up with some issues/suggestions, followed by 30 minutes to an hour debrief. The main stakeholders can all be present during the debrief and you can make it an interactive Q & A session. Any interface that doesn't require a lot of subject matter expertise (and that shows issues in the major aspects of interaction design) should work.

Good luck,

Inge

 

8 Feb 2011 - 10:07am
blissfulguru
2010

I have been working in this field for several years and have attended many interviews. Sometimes my portfolio is reviewed, sometimes I am asked technical questions, sometimes I am asked to redesign pages or rewrite poorly written code. Since each business has its own unique culture and workflow, I don't mind going through their process to determine if they are a good fit for me and I am a good fit for them.

The interview process allows me to interact with future managers and coworkers in a simulated work situation and assess their personalities and processes. I look forward to design exercises - sometimes they are challenging and exciting. Other times they are so tedious, there is no way I want to work with that project!

Debbie

> >

11 Feb 2011 - 2:05am
cfmdesigns
2004

Good understated point in there, Debbie: an interview goes both ways.  It's as much your chance to see if you want to work there as there's to see if they want you.  If you are asked to do a design problem (or answer a question about manhole covers or foxes, corn, and chickens), and that offends you for whatever reason, this should be an alarm saying that maybe the fit isn't good.
(The first time I interviewed with Microsoft was one of those, back in 1990.  10 minutes into the second of like 8 hour-long interviews that day, I knew it wasn't going to work.  So did they.  But they'd flown me in, so we trudged through.  Ugh.  Actually, 5 minutes into the first interview, I knew it wasn't going to be a fit, when someone I wasn't going to be working with asked me how the college football team was doing.)
-- Jim

On Feb 8, 2011, at 8:54 AM, blissfulguru wrote:

I have been working in this field for several years and have attended many
interviews. Sometimes my portfolio is reviewed, sometimes I am asked
technical questions, sometimes I am asked to redesign pages or rewrite
poorly written code. Since each business has its own unique culture and
workflow, I don't mind going through their process to determine if they are
a good fit for me and I am a good fit for them.

7 Feb 2011 - 7:01pm
Jennifer Quigley
2008

From the job / client seeker perspective, I find it boring when someone askes me to present from what I have posted online, though I understand some people are short on time and do it only by request. If I show work, it is an example of a deliverable that I could not allow the public to pick through online, but just to show how the design was communicated to the development team vs just a final product. Or I might show stages of a design if someone asks to see an example of process. I want to have an interesting time in an interview just as someone seeking a designer does.

Asking for an exercise or some work *in* an interview is fine from my perspective. Sometimes, its just a brief communication of ideas on a discussion level to communicate thinking, or sometimes the interviewer will leave the room for about 15-20 min. and let me sketch, or a problem is projected and we can run through some ideas on a white board which is nice for teamwork settings. What I find is not OK is when someone asks for work done outside of the interview. First, lets face it, designers are motivated by being paid and no one is going to be in love with a project without guaranteed reward. This is realism. Every recruiter who is good at what they do will not allow a client to do this because designers have a tendency to do a half-motivated job and often don't provide good work or become annoyed with the interviewer. This is honest feedback I have from a well seasoned recruiter I've worked with. She suggests that if you need to meet a bunch of candidates, interview them. If you have interest in a specific candidate for a long term position, hire them or if you must see more work offer a contract at the hourly breakdown of the salary rate, comunicate this, and then make the offer before the job is complete. Remember, when you hire someone you want them to be excited about getting the job, not frustrated with the hiring process and you.

I agree that a combined approach is best, but keep it during the interview time. If the work is for a specific company then the job seeker should have a bit of time to research your product and make a decent pitch for a problem. If you are a firm and could dish out any type of project under the sun, it would be nice if the job seeker could have the advantage of knowing what you are going to ask of them in the interview so they have a moment to think about it ahead of time. If you are a firm, you wouldn't send in your best designer to a client without knowing what type of product or service they provide. Putting someone in this position during an interview is just crappy.

Portfolio is a good refrence tool, and some designers love the work they have been given and have been on an optimum team. Some will really feel they didn't exactly like they type of projects they have, but took them to get paid, or have worked on teams where management hindered the design potential - it happens. For this I agree you should get a sense of what someone can do in the interview as well as view a portfolio, and understand what part they did take in their various projects.

 

 

 

7 Feb 2011 - 7:06pm
monkeyshine
2010

I've found value in asking a candidate how they would solve a problem or create a hypothetical feature or product. Yes, it's incredibly broad but you will get valuable information based on the questions they ask (or don't ask). It's a great way to gain insight into ones process.

Deanna Glaze from myPhone deannaglaze@comcast.net

On Feb 7, 2011, at 5:55 PM, Amanda Nance wrote:

> Hi all, > Have any of you ever given design problems/exercises to someone > interviewing for an Interaction design position? If so, how well did > that work, and how did you come up with the design problems? It seems > that the design problems cannot require a lot of background about the > users or specialized domain knowledge since we have limited time with > each candidate. > > One person has suggested to me that reviewing a candidate's portfolio > would be a better approach. I was thinking a combined approach might > be useful. What do you think? > > All ideas and experiences welcome! > > -Amanda > >

7 Feb 2011 - 9:05pm
Nathan
2006

It's incredibly disrespectful to ask a designer to perform, like a monkey, in order to get a job. Would you ask an accountant to settle your books in order to "test" their ability before hiring them? Would you ask a potential CEO or lawyer to do free work in order to get their job? Aside from disrespect, you can't actually give them the time or context to do what they do well, so you've essentially set them up to fail from the beginning.
Nathan

On Feb 7, 2011, at 5:07 PM, monkeyshine wrote:

I've found value in asking a candidate how they would solve a problem or create a hypothetical feature or product. Yes, it's incredibly broad but you will get valuable information based on the questions they ask (or don't ask). It's a great way to gain insight into ones process.

Deanna Glaze
from myPhone
deannaglaze@comcast.net

On Feb 7, 2011, at 5:55 PM, Amanda Nance wrote:

> Hi all,
> Have any of you ever given design problems/exercises to someone
> interviewing for an Interaction design position? If so, how well did
> that work, and how did you come up with the design problems? It seems
> that the design problems cannot require a lot of background about the
> users or specialized domain knowledge since we have limited time with
> each candidate.
>
> One person has suggested to me that reviewing a candidate's portfolio
> would be a better approach. I was thinking a combined approach might
> be useful. What do you think?
>
> All ideas and experiences welcome!
>
> -Amanda
>
>

8 Feb 2011 - 12:06am
rachel.i.simpson
2010

As a designer, I would likely regard a request like this in an interview as a sign that the company wouldn't be the best place to look for work. It's an indication that the company has little or no understanding of how to work with a designer, and as a junior designer I'm not yet prepared to educate them on the job. It might also be a sign that they're looking for someone to offer them spec work.

Rachel

On Mon, Feb 7, 2011 at 7:18 PM, Nathan <nathan@nathan.com> wrote:

It's incredibly disrespectful to ask a designer to perform, like a monkey, in order to get a job. Would you ask an accountant to settle your books in order to "test" their ability before hiring them? Would you ask a potential CEO or lawyer to do free work in order to get their job? Aside from disrespect, you can't actually give them the time or context to do what they do well, so you've essentially set them up to fail from the beginning.
Nathan

On Feb 7, 2011, at 5:07 PM, monkeyshine wrote:

I've found value in asking a candidate how they would solve a problem or create a hypothetical feature or product. Yes, it's incredibly broad but you will get valuable information based on the questions they ask (or don't ask). It's a great way to gain insight into ones process.

Deanna Glaze
from myPhone
deannaglaze@comcast.net [1]

On Feb 7, 2011, at 5:55 PM, Amanda Nance wrote:

> Hi all,
> Have any of you ever given design problems/exercises to someone
> interviewing for an Interaction design position? If so, how well did
> that work, and how did you come up with the design problems? It seems
> that the design problems cannot require a lot of background about the
> users or specialized domain knowledge since we have limited time with
> each candidate.
>
> One person has suggested to me that reviewing a candidate's portfolio
> would be a better approach. I was thinking a combined approach might
> be useful. What do you think?
>
> All ideas and experiences welcome!
>
> -Amanda
>
>

8 Feb 2011 - 12:25am
Adam Korman
2004

That's nonsense. Designers have to think quickly on their feet all the time, and it's entirely reasonable to evaluate how a job candidate handles a simple hypothetical problem. For me, giving someone a short design exercise has little to do with the specific solution they come up with (and it's definitely not a ploy to get free work). I'm mostly interested to see how they approach problem solving, how they interact with people who challenge their ideas, and whether or not they recognize if the solutions they come up with are good or bad and why.

8 Feb 2011 - 1:08am
tonyzeoli
2008

I agree with Nathan that putting a creative person on the spot to create something is problematic. If you call someone in because you liked their portfolio, then you should be confident in your judgment based on both your experience and the judgment of references based on their previous working relationship with the candidate.

It would be most difficult to get exactly what you are looking for out of a single session with a designer. The creative process mandates iterations.

To put someone in the hot seat at the time of greatest stress: an interview which has financial implications for both that person and quite possibly and extended family, is not very fair. Sure, pro sports teams call athletes in to work out, but that's based on speed and the ability to catch or kick a ball. Not on the ability to create something that is inspirational.

Putting someone in a position to create in front of you under pressure, I believe, is not the most effect technique. What if the person creates a masterpiece, but is a real jerk to work with? Then what do you do? Do you call back the other person who wasn't quite as good, and say your sorry, but the first person didn't work out, so we called you instead? Gee...that would make me feel all warm and fuzzy when starting a new job. They went for the rockstar, but he as an ass, so the default second candidate gets the job, but feels under a microscope because you made them jump through hoops, didn't hire them, then called them back when your first choice bombed.

Tony Zeoli

On Mon, Feb 7, 2011 at 11:34 PM, Nathan <nathan@nathan.com> wrote:

It's incredibly disrespectful to ask a designer to perform, like a monkey, in order to get a job. Would you ask an accountant to settle your books in order to "test" their ability before hiring them? Would you ask a potential CEO or lawyer to do free work in order to get their job? Aside from disrespect, you can't actually give them the time or context to do what they do well, so you've essentially set them up to fail from the beginning.
Nathan

On Feb 7, 2011, at 5:07 PM, monkeyshine wrote:

I've found value in asking a candidate how they would solve a problem or create a hypothetical feature or product. Yes, it's incredibly broad but you will get valuable information based on the questions they ask (or don't ask). It's a great way to gain insight into ones process.

Deanna Glaze
from myPhone
deannaglaze@comcast.net [1]

On Feb 7, 2011, at 5:55 PM, Amanda Nance wrote:

> Hi all,
> Have any of you ever given design problems/exercises to someone
> interviewing for an Interaction design position? If so, how well did
> that work, and how did you come up with the design problems? It seems
> that the design problems cannot require a lot of background about the
> users or specialized domain knowledge since we have limited time with
> each candidate.
>
> One person has suggested to me that reviewing a candidate's portfolio
> would be a better approach. I was thinking a combined approach might
> be useful. What do you think?
>
> All ideas and experiences welcome!
>
> -Amanda
>
>

8 Feb 2011 - 4:07am
David Drucker
2008

I had to do some on-the-spot UI design for a recent job interview. Actually, I don't think it was planned, but the interviewer asked me to whiteboard some possible ideas given a broad scenario. I really wanted the job, and tried to treat the whole thing as a game, doing my best to describe what I was thinking, throw in a few details about choices I was making in the sketch because of an underlying reason i thought they should know that I was taking into account, and keeping the whole thing as lighthearted and casual as I could. I think it went well, but it's been a couple of weeks and despite an inquiry earlier today, I haven't heard from back them. If I don't get the position (and it's starting to look more like that's the case), I don't know if it's based on how I 'performed', but in any case, it will be a big disappointment.

As for showing portfolios before or during and interview, I am never happy with showing my work without being able to walk through it logically. If it's not another designer, most interviewers just look at the screens for how 'pretty' they are, with no context, underlying logic, explanations of where I was working within a corporate style guide or if a technology was or wasn't available. Their judgement will be overwhelming an aesthetic one, and while I like to think my samples aren't ugly, I think the more important things I want to show involve sequence, not just snapshots of UIs plucked from projects (or 'find the button you are supposed to push to make the prototype work')

>

8 Feb 2011 - 4:07am
Audrey Crane
2009

I have a different take on this. A few years ago, I was asked in an interview to solve a hypothetical problem, and while it was nerve-wracking, in the end it was fun. I got to show how I think about and approach problems, and sort of collaborate with the interviewer and see what he'd be like to work with, so it was useful for me too. That was a good experience, so maybe it colored my thinking.

Now, I usually bring a problem I'm thinking about that's isolated enough it can be explained and white-boarded in a few minutes, or something from last year that I was never entirely satisfied with. I'm not looking for a "right" answer, but whether the person I'm interviewing asks clarifying questions, considers my feedback, comes up with more than one idea, talks about research, etc. I'm not asking them to do design work for free, I'm looking for a window into their thought process, approach to the work, and interaction with me while doing it. I try to participate and do whatever I can to support the interviewee and help ease awkwardness, if there is any. Most people dive right in. I would ask a potential CEO or lawyer how they might approach a specific and real problem too (and I have). I'm not saying I'm giving somebody Photoshop and 2 days and expecting mockups, by any stretch.

Understanding that people may be anxious and cutting some slack for the situation is something to keep in mind, as with all things in interviews. But since I've started doing this I've learned some very important things that I never would have gleaned from conversations about favorite books, work history, portfolio review, etc. And if someone declined because they don't work that way, or felt too nervous, I'd respect that also.

My 2 cents...

  • Audrey

On Feb 7, 2011, at 8:51 PM, Nathan wrote:

> It's incredibly disrespectful to ask a designer to perform, like a monkey, in order to get a job. Would you ask an accountant to settle your books in order to "test" their ability before hiring them? Would you ask a potential CEO or lawyer to do free work in order to get their job? Aside from disrespect, you can't actually give them the time or context to do what they do well, so you've essentially set them up to fail from the beginning. > Nathan > > On Feb 7, 2011, at 5:07 PM, monkeyshine wrote: > >> I've found value in asking a candidate how they would solve a problem or create a hypothetical feature or product. Yes, it's incredibly broad but you will get valuable information based on the questions they ask (or don't ask). It's a great way to gain insight into ones process. >> >> Deanna Glaze >> from myPhone >> deannaglaze@comcast.net [1] >> >> On Feb 7, 2011, at 5:55 PM, Amanda Nance wrote: >> >> > Hi all, >> > Have any of you ever given design problems/exercises to someone >> > interviewing for an Interaction design position? If so, how well did >> > that work, and how did you come up with the design problems? It seems >> > that the design problems cannot require a lot of background about the >> > users or specialized domain knowledge since we have limited time with >> > each candidate. >> > >> > One person has suggested to me that reviewing a candidate's portfolio >> > would be a better approach. I was thinking a combined approach might >> > be useful. What do you think? >> > >> > All ideas and experiences welcome! >> > >> > -Amanda >> > >> > >> >

8 Feb 2011 - 9:06am
Scott McDaniel
2007

All of this is within reason if handled well. It's pretty straightforward to see how someone thinks through things, especially if given in a "no right answer, just show your process" manner. If it's viewed as an adversarial relationship between interviewer and candidate, then I can see the resistance, but I've never encountered this as 'making the monkey dance'. Of course you're under pressure in an interview - but you're often under pressure in the workplace, and of course you want to find out more about them as a person - but this shows presentation, design thinking, approach and personality all at once.

Honestly, I've only encountered this once - and choked! - but I left wondering why it didn't happen more often (the 'present a solution' interview question/dialogue, not me choking).

Scott

8 Feb 2011 - 11:06am
Moses Wolfenstein
2010

This link contains a web comic which is totally NSFW and arguably quite offensive, but perhaps has some bearing on the topic:
http://theoatmeal.com/comics/interview_questions

On Tue, Feb 8, 2011 at 9:13 AM, Scott McDaniel <scott@scottopic.com> wrote:

All of this is within reason if handled well. It's pretty
straightforward to see how someone thinks through things, especially
if given in a "no right answer, just show your process" manner. If
it's viewed as an adversarial relationship between interviewer and
candidate, then I can see the resistance, but I've never encountered
this as 'making the monkey dance'. Of course you're under pressure in
an interview - but you're often under pressure in the workplace, and
of course you want to find out more about them as a person - but this
shows presentation, design thinking, approach and personality all at
once.

Honestly, I've only encountered this once - and choked! - but I left
wondering why it didn't happen more often (the 'present a solution'
interview question/dialogue, not me choking).

Scott

8 Feb 2011 - 6:05pm
llschertler
2008

I LOVE it!!! So very true...

Laura L. Schertler

"The power of the Web is in it's universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect."

~ Tim Berners-Lee



On Tue, Feb 8, 2011 at 2:37 PM, Moses Wolfenstein <moses.wolfenstein@gmail.com> wrote:

This link contains a web comic which is totally NSFW and arguably quite offensive, but perhaps has some bearing on the topic:
http://theoatmeal.com/comics/interview_questions [1]

On Tue, Feb 8, 2011 at 9:13 AM, Scott McDaniel <scott@scottopic.com [2]> wrote:

All of this is within reason if handled well. It's pretty
straightforward to see how someone thinks through things, especially
if given in a "no right answer, just show your process" manner. If
it's viewed as an adversarial relationship between interviewer and
candidate, then I can see the resistance, but I've never encountered
this as 'making the monkey dance'. Of course you're under pressure in
an interview - but you're often under pressure in the workplace, and
of course you want to find out more about them as a person - but this
shows presentation, design thinking, approach and personality all at
once.

Honestly, I've only encountered this once - and choked! - but I left
wondering why it didn't happen more often (the 'present a solution'
interview question/dialogue, not me choking).

Scott

8 Feb 2011 - 11:12pm
Jennifer Quigley
2008

OMG! — I laughed so hard I think it qualifies as exercise.

8 Feb 2011 - 11:07am
monkeyshine
2010

I only really see a problem with this if you send a designer off on their own to do something that they then have to present in half an hour. This happened to me once in an interview and it told me right away that this employer didn't get it, would not give me support and was not collaborative in their approach. It's much more productive to sit in front of a white board with someone and work through a UX problem. This accomplishes several things for both interviewer and potential candidate: it gives the interviewer an idea of how one thinks through problems, how quick and creative they are, whether they ask the right questions, and how they collaborate. It gives the potential candidate a sense of what it's like to work with you. They get a glimpse into how you think, what your expectations are, how you view design, etc.

  Developers are run through the gauntlet all the time, being asked to work through code problems on a white board and usually those problems are tricky and occasionally nearly impossible.

On Tue, Feb 8, 2011 at 9:50 AM, Scott McDaniel <scott@scottopic.com> wrote:

All of this is within reason if handled well. It's pretty
straightforward to see how someone thinks through things, especially
if given in a "no right answer, just show your process" manner. If
it's viewed as an adversarial relationship between interviewer and
candidate, then I can see the resistance, but I've never encountered
this as 'making the monkey dance'. Of course you're under pressure in
an interview - but you're often under pressure in the workplace, and
of course you want to find out more about them as a person - but this
shows presentation, design thinking, approach and personality all at
once.

Honestly, I've only encountered this once - and choked! - but I left
wondering why it didn't happen more often (the 'present a solution'
interview question/dialogue, not me choking).

Scott

((
10 Feb 2011 - 1:52pm
mdostert
2010

I think recruiters and HR managers and actual managers have become difficult becuase of the economy. I think they are taking a darwinian approach to recruiting and hiring because they can.  Many of the rediculous questions are asked to see how well you handle stresss. I also think that because people have lied about their talents, skills, and qualificaitons, that they now feel a need to test people in all ways.

Sign, time to apply to the phd program, huh?

10 Feb 2011 - 3:05pm
Moses Wolfenstein
2010

Strictly commentary: While I can certainly see the impetus for wanting to stress test employees before making a hire, I personally believe there are real limits to the kind of information you can get out of simulated activities in an interview process.
The stress of dealing with a dissatisfied client who is asking you a hard question about your deliverables is fundamentally different from the stress invoked through having to field a difficult interview question about a hypothetical scenario.
How someone responds within the constraints of an hour long design activity in an interview won't necessarily give a good read on how they'll deal with working during an actual crunch that might last days or even weeks.
Someone who might be highly effective at coming up with good design solutions over the course of a day or two could be terrible at developing good answers within 20 minutes. 
I'll grant that these types of techniques are better than nothing (and can certainly give you some insight that a simple portfolio review won't), but I wouldn't personally count on them to give me a thorough read of an individual's actual qualities or abilities. 
my 2¢-moses


(((P
10 Feb 2011 - 5:05pm
Rami Tabbah
2010

I was never convinced a portfolio can show how good a designer is. It could work for visual designers. Real user experience is about methodology and good understanding of the real problem. When someone asks me for a portfolio, I get the impression the work is superficial. When they propose an exam, it tells me that they are unable to ask good questions.

Am I alone to see it this way?

Rami ------Original Message------ From: mdostert Sender: ixdaor@host.ixda.org To: Rami Tabbah ReplyTo: discuss@ixda.org Subject: Re: [IxDA] design exercises and/or portfolio review during interview Sent: Feb 10, 2011 2:17 PM

I think recruiters and HR managers and actual managers have become difficult
becuase of the economy. I think they are taking a darwinian approach to
recruiting and hiring because they can.  Many of the rediculous questions
are asked to see how well you handle stresss. I also think that because
people have lied about their talents, skills, and qualificaitons, that they
now feel a need to test people in all ways.

Sign, time to apply to the phd program, huh?

(

10 Feb 2011 - 7:05pm
bminihan
2007

A portfolio is necessary for interaction designers (people who design
the flow of things, not just (or instead of) the look of things)
because it shows the end product of your work.

Agreed that a process designer's portfolio has a different FOCUS than
other designers, but I expect to see one, regardless. It can be
extremely useful to help tell a story about a research project gone
bad, or done well, or how the end result was different than the
expected outcome.

Don't discount a portfolio as a way to illustrate your work.

Agree with you that folks should describe what they expect from your
portfolio. Also, my definition of "portfolio" includes any show- worthy asset you're proud of - personas, scribbles, notes, card-sort
outcomes, etc.

Bryan Minihan

On Feb 10, 2011, at 5:26 PM, Rami Tabbah wrote:

> I was never convinced a portfolio can show how good a designer is.
> It could work for visual designers. Real user experience is about
> methodology and good understanding of the real problem. When someone
> asks me for a portfolio, I get the impression the work is
> superficial. When they propose an exam, it tells me that they are
> unable to ask good questions. > > Am I alone to see it this way? > > Rami > ------Original Message------ > From: mdostert > Sender: ixdaor@host.ixda.org > To: Rami Tabbah > ReplyTo: discuss@ixda.org > Subject: Re: [IxDA] design exercises and/or portfolio review during
> interview > Sent: Feb 10, 2011 2:17 PM > > I think recruiters and HR managers and actual managers have become
> difficult > becuase of the economy. I think they are taking a darwinian approach
> to > recruiting and hiring because they can. Many of the rediculous
> questions > are asked to see how well you handle stresss. I also think that
> because > people have lied about their talents, skills, and qualificaitons,
> that they > now feel a need to test people in all ways. > > Sign, time to apply to the phd program, huh? > > ( > >

10 Feb 2011 - 10:06pm
tonyzeoli
2008

Hey Bryan:

Off topic, but I saw you're in North Carolina. I'm at UNC Chapel Hill.

On topic, I completely agree with you.

There seem to be two different camps. The people who disregard portfolios that love the dog and pony show. And the people who disregard the dog and pony show, in favor of calling in people who have portfolios they feel can do the work.

Me...I'm not a dog and pony show guy. If I can't tell effectively assess your qualifications, then what does that say about me?

Tony Zeoli

On Thu, Feb 10, 2011 at 9:10 PM, bminihan <bjminihan@gmail.com> wrote:

A portfolio is necessary for interaction designers (people who design
the flow of things, not just (or instead of) the look of things)
because it shows the end product of your work.

Agreed that a process designer's portfolio has a different FOCUS than
other designers, but I expect to see one, regardless. It can be
extremely useful to help tell a story about a research project gone
bad, or done well, or how the end result was different than the
expected outcome.

Don't discount a portfolio as a way to illustrate your work.

Agree with you that folks should describe what they expect from your
portfolio. Also, my definition of "portfolio" includes any show-
worthy asset you're proud of - personas, scribbles, notes, card-sort
outcomes, etc.

Bryan Minihan

On Feb 10, 2011, at 5:26 PM, Rami Tabbah wrote:

> I was never convinced a portfolio can show how good a designer is.
> It could work for visual designers. Real user experience is about
> methodology and good understanding of the real problem. When someone
> asks me for a portfolio, I get the impression the work is
> superficial. When they propose an exam, it tells me that they are
> unable to ask good questions.
>
> Am I alone to see it this way?
>
> Rami
> ------Original Message------
> From: mdostert
> Sender: ixdaor@host.ixda.org
> To: Rami Tabbah
> ReplyTo: discuss@ixda.org
> Subject: Re: [IxDA] design exercises and/or portfolio review during
> interview
> Sent: Feb 10, 2011 2:17 PM
>
> I think recruiters and HR managers and actual managers have become
> difficult
> becuase of the economy. I think they are taking a darwinian approach
> to
> recruiting and hiring because they can. Many of the rediculous
> questions
> are asked to see how well you handle stresss. I also think that
> because
> people have lied about their talents, skills, and qualificaitons,
> that they
> now feel a need to test people in all ways.
>
> Sign, time to apply to the phd program, huh?
>
> (
>
>

11 Feb 2011 - 2:05am
Scott McDaniel
2007

Just baffled that almost every comment in this thread seems to present every technique and idea as both the only thing that happens in an interview and zero sum in relation to other aspects of the interview process.

Sent from my iPhone

On Feb 10, 2011, at 11:02 PM, tonyzeoli wrote:

> Hey Bryan: > > Off topic, but I saw you're in North Carolina. I'm at UNC Chapel Hill. > > On topic, I completely agree with you. > > There seem to be two different camps. The people who disregard portfolios that love the dog and pony show. And the people who disregard the dog and pony show, in favor of calling in people who have portfolios they feel can do the work. > > Me...I'm not a dog and pony show guy. If I can't tell effectively assess your qualifications, then what does that say about me? > > Tony Zeoli > > On Thu, Feb 10, 2011 at 9:10 PM, bminihan wrote: > >> A portfolio is necessary for interaction designers (people who design >> the flow of things, not just (or instead of) the look of things) >> because it shows the end product of your work. >> >> Agreed that a process designer's portfolio has a different FOCUS than >> other designers, but I expect to see one, regardless. It can be >> extremely useful to help tell a story about a research project gone >> bad, or done well, or how the end result was different than the >> expected outcome. >> >> Don't discount a portfolio as a way to illustrate your work. >> >> Agree with you that folks should describe what they expect from your >> portfolio. Also, my definition of "portfolio" includes any show- >> worthy asset you're proud of - personas, scribbles, notes, card-sort >> outcomes, etc. >> >> Bryan Minihan >> >> On Feb 10, 2011, at 5:26 PM, Rami Tabbah wrote: >> >> > I was never convinced a portfolio can show how good a designer is. >> > It could work for visual designers. Real user experience is about >> > methodology and good understanding of the real problem. When someone >> > asks me for a portfolio, I get the impression the work is >> > superficial. When they propose an exam, it tells me that they are >> > unable to ask good questions. >> > >> > Am I alone to see it this way? >> > >> > Rami >> > ------Original Message------ >> > From: mdostert >> > Sender: ixdaor@host.ixda.org [2] >> > To: Rami Tabbah >> > ReplyTo: discuss@ixda.org [3] >> > Subject: Re: [IxDA] design exercises and/or portfolio review during >> > interview >> > Sent: Feb 10, 2011 2:17 PM >> > >> > I think recruiters and HR managers and actual managers have become >> > difficult >> > becuase of the economy. I think they are taking a darwinian approach >> > to >> > recruiting and hiring because they can. Many of the rediculous >> > questions >> > are asked to see how well you handle stresss. I also think that >> > because >> > people have lied about their talents, skills, and qualificaitons, >> > that they >> > now feel a need to test people in all ways. >> > >> > Sign, time to apply to the phd program, huh? >> > >> > ( >> > >> > >> >

10 Feb 2011 - 10:06pm
tonyzeoli
2008

Oh, by the way--how I knew that is through Rapportive, a social plug-in for Gmail that shows me the social media profiles of a user attached to their email address.

On Thu, Feb 10, 2011 at 9:10 PM, bminihan <bjminihan@gmail.com> wrote:

A portfolio is necessary for interaction designers (people who design
the flow of things, not just (or instead of) the look of things)
because it shows the end product of your work.

Agreed that a process designer's portfolio has a different FOCUS than
other designers, but I expect to see one, regardless. It can be
extremely useful to help tell a story about a research project gone
bad, or done well, or how the end result was different than the
expected outcome.

Don't discount a portfolio as a way to illustrate your work.

Agree with you that folks should describe what they expect from your
portfolio. Also, my definition of "portfolio" includes any show-
worthy asset you're proud of - personas, scribbles, notes, card-sort
outcomes, etc.

Bryan Minihan

On Feb 10, 2011, at 5:26 PM, Rami Tabbah wrote:

> I was never convinced a portfolio can show how good a designer is.
> It could work for visual designers. Real user experience is about
> methodology and good understanding of the real problem. When someone
> asks me for a portfolio, I get the impression the work is
> superficial. When they propose an exam, it tells me that they are
> unable to ask good questions.
>
> Am I alone to see it this way?
>
> Rami
> ------Original Message------
> From: mdostert
> Sender: ixdaor@host.ixda.org
> To: Rami Tabbah
> ReplyTo: discuss@ixda.org
> Subject: Re: [IxDA] design exercises and/or portfolio review during
> interview
> Sent: Feb 10, 2011 2:17 PM
>
> I think recruiters and HR managers and actual managers have become
> difficult
> becuase of the economy. I think they are taking a darwinian approach
> to
> recruiting and hiring because they can. Many of the rediculous
> questions
> are asked to see how well you handle stresss. I also think that
> because
> people have lied about their talents, skills, and qualificaitons,
> that they
> now feel a need to test people in all ways.
>
> Sign, time to apply to the phd program, huh?
>
> (
>
>

10 Feb 2011 - 9:05pm
craigmaxey
2010

No

Sent from my iPad

On Feb 10, 2011, at 5:12 PM, Rami Tabbah wrote:

> I was never convinced a portfolio can show how good a designer is. It could work for visual designers. Real user experience is about methodology and good understanding of the real problem. When someone asks me for a portfolio, I get the impression the work is superficial. When they propose an exam, it tells me that they are unable to ask good questions. > > Am I alone to see it this way? > > Rami > ------Original Message------ > From: mdostert > Sender: ixdaor@host.ixda.org > To: Rami Tabbah > ReplyTo: discuss@ixda.org > Subject: Re: [IxDA] design exercises and/or portfolio review during interview > Sent: Feb 10, 2011 2:17 PM > > I think recruiters and HR managers and actual managers have become difficult > becuase of the economy. I think they are taking a darwinian approach to > recruiting and hiring because they can. Many of the rediculous questions > are asked to see how well you handle stresss. I also think that because > people have lied about their talents, skills, and qualificaitons, that they > now feel a need to test people in all ways. > > Sign, time to apply to the phd program, huh? > > ( > >

10 Feb 2011 - 1:54pm
mdostert
2010

Sorry double postss.

8 Feb 2011 - 3:06pm
Amanda Nance
2009

Does anyone have suggestions for how to generate a decent design exercise/problem that is realistic but that a candidate could quickly understand? For example, it cannot require a lot of background knowledge about a group of special users or a lot of domain knowledge.

Thanks! Amanda

8 Feb 2011 - 5:05pm
Gilles DEMARTY
2005

Le 8 févr. 2011 à 14:29, Amanda Nance a écrit :

> Does anyone have suggestions for how to generate a decent design > exercise/problem that is realistic but that a candidate could quickly > understand? For example, it cannot require a lot of background > knowledge about a group of special users or a lot of domain knowledge. >

Cooper is offering such a test on their website. Check http://www.cooper.com/#about:careers

then click on the "interaction designer" career button on the right.

It can give you an idea of what is possible for this kind of exercise.

Gilles

> Thanks! > Amanda > > (((

8 Feb 2011 - 12:06am
oliviacw
2008

I interviewed for a user experience position at Microsoft about 5 years ago - as part of their all-day interview process, they set a design exercise. I was given about 45 minutes to brainstorm on a problem, and then present ideas to the team. I can't remember the details, but it was something aimed at general design thinking skills, and not anything specific to interaction design or that required substantial domain knowledge.

I've had maybe a dozen or so other interviews since then for UX/user research positions, and none of them have done anything similar. They all (whether big multinationals, tiny startups, or agencies) have been more interested in having me talk through aspects of my portfolio. Usually it's been a casual walkthrough with one or two people, though for my last interview they asked me to prepare it as a presentation for the team. That actually worked well, because I knew from the phone screen interview exactly what they would be interested in, and I could present 5 items that really targeted their needs.

I view the portfolio walkthrough, in whatever form, as really a way to use artifacts to discuss my work processes - the tools I can use, the way I manage clients, whatever seems relevant. When it's an unstructured conversation, I'll often pull out some secondary portfolio items that relate to whatever they are asking about, although I don't plan to show everything I carry in my portfolio at every interview.

  • Olivia

On Mon, Feb 7, 2011 at 2:26 PM, Amanda Nance wrote: > Hi all, > Have any of you ever given design problems/exercises to someone > interviewing for an Interaction design position? If so, how well did > that work, and how did you come up with the design problems? It seems > that the design problems cannot require a lot of background about the > users or specialized domain knowledge since we have limited time with > each candidate. > > One person has suggested to me that reviewing a candidate's portfolio > would be a better approach. I was thinking a combined approach might > be useful. What do you think? > > All ideas and experiences welcome! > > -Amanda > >

8 Feb 2011 - 3:57am
Sean Pook
2008

A 'design exercise' is quite common during UK UX interviews. As uncomfortable as it may be, it's important to remember that the good employers will be seeing how you react to the pressure, the way in which you generate concepts and ideas, and also how you communicate them. They will always be less concerned with the actual output compared to how you got there. This can be very useful when placed along side a portfolio review and other tasks.

However, I have seen my fair share of candidates being asked to create some work that is actually what the client is currently working on. Emphasis was on the output and it certainly seemed the remainder of the interview was rushed. The candidate never heard back. This raises alarm bells and suggests the client's looking for free work. Be weary of these firms.

But when done properly and under the right circumstances, a design task can be very useful and mutually insightful.

9 Feb 2011 - 2:06am
cfmdesigns
2004

On Feb 8, 2011, at 1:00 AM, Sean Pook wrote:

> A 'design exercise' is quite common during UK UX interviews. As uncomfortable as it may be, it's important to remember that the good employers will be seeing how you react to the pressure, the way in which you generate concepts and ideas, and also how you communicate them. They will always be less concerned with the actual output compared to how you got there. This can be very useful when placed along side a portfolio review and other tasks.

It's standard that QA interviewees be asked to sketch out a test plan for a sample object or UI item, and for developer interviewees to be asked to write some (pseudo)code on the fly for a task, so asking a designer to demonstrate ability doesn't sound out of bounds to me.

It adds stress to an interview? Excuse me, but "Boo hoo". That's intentional. How will you deal with a touch of stress on the job if you can't handle a little during an interview?

8 Feb 2011 - 9:27am
Jared M. Spool
2003

Hiring is the most important thing any UX team does. Hire the wrong people and you can't produce effectively. Hire the right people and your team will outperform your competition and produce fabulous, amazing results.

I think there are pros and cons to the approach of testing during the interview process. Certainly, I believe that you wouldn't hire a clown or magician for your child's birthday party without seeing them perform once. There is something to be said about seeing what they are capable of and if they are right for the job.

However, a test that's out of the context of how the organization and the team really works isn't really telling you very much. If you're trying to hire a decorator for your new living room, having them perform could be entertaining magic tricks, but isn't a very good test of their proficiency at decorating.

Design isn't clown work. Nor is it decoration, when done well.

A test, before you've decided this person has potential is really a waste of everyone's time. That means you need to have made sure this candidate is right in all the ways that are important.

A test out of the context of how your team really works is also a wasted opportunity. It means you need to really understand how your team works and can create the right contextual simulation to perform the test.

Before you test your applicant, you want to make sure they are worthy of taking the test. This means you've completely vetted them. You've looked at their A game. You've studied how they produced all the work they are sharing with you. You've studied how they have worked with their teams, to see if it's comparable with the way your team works.

Of course, before you interviewed, you created job objectives for the new position. You know exactly what they are going to do during the next year, right? You know the schedule they are doing that on. In the interviews, you compare everything they're showing you to those objectives, looking for all the evidence that they've done comparable work to what's on your list.

During the different interviews (you're holding multiple interviews, right? Because you can't assess who someone really is in just one sitting), you've explored their accomplishments in depth. You've compared every step of how they achieved their results to the way you work. You've talked about their organizations -- even had them draw out org charts and walked you through all the different relationships -- looking at how similar those organizations are to yours, to determine if the candidate's experience matches up with what you need.

Some people have said that a test shows if someone can think on their feet. Is that how work is done in your shop? You have to produce a design immediately, without any research or forethought?

Remember, your test is sending a solid message to the candidate. If you ask them to solve a silly question ("How would you calculate how many gas stations there are in the US?" Google inteview questions), you send the message to the candidate that you guys are all about the silly. That's the message you're looking for, right?

Of course, you could give them your big, hairy, impossible problem to solve. The one your team has struggled with forever. The one y'all consistently fail at. After all, if they can solve it, then this is your guy. But what if they can't? That just tells you they may be just like you, which, after all, isn't that bad (or, if it is, you should be fired).

I guess my problem with tests is that to construct one that works is really hard. Looking at their the accomplishment they are most proud of is a much better approach. Dissecting it. Getting to know it. Poking and prodding it will be more effective.

Don't forget to do your dilligence. After you understand exactly what they've done, call those people in the org chart for references. Get their impressions of it. Make sure the stories match.

Then, once you've gotten that far, you can give your test. You can ask them to stand at the whiteboard and draw a medicine cabinet that reminds an Alzheimer's patient to take their correct daily dosages. You can be impressed with whatever they said.

And then everyone can get back to work and create the results that have nothing to do with your test.

[By the way, I didn't make any of this stuff up. A lot of it comes from a guy named Lou Adler who wrote a wonderful book called Hire with Your Head.  If you're hiring someone, everyone on your team should read this book. It will change the way you hire and your new hires will be the best you've ever added to your team. I give this book to all the clients I work with.]

8 Feb 2011 - 4:37pm
mdostert
2010

Remember, your test is sending a solid message to the candidate. If you ask them to solve a silly question ("How would you calculate how many gas stations there are in the US?" Google inteview questions), you send the message to the candidate that you guys are all about the silly. That's the message you're looking for, right?

I had this experience. It is a strategy that the MBAs have implemented to "test" whether you can solve problems logically (rolls eyes) and to also see how well you handle stress. Total rediculous if you ask me.

10 Feb 2011 - 9:05pm
craigmaxey
2010

Yep

Sent from my iPad

On Feb 8, 2011, at 5:56 PM, mdostert wrote:

> Remember, your test is sending a solid message to the candidate. If you > ask them to solve a silly question ("How would you calculate how many > gas stations there are in the US?" Google inteview questions [1]), you send the message to the candidate that you guys are all about the silly. That's the message you're looking for, right? > > I had this experience. It is a strategy that the MBAs have implemented to "test" whether you can solve problems logically (rolls eyes) and to also see how well you handle stress. Total rediculous if you ask me. > >

9 Feb 2011 - 9:33am
smitty777
2010

Hi Jared - great response.  And now you've got me thinking.  I wonder how hard it would be to set up an interview like this where the designer had to design on the fly with the other team members?  It might take a little extra work, but I think it would be more realistic, revealing, and fun. 

8 Feb 2011 - 1:11pm
Tania Schlatter
2007

We were asked, after an initial interview, to do a test and bring in what we did to a follow up interview. We agreed only after we took a look at the test problem and were sure that our results would not result in free consulting. Another reason we agreed was because doing the test and presenting the results was an opportunity for us to see how communicating with the hiring team would go. We got the gig, and I think the test experience helped us and the hiring team get off to a good start.

Tania 

8 Feb 2011 - 1:53pm
Archana Thiagarajan
2008

 

I have been building out a UX team this past year and half or so for the Adobe team at Utah. I had a team of 4  when I began and now will be a team of 10 by end of February.  During this hiring process I tried and tested a number of interviewing techniques. This is where we are today and has been pretty successful.

 

  1. Have the candidate submit resume and portfolio
  2. If portfolio looks promising and relevant I give them a take home 48 hour design test to do. This test is based around a design problem that people are familiar with in their day to day lives and can make do with a shorter research cycle. I evaluate their general interaction design and visual design and presentation communication skills.
  3. If they do well here we have a a couple of 30 minutes phone interviews (especially important with out of state candidates). This conversation begins to indicate if they are a good cultural fit and a chance to discuss their thought process around the take home design test.
  4. If the phone interviews go well we have the come in for an onsite.
  5. During the onsite this is the general structure we have been following:
    1. Have the meet some members of the UXD team and present to the panel highlights from the career as a UX person.
    2. Brainstorm session: I team them up with another designer and a engineering and have them work together on a design problem relevant to our area of business. This hour I am more interested in seeing how well they would fair in our environment and our working style, are they collaborative, open to feedback etc. The innovativeness of the solution is secondary.
    3. This is then followed by one-on-one interviews with a designer, Product manager, and anyone else who will potentially work very closely with them.

The underlying guideline is that you want someone who is a good cultural fit, great attitude and shows promise for talent (in that order). You want someone who will help "raise all boats". 

 

Hope that helps!

 

8 Feb 2011 - 7:47pm
Josh B Williams
2010

I have taken tests at interviews before which I feel is a little silly. I think a better approach I have experience is showing a current project that the company is working on and talk with the rest of the team about things that could be improved or tare successful. It felt much more like a critique than a test which most designers should be comfortable with.


I think people are more willing to jump through hoops when it is for someone like adobe or cooper with design exercises. I don’t see any reason for tests at smaller companies.

I really don't understand take home design problems. Obviously it is different in the adobe example where there are too many applicants due to the exposure of the company name. But how many applicants are you really trying to filter down? Not every applicant is going to be qualified or have a decent portfolio. I think some managers try too hard to find a perfect candidate, creating lengthy interview processes that may or may not improve the quality of candidates.

9 Feb 2011 - 9:05am
monkeyshine
2010

I don't see what the size of the company has to do with it. I've participated in interview loops at both Amazon and Microsoft (as interviewer and interviewee) and the best benefit of white boarding exercises is that you get a front lines feel of the group you'll be working with (and how the individual interacts with the group). In large companies, it comes down to the same issues...how well will someone fit into your group and corp. culture in general - but the group is the most immediate factor. Those issues are the same at smaller companies.
Personally, I think take home exercises are inefficient. 
Deanna

On Tue, Feb 8, 2011 at 8:25 PM, Josh B Williams <josh@penandbanjo.com> wrote:

I have taken tests at interviews before which I feel is a little silly. I think a better approach I have experience is showing a current project that the company is working on and talk with the rest of the team about things that could be improved or tare successful. It felt much more like a critique than a test which most designers should be comfortable with.

I think people are more willing to jump through hoops when it is for someone like adobe or cooper with design exercises. I don’t see any reason for tests at smaller companies.

I really don't understand take home design problems. Obviously it is different in the adobe example where there are too many applicants due to the exposure of the company name. But how many applicants are you really trying to filter down? Not every applicant is going to be qualified or have a decent portfolio. I think some managers try too hard to find a perfect candidate, creating lengthy interview processes that may or may not improve the quality of candidates.

(((
9 Feb 2011 - 1:05pm
jstanford
2003

We have a few exercises that we do during interviews that I personally find extremely helpful for assessing candidates. The exercises have no specific answer that we are looking for. One of the exercises is really just a catalyst for understanding how someone tries to understand a complex problem, what kind of questions they ask, what techniques would they use to solve it, what do they think would be reasonable to come up with on the spot and what would need more investigation. We actually don't really care what the design solution is but have found it as a useful tool to assess how quickly someone can understand a problem and figure out what approach they might take to solving it. As a design agency, we have many meetings with clients where they explain problems to us on the fly and someone needs to understand the complexities of it (we tend to work on pretty complicated problems) and ask the right questions to be able to solve it later. Without the design exercise, we would have no insight into that person's skill set in such a situation. It has helped us identify people who get confused pretty easily or do not ask any questions at all which is just as bad (because when you assume you make an ass out of u and me). Also, as design problems we use actual problems from work that we've done -- not something we have made up. Consequently, it really is a real world scenario of what it would be like to work here and not some crazy made up experiment.

10 Feb 2011 - 9:05pm
craigmaxey
2010

Yep

Sent from my iPad

On Feb 9, 2011, at 11:02 AM, monkeyshine wrote:

> I don't see what the size of the company has to do with it. I've participated in interview loops at both Amazon and Microsoft (as interviewer and interviewee) and the best benefit of white boarding exercises is that you get a front lines feel of the group you'll be working with (and how the individual interacts with the group). In large companies, it comes down to the same issues...how well will someone fit into your group and corp. culture in general - but the group is the most immediate factor. Those issues are the same at smaller companies. > Personally, I think take home exercises are inefficient. > Deanna > > On Tue, Feb 8, 2011 at 8:25 PM, Josh B Williams wrote: > >> I have taken tests at interviews before which I feel is a little silly. I think a better approach I have experience is showing a current project that the company is working on and talk with the rest of the team about things that could be improved or tare successful. It felt much more like a critique than a test which most designers should be comfortable with. >> >> I think people are more willing to jump through hoops when it is for someone like adobe or cooper with design exercises. I don’t see any reason for tests at smaller companies. >> >> I really don't understand take home design problems. Obviously it is different in the adobe example where there are too many applicants due to the exposure of the company name. But how many applicants are you really trying to filter down? Not every applicant is going to be qualified or have a decent portfolio. I think some managers try too hard to find a perfect candidate, creating lengthy interview processes that may or may not improve the quality of candidates. >> >> ((( >> > ((

9 Feb 2011 - 9:48am
smitty777
2010

Those of you disagreeing with this approach should really try to think of it from the perspective of the hiring company.  From their perspective, what you are asking them to do is hire you without any proof that you have real design skill that will hold up under pressure.  And really, if you don't feel comfortable designing under the pressure of a 30 minute interview, how will you feel after six months into a project with an irate customer, under deadlines, and with tons of technical and business constraints.  I've done some hiring in the past - I know how easy it is for someone to take more than their fair share of the credit for portfolio images.  If I were hiring you, you'd need to show me your skills were real. 

9 Feb 2011 - 1:05pm
tonyzeoli
2008

I still completely disagree. A job interview is much different than a client deadline.

I wouldn't work for a company that couldn't make a decision based on prior work experience. Why build a portfolio at all, if you're just going to question whether I can do the job?

If you want to pursue that path, then I argue that everyone you want to create something for you should get paid of the time they put in. If what you're looking for is a spec before hiring and you end up using a designer's idea, but you don't hire them, then they should get paid for their time.

Tony

On Wed, Feb 9, 2011 at 12:14 PM, smitty777 <wschmidt@nbme.org> wrote:

Those of you disagreeing with this approach should really try to think of it from the perspective of the hiring company.  From their perspective, what you are asking them to do is hire you without any proof that you have real design skill that will hold up under pressure.  And really, if you don't feel comfortable designing under the pressure of a 30 minute interview, how will you feel after six months into a project with an irate customer, under deadlines, and with tons of technical and business constraints.  I've done some hiring in the past - I know how easy it is for someone to take more than their fair share of the credit for portfolio images.  If I were hiring you, you'd need to show me your skills were real. 

(((Pl
9 Feb 2011 - 7:01pm
fj
2010

In the last couple of years of working both free-lance and interviewing for permanent jobs I have seen the range of experiences discussed here.

The worst one was where the recruiter sent me a list of 10 questions from the interviewer as homework to do before the interview, and most of them were about redesigning the property, and to do them right would be about 3 days of work. I should have declined the interview, but I went in anyway with some preparation for the quick ones and answers for the larger ones, including that I can't redesign the interactivity and flow of a site without having been briefed on who the target personas and what the current failures are. The portfolio walk-through was basically rejected as "This doesn't tell me how you think, please take a stab at the problems I outlined for further consideration and then come back." After the interview I called my recruiter and said it was a bad fit -- the interview basically gave the message that UX design was a position with little value and about making decisions twith little consideration.

And that is something to really consider: what message are you sending to the applicant? How is your interview? Another interview gave me a white box exercise to do, to design a specific kind of radio, and it was just plain fun, because the it was brought as a fun plaful step thing to do, getting away from the self-important step-by-step sensibility so many interviews project. But it did allow the interviewer to see what questions I asked about the design space, how I collaborated even in a pressured situation, and what my sensibilities were. At the same time, this place had an insanly difficult computing logic test, that really was handed out very seriously, and that they made every candidate submit to and everyone in the company had done. They seemed unaware of what message it was sending to the candidates they wanted to hire for their new UX focus: "We only value logical thinkers and nothing else." One of the interviewers I spoke to seemed to think it was a badge of honor that some UX candidates had simply stood up and left, even though, as he told me only after I took it, "You don't have to ace it to get hired! It's a bonding experience as well! Even HR had to take it!" He seemed unreceptive to my thoughts on what message was being sent by not having an equally weighted full test or question about design or listening in the process, one that their tech candidates would then also have to take: that tech and development ruled the company.

The interview is meant to find out how a person will fit in your team, so have them collaborate with team members, even if it is just you who is there to do the interview. Work together. It will tell you a lot more than giving homework, and it also gives you as an employer a chance to show what you need and are all about. Every interview for quality people is a two-way street, after all, and we are sizing you up as much as you size us up.

10 Feb 2011 - 10:51am
pkdaly
2010

From a hiring perspective, the ideal is contract-to-hire -- you can't fake performance.

You can fake a portfolio, though a good interviewer should be able to probe through that in a walkthrough. As a 'UX designer'--NOT a visual/graphic designer--porfolios are irrelevant.  My portfolio included artifacts like interview templates/reports, personas, task flow diagrams, UI specs, usability test plans/reports, sketches, wireframes--structured to demonstrate the ISO-9241 HCD process--and it worked for me because the companies that hired me were looking for an HCD generalist, not visual designer/GUI coder.  The companies who miscast their job posting (e.g 'Senior UX Designer' vs. 'GUI coder')  got a quick read that I wasn't their guy.

The 'new' (though I did it at least 10 years ago) type of interview question is the 'behavioral-based' one, e.g.: 'Give me an example of when you worked with a difficult team, etc.'  That gets at the work fit, though it doesn't get at what do they know about design.  When I hired I gave a design project scenario, and asked them to talk through how they would go about solving it. I was not looking for a finished 'design', I wanted to hear them walk through the process.  I was looking for communication skills, did they talk through the process, methodologies, could they 'think aloud', did they ask good follow-up questions, did they grab a pencil and paper and start sketching, did they start bringing up past examples... very open ended.  

I wouldn't ask for 'pre-work', because they could fake that too...  I do think it unethical to use the interview process as free design concept work.  Though I do like the 37signals approach of getting writing samples to a few specific questions as part of the application--assessing written communication skill is one of their criteria.

If a potential hire can't 'think on their feet' in a job interview, I can't expect them to 'think in their seat' on the job.

When I was coached on how to interview, one tip was to steer the interview towards practical issues they had and how I would solve them--so this is the sort of thing I would welcome as an interviewee.

So back to the original question -- walkthrough the portfolio asking about what design challenges/methodologies worked/didn't work.  I would propose a practical design problem, so the interviewee gets an idea of what domain they'd be dealing with, and if they know design process they should be able to talk through any domain.

11 Feb 2011 - 2:05am
ambroselittle
2008

Hi Amanda,

I think you should do everything you can to ascertain that a candidate will be a good fit for you.

Personally (and I have done a fair bit of interviewing/hiring, FWIW), I do like to see a portfolio.  People talk about "faking it," but if you're going to work at a company, you're just stupid if you try to fake that--it will quickly become obvious you did, and you'll crash and burn, which is worse for you than anyone.  In my experience, people don't fake it.  I mean, trust me. :)  You can also compare a portfolio to a resume and see where and how the work matches up, if you're worried about that sort of thing.  Deliverables are important piece of what we do--as tools that facilitate analysis, synthesis, and communication, so it's helpful to get a taste of what someone can produce.

But I also look for relevant experience in CV/resume.  And I also like to talk to them on the phone to judge their oral communication skills and see how they respond to questions, what they're interested in, why they're interested, etc.

I also sometimes, depending on the specific role and it's particular demands, do a brief offline eval before bringing them in.  It is very targeted to see if the candidate seems able to understand and tangle with the unusual kinds of problems faced in the role.  I wouldn't do this for all positions--only if there seemed to be a particular need.

Finally, and most importantly, I bring them in for a team interview, which involves a get to know you, live critique of something we're working on, as well as a very basic, general design problem (that doesn't require much special contextual knowledge), which they work through with the team.  We're not looking for any particular right answer--just to see how they jive with the team, how they think and approach new problems, what kinds of questions they ask, how they sketch (or don't), etc.  We have a very team oriented environment, and as much as possible, we try to simulate that both to give us a feel and to give the candidate a feel for what it might be like working on design problems with us.  After they leave, we have a team discussion and each team member has a voice in the hiring.

Of course, we tend to hire for the long term, and I think that "fit" (cultural, team) is as important as basic skills.  If the candidate is a prima donna who thinks he or she is too special for this kind of interview process, then that's a good indicator they wouldn't be happy here and vice versa.  Despite all this, there are still no guarantees, but in my estimation, having more info to go on when making important hiring decisions is better than less. :)

If I were hiring for a short-term/contract, I would probably just rely more on portfolio and an in-person interview.

HTH.

-ambrose

P.S. We're hiring! :-p http://bit.ly/gsxbxY

11 Apr 2011 - 8:59am
zozek
2010

I agree with what most arguments already stated here. However, I personally like to go through a development circle. Process to me is more important than the actual outcome (don't hate me for that). What I do is I ask a few general questions (time/scope/budget/teamsize, position, etc.) at first, then ask about restraints and possible politics withing the product team. I then explain, if I can, the product circle from start to finish. How I started, what drove my decisions, how I actually came up with the solutions, what methods I've been using, what arguments I gave in order to get stakeholder buy-in for a decision, etc. It's also a great way to see if someones working style, methods and approaches fit. You can also see if the person understands user-centered development cycles. To be honest I never did a small design exercsise, however I don't know how effective this is. As far as time is concerned, you should schedule more than one hour per exersise + discussion. If you want a great product person on your team, you have to commit time. You could also bring in a team member into the process, to see how the candidate reacts to feedback and how he or she actually incorporates it into the solution.

Then again, I would focus on the process. Everbody can do a few sketches and claim it's the best solution.

Hope that helped.

Regards,

Zozek

4 May 2011 - 2:30pm
wolfshead
2011

I had to really discipline myself to document my work on my blog after it was complete. I think the more networked you are and have the ability to do some stunning work, even if its outside the scope of your day job, you have a good chance of being noticed.

This helps ease any doubts in the recruiter's mind as to your ability to think and have an opinion on several varied subjects. Most of my work is classified, but I wish I could share the intricacies of the project. They are so different than the challenges we face while designing a website or an iPad application for a comparatively predictable audience.

Interviews make me nervous sometimes, especially if the person taking it isn't on the same page as you. There are times when there is a communication break down. When nothing you say makes sense to them and vice versa. I'd say select just two killer projects and practice talking to yourself in a mirror while presenting them. Try and research who is interviewing you so you have an idea what his/her opinions are on design and process.

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