I wrote this originally for Onward Search, a blog I’m going to be writing for occasionally. It seemed fairly popular, so I’m reposting it here.
Most hiring managers don’t understand the skills needed for great websites and web applications because the field is still relatively new. They understand that skilled designers can lead to amazing successes (read: they want to be like Apple), but they don’t grasp what the process is, for or which skillset they should be hiring. It’s not entirely their fault.
User Experience still isn’t well defined (think of our industry as television when color first came out) so it’s especially hard to come up with a job description that’s still being written. Even most college programs are still in flux, meaning that some degrees in the field aren’t worth the paper on which they’re written.
As a User Experience designer, you can help employers shape the jobs they advertise. Educate them, and you pay it forward for the designers of the future.
What’s the Lay of the Land?
During the interview process, ask a lot of questions:
- How many developers do you have?
- Do you have a visual designer?
- Is there a front-end coder?
- How big is the team?
- Is there a product manager?
- Have you had a UX designer before?
- What’s your development process?
- Is your team talking to the customers?
- Who’s writing the requirements?
- Are there requirements?
These questions give you clues about whether or not the organization has the right makeup for success, and whether you have the tools available to effect change. For example, if this is the first UX position among ten developers and the team lacks even a project manager, it probably won’t work.
Double down if a previous hire went sour. If they’ve had firsthand experience with one who’s spent two to three months there and couldn’t even deliver a wireframe, hiring managers become especially suspicious of people in the field.
Reach out to other people at the company through social media channels to get their assessment. This is a very effective way to find out if User Experience will work there, because you can make judgments on more than just the hiring manager’s viewpoint.