Companies Are Pushing Highly-Qualified Candidates Away

by Jared M. Spool

Tanya felt like she really connected with the hiring company’s CEO. They’d just finished their first interview together. The CEO told Tanya she’d be perfect for the job. 

The CEO said he was specifically looking for someone to help bring his company to the next level. Tanya could build a team and guide the direction of the company’s design efforts. He thought her experience was an ideal match. (It was.)

Unfortunately, Tanya’s next interview with the Head of Product went in the opposite direction. He would be her direct boss and told her the job would mostly be creating screens and drawing wireframes. He didn’t believe there would be any strategic work. Instead, it would all be low-level production design. No team building. No guiding the company’s design efforts.

Tanya thanked them for their time. She withdrew from consideration for the job. She felt like she dodged a bullet.

The hiring company lost a great candidate. There’s a good chance they’ll never know why.

Hiring Companies Everywhere Are Making This Mistake

This happens all the time. Recently, we talked to hundreds of UX designers and researchers, ranging from seasoned to new in the field, all of whom had been recently interviewing for new jobs. Almost all of them had a story like Tanya’s.

These job seekers described interview after interview, where the hiring team members clearly weren’t on the same page about the new position. Everyone they talked with had a different perception about what the job would entail, or said they didn’t have any idea. How can an interviewer properly assess if a candidate is right for a job if they themselves know little about the position?

In many cases, the job seekers told us they withdrew from that company’s consideration. Many companies are making this mistake without even knowing it. It’s slowing down hiring and pushing away great candidates.

What UX Designers and Researchers Want To Know

The designers and researchers we talked with told us they want to know specific things about the job. They want to know:

  • What will the work be?
  • What will be challenging about the work?
  • How does this organization show they appreciate good design work?

When the interviewers and recruiters they talk with can’t answer these questions, or give conflicting answers that seem to shift everything the candidate asks, the designers and researchers told us they get concerned about the organization. Is this someplace they could see themselves working? Will they spend every day battling for appreciation and definition on their work?

Creating A Shared Understanding With A Performance Profile

Teams are often anxious about getting into the interview process. They forget an important step: They need to take the time up front to define the position.

We addressed this problem directly, as we evolved our Center Centre UX Designer Hiring Method, by adapting a technique from Lou Adler’s Performance-based Hiring. Before we schedule the very first interview—even before we write the job description—the entire team sits down and describes the job. 

We write out the first year’s objectives for the new designer or researcher. We describe the needs of the projects they’ll do and the challenges they’ll face. The interviewers and recruiters all work on this together. We put the results into a document called the performance profile.

Developing the job together gives the team a shared understanding of the position. When a candidate asks about the position, it won’t matter who they’re talking to. They’ll get the same answers. 

If the company where Tanya interviewed had put together a performance profile, the CEO and the Head of Product would’ve been on the same page. What they’d come up with could’ve been an ideal job for Tanya or something that wasn’t right for her, but either way, it would be clear to everyone. 

And if it was ideal for Tanya, she would’ve finished the interviewing process without dropping out. It’s possible Tanya would today be building her team and guiding the company to better designs. A successful hiring process and outcome for everyone.

About the Author

Jared M. Spool is a co-founder of Center Centre and the founder of UIE. In 2016, with Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman, he opened Center Centre, a new design school in Chattanooga, TN to create the next generation of industry-ready UX Designers. They created a revolutionary approach to vocational training, infusing Jared’s decades of UX experience with Leslie’s mastery of experience-based learning methodologies.

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