The Thank You Note – A Sketching Tool For UX Hiring

by Jared M. Spool

The first time we did it, it felt a bit weird. That’s because it is weird. After all, we’re writing a thank you note to an employee we haven’t hired yet. What makes this note weirder is we’re writing to thank them for their first year of accomplishments, which, of course, they haven’t accomplished yet.

It’s this set of future accomplishments that makes this such an effective hiring technique. We’re following the old design maxim of start with the end in mind and projecting out a full year’s worth of work for our next new yet-to-be-hired teammate.

We describe how those accomplishments benefited our team, our organization, our customers, and our users. We’re starting with the improvements we want to see, then deciding who we should hire to get those improvements. It seems logical, yet so many teams don’t do it this way.

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Many teams launch into the hiring process without doing an exercise like this. They don’t spend the time considering what their new hire will actually accomplish.

Those teams are very focused on getting someone hired. In many cases, they feel they’ll lose the open position if they don’t hire someone quickly. If the hiring process is too drawn out, they may miss good candidates.

Yet, when the team doesn’t take the time to identify what their new hires will accomplish, it creates severe hiring obstacles. Their job ads are either inaccurate or very general. Those ads won’t attract candidates who have the ideal expertise to accomplish what the team needs.

Job seekers won’t apply or will drop out of the process when they see a position that is poorly defined. People want to know what they’ll accomplish in their new job. Candidates get really excited about a position when the hiring team has clearly shown how their work will be beneficial.

The funny thing is most UX jobs are interesting. When teams take the time to describe what the candidate will accomplish if they’re selected for the job, the hiring process becomes much smoother. The best qualified candidates know how to surface their most relevant experience, which makes it much easier for the hiring team to find someone ideal for the position.

What the Thank You Note looks like.

Our thank you note is a sketch of what our position looks like. In design, we’re used to creating a rough sketch of a screen before we’d start coding. In the same way, we use the thank you note to sketch out our ideas for the new position.

For example, when we were helping a client hire a senior UX designer to lead a large design system project, here’s what our thank you note looked like: (Details changed to keep the company anonymous.)

Hi New Design Team Member,

Congratulations on reaching your 1 year anniversary. We’re so happy you joined us. You’ve made some awesome contributions over the past year.

We loved how you jumped right in and built a detailed UI component inventory. This gave us a complete picture of all the UI components we’re using across ACME Corp’s 30 products. It was a great start to showing the value of a design system. We could see how we’d save development costs by with a consistent UI.

It was also amazing how your UI component inventory got the various product teams on board. You provided solid evidence when you showed which components confused our product users, by working directly with the product research teams. Everyone can now see how a design system will make life better for customers.

You did a great job putting your design system delivery team together. It was brilliant to recruit front-end developers and designers from the product teams. That made sure those teams needs were represented in the system’s design and delivery.

The two pilot products you picked for the first version were excellent choices. Those teams are excited about the effort, even though they had real challenges we needed to overcome. It showed the rest of the organization how the design system roll-out could work.

Under your leadership, those two pilot teams’ will soon release new versions of their products using your new design system. Other teams are now excited to adopt the system for their upcoming releases. Recently, several teams built prototypes that came together in record time by using your design system.

Thank you for all you’ve done. We can’t wait to see what you do in year 2.

Thank you notes don’t have to be a literary masterpiece. They have one question to answer: How will our organization benefit by hiring this new person?

Showing how growing design helps the organization.

We love a short-and-sweet thank you note. It makes it easier to collect feedback from everyone who will work with the new hire.

Like a rough sketch of a screen design, the thank you note gives us a quick way to collect high-level feedback on what the new person will accomplish. Teammates and collaborators may suggest other accomplishments they’d like to see. They can do a sanity check that the new person will work on their highest priorities.

The feedback we get is great. The best feedback we’ve gotten came from a product manager: “You’ve been talking about this new position for months and I didn’t quite understand it until I read your future thank you note. Now I completely agree that we need someone on board right away to do exactly these things.”

We’ve found the thank you note is a fantastic tool to quickly show the benefits of growing our organization’s design capability. It demonstrates what each new hire will accomplish and how those accomplishments will benefit our team, our organization, our customers, and our users. It’s a vital tool for UX leadership to make a solid case for better design.

UX Strategy with Jared Spool

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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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