7 tips on how to hire a good Product Designer
Good designers are interested in working for design-led companies that (1) understand where design adds value to an organization and (2) empower designers with what they need to operate successfully in those areas. Why? One of the major challenges with UX Design is getting support from the top. Without executive backing, product teams are forced to cut corners and work less effectively. In addition, misunderstandings about the Design Process can result in communication breakdown, incoherent planning, and poor execution. Bottom line: A design culture doesn’t bubble up, it must come from the top down.
A LinkedIn profile provides as much, if not more than traditional resumes, about a candidate's unique skills and experiences. Portfolio reviews are useful. No amount of interview questions, "design tests", or reference checking is a substitute for actually looking at a designer's portfolio and determine if his/her design thinking and style fits what you think will be effective for your project needs. Once you get a feel for the designer's work and personality, you will quickly be able to determine if you can form a good working relationship.
Many experienced designers are open to join a startup, but they won't sell themselves short for a shot at the “startup experience”. They know their value in the marketplace. For all the glamour and “sexiness” associated with the concept of startups, the truth is that startups are no more and no less than what they sound like: new, growing businesses that statistically are more likely to fail than to succeed. Despite the risk, if the offer is fair and competitive, the job looks interesting, and the company don't fail at work-life balance, you will be in a better position to hire a seasoned product designer that can add value to your business.
People don’t leave bad companies or abandon lousy products and technology. They leave bad bosses and flawed leadership. Micromanaging behavior negatively affects efficiency, creativity, trust, communication, problem-solving, and the ability for designers to reach the company's goals. It's not cool! What autonomy-seeking designers really want is to be empowered to make their own decisions. Keep in mind that the most important part of a company's culture is trust.
Speculative (spec) work is unethical. During the interview process, do not ask designers to produce work intended to solve actual business problems under the guise of a "design test". Look at their portfolio instead as it will give you a good insight into their design thinking, problem-solving process, and visual design sensitivity. Another option is to ask designers to solve a generic design problem in the office during the interview process.
Do not ask designers to sign NDAs in job interviews. Why? Any agreement that they sign to not disclose or use information shared with them in a casual interview process and without any guarantees of employment, opens up a whole world of potentially contentious confusion about what is or isn’t okay for them to do in the future. If you have something significant and tangible about your products and/or services that is confidential, please don't share it with designers in the job interview. If you agree to start working together as in a condition of being hired/compensated, then it’s completely fine for job candidates to sign an NDA, or better yet if you execute a contract that has solid terms to protect your IP and ensure ownership.
Chances are a good designer will refuse to design by committee. Don't sell this idea to candidates in a job interview. Design by committee is a synonym for bad design. I'm not saying that good design requires that one person think of everything. Collaboration in design is essential, and there's nothing more valuable than the feedback and ideas of team members and stakeholders whose judgement you trust. But after all the talking is done, the designer should have control over his/her design. You can stick instances of good design together, but within each individual project, you should avoid too many competing agendas during the design of a product. Sometimes this leads to having too many cooks in the kitchen, each aiming to add their own flavorful ingredient. No bueno.
How do you find and hire the best designers in this increasingly competitive industry? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.