I was reading through this post from @misaif20, talking about a take-home design challenge he had recently completed for a job he didn't get.
@HAWK, @Remah and @rachelreveley were keen to point out that misaif20 deserved proper feedback based on his work, and it was clear that it was not forthcoming at this point. It got me thinking about the fairness of these take-home challenges as a whole. What started as a tangent of mine eventually turned into a full-fledged blog post on the subject of UX design challenge interviewing best practices. I wanted to make a separate post to pass along my thoughts here, and to get the community's feedback on the process as a whole.
From my perspective, here are a few rules that design challenges should adhere to in a job application setting:
Design challenges should be done in-person.
This helps the interviewers gain real perspective into a candidate’s interpersonal interactions and communication skills. It also helps interviewers visualize how a candidates synthesizes information from different sources to gain specific design direction.
Design challenges should not focus on the company’s existing or future products.
There’s too much bias built in for candidates to be truly successful on the existing product, and it’s patently unethical to ask candidates to complete work for free on the basis of the possibility of employment. Additionally, could you honestly say that you wouldn’t use an awesome design by a candidate that you decided not to hire on the basis of personality or fit? You’d have to be a stronger man than me, and personally that’s an ethical temptation that I would never want.
Design challenges should be done on a whiteboard.
A lot has been said about whiteboard interviews, both good and bad. Certainly it has its drawbacks, but they do allow for clear communication and invite collaboration. Additionally, the ability to effectively whiteboard ideas with stakeholders is paramount to the success of any UX designer. Now’s the time to find out just how good they are at it.
Design challenges should be done with a fixed time limit.
Apart from evaluating their ability to work on a deadline, setting a time limit helps to ensure that the candidate doesn’t get tied up too much in nitty-gritty details and focuses on achieving their goal. It also helps move things along in the event of multiple interviews being scheduled on the same day.
Each candidate needs to address a unique challenge of relatively equal difficulty.
This helps avoid biases against specific design solutions and focuses the interview on how candidates think and interact with business stakeholders.
Speaking of stakeholders, business stakeholders should be represented at the interview by the interviewers.
The candidate should be able to ask clarifying questions across business units. This helps evaluate the candidate’s ability to ask appropriate questions, to work across business lines, and build a consensus before diving into a project.
There should be some sort of monkey wrench or two thrown into the works– a requirement that changes mid-design, a stakeholder that gets replaced with a new individual with new ideas, or an increase/decrease in time to deliver a design.
This helps evaluate how candidates react to a changing design environment, an important aspect of their overall ability as designers.
For what it’s worth, you can find a wealth of simple UX challenges all over the internet, but some of my favorites are here.
As designers, we all deserve to be treated with respect and dignity; to be evaluated for our relevant skills when applying for a job; and to be placed on a level playing field. From my perspective, the type of design challenge described above is the only fair way of going about it.
What do you think?