How to Apply to a UX Job: Part 1 - Craftsy


#1

Hi All! With so many people here looking at applying for new work, I thought it’d be interesting to break down a job posting to talk about what an actual job post might look like, and how the skills/requirements play into the posting.

TO BE CLEAR, I AM NOT APPLYING FOR THIS JOB. I quite like my current employer, and am doing this just as a courtesy to my wonderful, new-to-UX friends in the community.

Today we’re going to look at this UX Researcher job for Craftsy, a site geared at offering products and services for creative people.

Here’s the job posting in its entirety:

UX Researcher
Craftsy - Denver, CO 80202
Our mission is to empower people who can’t help but create! Combining cutting-edge expertise in digital marketing, technology, content and ecommerce, Craftsy is a proud new member of the NBCUniversal family. Armed with new partners and infinite possibilities, we’re eager to continue building a customer-first lifestyle learning brand for passionate makers. Our team here navigates challenges by trusting in each other and using data as our compass. We’ve only scratched the surface and we’re ready for more!

As a member of the UX team, you will partner with PMs, designers, engineers and others throughout the org to ensure we deliver an outstanding digital experience for the Craftsy community. You will bring qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods research skills to a user-centric team seeking to identify the “right solution” for the “right problem” in everything we create.

From the start, you can expect to…

  • Partner with Product Managers and User Experience Designers to identify highest-impact areas of research
  • Define, plan, conduct, and analyze user research to validate designs and support new product development
  • Communicate findings and recommendations in compelling/creative ways
  • Develop Craftsy’s research practice as the first UX Researcher on the team
  • You might just be perfect if you…
  • Have 3+ years of experience in product research at a consumer-focused technology company
  • Have a degree in HCI, Psychology, Social Science, or a related field
  • Command a broad range of qualitative and user-centered design research methods, across multiple devices/platforms
  • Have knowledge of quantitative, behavioral analysis, and statistical concepts
  • Are a gifted storyteller and dedicated advocate of a user-centered approach to product development
  • Have experience with Google Analytics or SQL

To be considered for the role, please submit…

  • Your resume, of course! Share your professional experiences and top accomplishments in one page.
  • Answer to the following question in lieu of a traditional cover letter:
  • Tell us about a product that your work significantly changed. What did you discover? How did you communicate the opportunity?

There’s a lot in here, right? Now let’s break this down, piece-by-piece, to decipher what this posting actually means.

##Intro Paragraph

Our mission is to empower people who can’t help but create! Combining cutting-edge expertise in digital marketing, technology, content and ecommerce, Craftsy is a proud new member of the NBCUniversal family. Armed with new partners and infinite possibilities, we’re eager to continue building a customer-first lifestyle learning brand for passionate makers. Our team here navigates challenges by trusting in each other and using data as our compass. We’ve only scratched the surface and we’re ready for more!

You’ll find a lot of these types of introductory paragraphs, though I’m never entirely sure why. They’re meant to give you an idea of what the company is about, what’s important to them, and maybe a touch about their culture. When we strip away all of the filler, we’re left with a very good piece of information to research.

Crafts belongs to NBCUniversal, the huge American media company that owns NBC along with quite a few other holdings. Why did NBCUniversal, a large corporation, purchase this crafting website? A quick google search shows that NBC recently acquired Craftsy in a $230 million buyout, so that’s obviously nothing to sneeze at. A key quote from the linked article is this blurb about how Craftsy makes its money:

Craftsy had revenue of between $60 million and $65 million in 2016, according to multiple sources, and was around break-even. The company makes about half of its money from the sale of online video classes like “Knit Faster with Portuguese Knitting” and “How to Master Outdoor Cooking,” and the other half from e-commerce sales of craft supplies and kits, according to one of these people.

This gives us a couple of pieces of solid information to being to focus our resume and cover letter:

  • E-Commerce acument should be a highlight of our experience
  • Video UX experience will be a plus.
  • Although the ad has a startup-feel, the company is owned by corporate America. Our resume should reflect a similar professionalism.

##The Basic UX Disclaimer

As a member of the UX team, you will partner with PMs, designers, engineers and others throughout the org to ensure we deliver an outstanding digital experience for the Craftsy community. You will bring qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods research skills to a user-centric team seeking to identify the “right solution” for the “right problem” in everything we create.

Well… yeah. I mean that’s what UX is, especially at the corporate level. I’m not sure this paragraph adds a whole lot, except to say that maybe… just maybe… they’re a bit new to the UX world. This is written like it should be some eye-opening revelation about how we can apply UX for their company, and for the writer it may have been. For us, this is no surprise-- UX is what we do.

##The Job Duties

Let’s take these one at a time, to decode their meaning.

From the start, you can expect to…

  • Partner with Product Managers and User Experience Designers to identify highest-impact areas of research

They make it very clear that this is a collaborative process between your team and management. Hopefully that’s a sign that management is engaged and listens to the feedback of individual contributors, but it could be a flag that management defines the areas of research, and “partners” with the team by handing out the assignments. Already I’ve developed a good question to ask my potential interview-- what is the process that we’d use to determine areas of research, and how would I fit into that roll?

  • Define, plan, conduct, and analyze user research to validate designs and support new product development

Perhaps this is just me, but the fact that we are “validating” designs rather than testing them leads me to believe the company is, primarily, looking for affirmation that their previous work was done correctly. This may not be the case. My second question for any interview is now on the plate-- what would happen if I ran into a design that we verified was not working? How would the business handle identifying and fixing that issue, in conjunction with feedback from the UX team?

  • Communicate findings and recommendations in compelling/creative ways

Even though it’s owned by NBC, the company is itself a creative outlet, and likely has attracted many people with that creative passion. If most of the original team is still on board (another good question to ask my interviewer), they’ll likely be open to creative ways of getting your point across. If anything, this affects how I might present my portfolio. I’d definitely take some extra pains to add that creative “wow” factor where possible.

  • Develop Craftsy’s research practice as the first UX Researcher on the team

Ah, bingo. They ARE new to UX research.

What this means is that while they don’t have expertise here, they also don’t have a baseline. For better or worse, if you get the job you will be their baseline for what UX is going forward. This means that you have the chance to provide a unique voice within the company and carve out a very important niche.

The downside here is that if you are the ONLY UX researcher, their likely won’t be much room to move up at Craftsy, at least in the near future. Another question to ask my interviewer comes up-- if I joined in and proved myself great at what I did, what might a future career path with the company look like coming out of this position?

##The Job Requirements

You might just be perfect if you…

  • Have 3+ years of experience in product research at a consumer-focused technology company

Stop. Right. There.

This is, by all means, a job that could be done by someone with little to no experience with UX at a company. If I were looking to get into the UX field, I’d ignore this line completely and apply anyway, even if I didn’t have the required experience. The company is young enough to UX that if I interview well and prove that I can do what they need through the interview and portfolio presentation process, I believe I’d have a very good chance of getting hired.

Never let years of experience throw you off. Most people who apply to jobs don’t have the right number of years, and in the end they’re looking for someone that can do the job. Prove it, and you’re in.

  • Have a degree in HCI, Psychology, Social Science, or a related field

Another potential show-stopper, and another one to be ignored, especially if you’ve met the experience requirement above. More often than not, companies are concerned with whether you can do the work.

Here’s the big caveat to that: while more startup companies are loosy-goosey with the degree requirements, in many aspects corporate America has not caught up. Being a recently purchased startup company, it’s hard to tell where they fall on the map.

If it were me applying for this job, I’d still apply-- even though I lack any degree. I’m confident in my experience and ability to do the work, and would focus my resume on showing that through.

  • Command a broad range of qualitative and user-centered design research methods, across multiple devices/platforms

There are all sorts of user research methods, but they generally fall into two categories: quantitative, which deals with gathering and interpreting hard data like bounce rate or A/B testing metrics, and qualitative, which is the interpretation of softer data like heat maps or user interviews. They want someone who can do both, which, given this is a research-based position, makes a lot of sense.

I do a fair amount of qualitative testing in my roll, but not much quantitative. For business reasons, we don’t keep many metrics, and those we do generally aren’t terribly useful for my purposes. That said, I have studied and applied them on occasion, so I believe I’d be able to talk intelligently on the subject and answer scenario questions about what research methods I’d use when running down a solution to particular problem.

  • Have knowledge of quantitative, behavioral analysis, and statistical concepts

See above.

Thrown into the mix here is behavioral analysis, which deals with analyzing human behavior. For our purposes, this means understanding why users like or don’t like certain patterns, what sorts of interfaces in particular situations will turn users off, why tasks are abandoned, etc.

In short, we know many things are bad UX. The behavioral analysis piece is being able to answer the quesiton of why those pieces are bad UX.

  • Are a gifted storyteller and dedicated advocate of a user-centered approach to product development

Ah, storytelling comes up again. One thing is certain-- charisma and confidence will only help at the interview. Now is not the time to fake modesty, but it’s also not the time to bear all my bravado. Smiles, eye contact, and clear communication will be key if I get a phone or in-person interview.

  • Have experience with Google Analytics or SQL

It’s kind of interesting that this piece was put down at the bottom of the list. Google Analytics skill is usually a big part of the job requirements for UX researchers, as it’s the most common tool used to track web traffic and its associated intricacies. That they’re asking for SQL, which is a language used to query and build online databases, indicates that they may be storing some of their own analytics in a SQL database. This is actually pretty common.

For those going into the UX research world, Google Analytics and SQL are both very important skills to have. If I was new to the UX research side and didn’t have experience with these pieces, crash courses would definitely be in order. Fortunately, but GA and SQL are so ubiquitous that there is a huge amount of books, online courses, and tutorials out there to learn the basics.

##The Application Process

To be considered for the role, please submit…

  • Your resume, of course! Share your professional experiences and top accomplishments in one page.

Submitting a job application without a resume is like trying to fly a plane with no wings. You’re grounded before you even get off. We’ll talk more about how to structure that resume in a moment.

  • Answer to the following question in lieu of a traditional cover letter:
  • Tell us about a product that your work significantly changed. What did you discover? How did you communicate the opportunity?

This doesn’t mean that our cover letter should be completely devoid of the usual information, but it does mean that we’ll want to be careful in how it’s structured.

##How I Would Approach The Job Application

I have never worked as a UX Researcher, but have no doubt that I could do this work as I have most of the require skills and a great aptitude for learning what I don’t know.

What is clear is that this gig is big on storytelling. For a lower-experience candidate like myself, or someone with no formal UX experience except for their coursework and open source projects, this is a perfect opportunity to do a achievement-oriented resume. This is different from the usual resume format because instead of focusing on your work duties, it focuses on your work accomplishments.

For instance, my duties-based resume entry for Nordstrom Bank (the credit division of the large, American fashion retailer) looks like this:

While an accomplishment-based entry might look like:

There are some problems with my bullet points-- they’re a bit wordy, and probably won’t be read all the way through. Still, this should serve to give you an idea of how you might go about building a resume that focuses on your achievements, rather than your duties.

As far as my cover letter goes, I would pen something that told the story of how I used to be a call center rep, rose up through the ranks to become a software engineer, and was able to carry some of my unique knowledge and experience into that realm to point out that we might have some real problems with call routing and standard procedures. By presenting a business case to my managers, I was able to get the go-ahead to build a system to study the problem, after which I studied the data points to confirm or deny the existence of actual issues. After presenting my findings and implementing fixes, we were able to shave off almost 34 seconds per call on average, a huge amount in the call center world. This allowed us to increase customer retention, more efficiently approve in-store sales, and improve overall customer service and employee satisfaction.

##What do you think?

Hopefully this has broken down some of the mystery behind UX job postings, but I want to hear more for the community. Rarely am I always right, and I’m sure there are pieces that I’ve missed or misjudged.

What have I missed here? Have I made a mistake in my judgement of any of these pieces? What more can you add to the process?


#2

Thank you @dougcollins!
What a sharp analysis of hidden context and meaning that proves the value of background research. I have bookmarked this and I will read it over before dissecting the next job post I find interesting. I have a few questions.

I would never question applying professionalism, but I have always heard that you should match the tone of the job posting. What do you think about that?

Further in, you point out how they are looking for good storytelling, and whilst storytelling and professionalism aren’t mutually exclusive, I feel like I usually lean towards brevity when applying for very “dry” companies, and focus on an enjoyable, enticing read when I get that startup feel from a company that you also mention.

Lastly, can I share this on twitter, giving full credit to you, of course?
I feel like it is a really important read for anyone in the market for a UX job.


#3

Do it – I have!


#4

So sorry-- I got sidetracked this morning and completely forgot to respond!

Please feel free to post anything I say or do here to Twitter, no need to ask :slight_smile:

I’m on mobile so it’s a bit hard to type out a proper response. I will write a bit more later when I’m back in front of a proper PC.


Alright, back in front of a PC, and time to do some respondin’! Tagging @skodt6 to make sure the response is seen :slight_smile:

Yes, matching the tone of the job posting should always be somewhat of a goal, but you need to keep in mind that your response needs to satisfy a few people who are likely to vet your resume: HR, the hiring manager, and potential team members. This usually means you’re walking a fine line between making yourself appear to be a professional match (for HR), a team match (for the hiring manager) and a culture match (for the rest of the team). You can’t afford to pitch too much to one side or the other, so while your tone hear might be mildly playful, be wary of overdoing it.

To your second point, “storytelling” is somewhat of a buzzword these days. Nobody is too sure what it means, but it’s pretty clear that it means different things to different people. What it should mean, in context of a job application, is that you’re a clear, engaging communicator. If it were me, that would be a main focus of my communications.


#5

Thank you, I will take that to heart. :slight_smile:


#6

This is such a great idea! SO helpful-- I just scanned through and am going to go back and read in more detail now-- just got so excited about the idea that I wanted to jump down here to say thanks!


#7

Definitely appreciating this today. Busy filling out similar applications and trying to make sure that I tailor my responses to the language and expectations of the postings.

I appreciate it in particular as I’ve found a few weaknesses I need to improve upon. It’s always useful to see where you’re weak.


#8

WOW! this is fantastic! thank you so much for this breakdown!! really helpful!
chris