Job Application Test


Hello all!

Excuse me if I’m falling in here as a headless chicken, but that is exactly how I feel right now. Now, to make it a bit clearer to any poor person who might read this topic: I need an advice by UX designers.

Here is my problem: I’ve applied for a job at some firm as a web/graphic designer, which I, in fact am, if a little outdated and even a little bad. I still have a lot to learn due to a big pause I’ve had in learning the last 5-6 years. Damn things develop so fast that I felt like a total newbie when I looked at what’s new.

Anyhow, a firm called me for an interview, which I happily went to, only to be asked if I knew anything about working in Balsamiq. I stared blankly at the guy as I’ve never heard about the software before, but hey, it’s not like I know about all softwares out there. I clearly said what I did and didn’t know (never mentioned anything about UI or UX design, actually, said I have no idea about it). The guy asked me if I’d be ready to do a “test” for them. I said “Sure, why not?”, and in a couple of weeks I got an e-mail with a PDF mock-up/wireframe of 3 pages, obviously done in Balsamiq. Again, I stared at it. WTF was I supposed to do with it? Is it a website? An Intranet?? There were menus, icons, some tables… hmm… yes, obviously some work is done there, some dropdowns and searches. Okay, an Intranet with … an app? Do I do a PSD file, a JPEG design or do they need a HTML/CSS coding too? I mean… what??
I got absolutely NO information. Not about what it is, who are, or will be the users, what type of design they expect, what colors they like, how long and what exactly will the users do in there… NOTHING.

So I went by the supposed fact that there is nothing really important and they might want only to see if I can operate Photoshop? Fair enough, I did a fairly ugly, but modern design, based on their company’s existing website. Something between a web app and a website (like I supposed that was).

The feedback I got was: “It’s not good. UX elements need to be better placed, colors better, important things need to be highlighted, and design needs to be modern.” And after it all “It is an ERP system after all”. I mean, WHAT??? It was only THEN I realized they want an UX design from me. But… how?

So, as a total, absolute ignorant… I ask you… what the f** is my job here?

I was about to learn basics of UX anyways, because today it is simply impossible to ignore it completely if you’re in any type of design. But I really know nothing about it right now. How am I supposed to do a “good” design by their opinion if I’ve never done it before. Is it something that can be learned fast for one test?

Because, the more I read about it, the more I feel I will never learn it all.

Is this situation normal? I don’t feel it is, but you, experienced UX designers will know better.

I thank you in advance for any input you might give me. Any reduction of my ignorance and confusion will be greatly appreciated!



Yeah… I’m with you on this one: WTF!

No that is NOT normal. Good on you for accepting their ‘test’ and for giving it your best shot but you’re not a mind reader and you’re not supposed to be one either. What a mess- giving you a file with no brief! That’s just plain stupid and you are not ignorant- don’t waste another moment worrying about this or feeling ignorant. From the sounds of things, I think you dodged a bullet here.

Interviews are a two-way process - they are a chance for them to see if you’re a good fit for their culture and it’s a chance for you to see if they align to what you’re looking for in an employer. I’ve done design challenge type things as part of recruitment processes and there was always a brief. There’s always a chance to ask questions and it’s not a test because the task has been designed to uncover how you think and there are no right or wrong answers.

You’re going to be ok - it sounds like you’ve got the right attitude and you genuinely gave their ridiculous ‘test’ a shot which is really all you can do :slight_smile:


Hey ASHM, thank you for your reply! I do appreciate your kind words. :o

I’m now working on a second try for that “test”. Hopefully I’ll do it better. If nothing else, I’ll come a little wiser out of it -.-


Woah. That’s a ridiculous situation to find yourself in. Good on you for giving it a go.

The biggest question I’d ask is do you actually want to work for these guys? Even if you ‘pass the test’ it sounds like their communication is dire – you’d potentially be setting yourself up for a very frustrating time.


I agree with @HAWK

Have a good think about what YOU want and what you’re looking for in an employer. I know that’s easy for me to say because I’m not in your shoes and I don’t know your situation.

Just think about it- there’s quite a few red flags here.


Hey girls. Yeah, the answer to that would be HELL NO. But, I live in a small town and am fairly inexperienced, so I guess I’ll need to eat some shit, if you’ll excuse my French, before I will be able to choose.

Anyways, I did the design. Tell me, is there a place here I could show it, to maybe get some constructive criticism or even “Please do not EVER use Photoshop again”, or something to that point?

Thanks again :slight_smile:


Sorry to be late to the party. They don’t sound like they have a lot of UX experience either to be honest!

One other thing you can do when placed in this situation is to ask questions. So one thing people do when “testing” UX applicants is to see if they ask questions before jumping into the design. So for instance, you get the mocks, go back and ask things like: who are the primary users for this, is this a website or an internal wiki, or an application, are you trying to sell a solution or is it informative only etc etc. Try asking as many questions as you can to try and define what the problem is that you are actually being asked to solve (feel free to actually suggest different solutions if you have some rationale behind why the way they are going about it could be improved).

In terms of design colour choices, you can go with high fidelity, but I would suggest that you show them a process, so taking what they gave you, sketching up improvements, and then working to high fidelity (if you want). For colours, if it is for their business, sometimes you can go to their website to try and ascertain their colour palette (and modern design can just be fad related so feel free to use rational like wanting a design that ages well and isn’t just the latest craze that might not last).

The only other thing I would suggest is, that it shouldn’t matter as much around the colour choice etc, it should more be around the process and rationale, why you chose to make this element stand out giving it more visual hierarchy, why you choose a particular layout. Try and tie it back to the potential users, and you can even go so far as to say that you would test the solution with actual users and iterate on it.

If all they are looking for is output, they aren’t really looking for a UX designer. Especially when they say UX elements need to be better placed. Doesn’t sound like they know what UX means…

Hope this helps :slight_smile:


Absolutely! The easiest thing would be to save it to Dropbox and post the public link here. Happy to give you some feedback. :slight_smile:


Thank you all for your input! Really appreciated!

Here’s the link to dropbox files. 3 pages.

Anyways, I got the reply from the company. They said “That is better. We have not started with the project yet, I will be free to contact you if we choose you when the time comes.”



Hi @Xena - the link goes straight to Dropbox home, rather than your actual document. :slight_smile:


The test itself is a little strange and is a poor example of UX in itself. Without getting directions the proper thing to do in this situation would have been to ask more questions. As a UX’er we are constantly trying to ask questions and collect data so I would have clarified before the test. It very well could have been as test to see if you would ask questions before starting.

I totally agree with [B][B]Natalie Eustace [/B][/B]


Oops, sorry Hawk, didn’t pay good attention to what I pasted apparently -.-

TylerNectarUX, yes, I agree, but to all my questions the guy responded with non-answers. Per example,the company is a tourist agency. When I asked to be told more about the end users of the ERP he responded “It is an ERP system for tourist agency employers.” I kinda already knew that -.- All answers were given in that style, not telling me anything, so I didn’t ask anymore after some point.


Hi @Xena, i feel your pain, i was in a similar situation a few years ago when i found out after being an SAHM, everything graphic design had moved on a massive amount. arrrrrrhggg.

What you come to realise is how you could save yourself a massive amount of career advancement time, by applying for jobs at companies who have existing and highly experienced UX/design teams, because when you do that, you learn from the best. You want to learn from the best because it accelerates your learning and future career prospects. Each job you apply for really needs careful consideration about where you want to take your career :slight_smile:

Every job you apply for should have:

  1. a clear job brief (outline of what you will be expected to do on a daily basis)
  2. what they want the outcome if the test to be (if there is a test)

Did they give you this??
Warmly, Louise