Having just recently started a new job where part of the responsibility is growing an in-house design team, I raised the topic of giving design tests as part of the screening process. I wanted to know what kind of tests people in the group have given and been given. Which ones are effective? Which ones give a good preview of the applicant’s skill set? Which ones are a complete waste of time?
It was fortunate that a very complementary topic was raised by Luke Miller regarding UX portfolios. So, we decided to make it into a tag team discussion (looking forward to his notes!)
From the stories shared by the participants, there are basically 2 major kinds of design tests:
- Abstract – where the applicant is asked to design products or objects that may not necessarily have anything to do with what the hiring company is making. Examples were radios and toilets.
- Practical – where the applicant is asked “How would you design this?” – “This” being part of the hiring company’s actual projects. Sometimes, entire website re-designs are requested in a very short amount of time.
For some applicants who ended up not getting (or taking) the job, there was a bit of frustration with the lack of feedback on their work. Most of the time, they are unsure of what actually being tested. Is it their visual design skills or their thinking ability?
There were questions on why these tests are necessary in the first place. Can’t we tell enough from the designers’ well-crafted portfolios?
An interesting approached was shared where the applicant actually works for a day or so on an actual paid project for the company they want to join. Not a take home test that they do in isolation but a real-world problem that they will try to solve together with members of the team.
I found this to be a very practical solution. The team gets to “audition” the potential hire and see if they are a fit skill- and personality-wise. At the same time, the applicant gets a better feel of what the work environment is really like on a day-to-day basis.
Thanks for reading!