With ambitious plans and tight deadlines, many software teams focusing on hiring senior talent.
For example, it's much easier to assess someone’s 2-20 year design career, than it is to to spot the hidden gems hiding in early stage resumes, and nascent portfolios.
This means big competition for senior talent, and leaves huge value at the junior end of the market. That's why we decided to do the hard work to select three Junior UI/UX 'future stars' from over 200 applicants, and an abundance of talent.
You just need to click to 'intaview' them (there are no fees/comissions for companies that hire the candidates).
In this post we’ll talk about how to spot designers who can hit the ground running, and be future stars.
Great UI/UX designers bring huge value to software teams. From winning new clients in the first place, creating products, keeping users happy, and staying ahead of the competition, top designers can give you an edge in many ways:
Where do you start?
Junior designers have been immersed in design theory and commerical reality via intense bootcamps. They know the design process, have user research experience, can use the tools your team use (Figma + Adobe etc.). Their designs even span different industries (from FinTech to Health), business types (B2B and B2C), and devices (web and mobile).
With so much talent on display, how do you decide who to hire?
There’s so much we could discuss when it comes to hiring designers. Stunning visuals, creative flair, and good personality fit are a must. Let’s focus on one key ingredient for (and big predictor of) success, 'end-to-end thinking'.
What do we mean by end-to-end software thinking?
The strongest designers will be able to contribute to just about any organisation on day one.
Let's look at how conceptual design moves to actual software.
Dog walking app designs in Figma
Please note: The designs above are conceptual (not a live app that people can use), and posted publicly (they’re not from a candidate’s portfolio). For this blog, I’m deliberately taking these designs out of context to make a point about end-to-end design thinking.
Rapid ideation and prototyping
Let's say a dog charity, or startup [‘we’re like Uber for dog walkers’ etc. etc.] want to create a dog walking app. They would be well served by these designs. Instead of hypothetical discussions lasting weeks or months, internal and external stakeholders can picture something 'real', and start hammering out ideas and feedback.
A [junior] designer can probably knock these designs out in a few hours. Maybe people (senior stakeholders/investors/clients) get so interested that there’s now even talk of funding, and building the app. So far, so good, not to mention cost-effective vs endless discussions involving middle management!
The same designs would need to be hashed out a bit more for a development sprint, but as we'll see below, there's a false logic in dwelling too much on this. Bootcamps (with good reason) don't require students to plan every single design to the nth degree.
If junior portfolios don’t always showcase this ‘end-to-end' type of design thinking, remember that designers often need to land their first software gig in order to display it!
It’s a classic chicken and egg scenario. Bootcamps often focus on designs across a breadth of areas, with depth (end to end thinking) on selected case studies.
From designs to software
Here's a quick example of what we mean. A developer might look at these designs (if they were 'final' designs vs conceptual) and say:
Q. ‘OK, but what about a first time user, what would they see?’
First time users haven’t set anything up (calendars, payments, preferences), they’ll be no dogs to walk, profile stats, ‘connections’, or messages. We need designs that show a tutorial and some tooltips for first time users?
Then we've got business logic / commerical reality type questions.
- ‘Do we verify dog walkers?' / ‘What about internal admin users and admin screens?' /
- ‘Can owners cancel a dog walk?’ —> ‘If yes, does the dog walker get a notification (and what does it say)? / Does the owner still have to pay the dog walker?’
Very good questions, but let's remember that none of this is rocket science quite frankly. A talented junior is already anticipating this, is more than capable of adapting their designs.
For this reason innovative software teams are big fans of hiring junior designers. Rather than get stuck at the 'chicken and egg' scenario above, they do two things that others don't:
1) Come up with a hiring process that gives juniors a chance to demonstrate this 'end to end' thinking.
Any innovative hiring manager knows, a ramp up period (maybe a paid internship) is a great investment when it lands the team a junior designer with the potential to be amazing.
2) Come up with an onboarding plan
A ramp up period (maybe a paid internship) is a great investment if it lands the team a junior designer with the potential to be amazing. There are many high value tasks for a junior designer (with very little downside risk) on most software teams.
UI/UX design interview
If hitting the ground running on ‘real life projects’ is your main concern then focus your interviews on 'real' vs 'hypothetical' examples.
Keep it real
I’m personally not as interested in questions like ‘Tell me about your design process’. This is a very popular UI/UX interview question with junior candidates, but I think more appropriate at the mid-senior level.
I prefer to talk through an actual design and results. Prompts can help go deeper into these projects ‘What was the problem?’ ‘Who were the users?’ ‘How did you fix the problem?’ ‘What were the before and after results?’ ‘How many users did you test with/launch to?’ etc.
You're looking for the levels of critical thinking, empathy, and knowhow you'd expect from a mid or senior level designer!
Other good questions relate to real products and decisions. Perhaps you could talk through your company’s products, and ask candidates what they think your customers would want to see on their dashboards; or what kind of notifications should interrupt clients via a mobile app?
When the resulting conversation sounds like one you’d be happy to hear in your team meetings, that’s a great sign. Once a candidate gives ideas that you’d be tempted to develop, that’s an outstanding sign.
If you enjoy playing detective, you’ll find many junior candidates with great transferable skills, and experience. Our three candidates will hit the ground running on 'real life' software teams, and here’s why we think that for each one respectively:
1) A former brand manager/administrator who taught themself to code, in order to help design and launch a website (fast learner, happy to get out of comfort zone)
2) An HR analyst and former software team stakeholder, who realised they could have a bigger impact as a designer (i.e. passionate about users + already worked on a software team)
3) Successfully cold pitched their first client with design suggestions
(not many designers can say this, no matter their seniority level)
With the market clambering for senior talent (with good reason of course!), the junior/intern designer role is one that presents a unique opportunity for innovative software teams.
For those willing to look closely, you'll find there are lots of junior designers out there already demonstrating a great eye for design, a track record of taking the ball and running with it; and delivering results.
The future stars of UI/UX design can either be hired now; or we can compete to hire them (along with everyone else) in a few years!
By David Fallon
Founder of Intaview.me
Notes and further reading
1) Dog walking app template in Figma
(BTW - do Google just about any kind of app you can think of followed by 'template', and you'd be suprised by the ubiquity of designs, and design materials these days!).
2) 'Illusions of agreement'
(i.e. where everyone thinks they're on the same page, but they're not!)
- Hansson, D.H. and Fried, J. (2010) ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever (pp 97-98)
- Also see this article.