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Hiring Top UX Talent

March 9, 2013 — 3 Comments

Every company I’ve spoke with in the past 6m-1yr has mentioned that they just can’t find, much less hire, top UX talent. As one of the aforementioned “talents”, I’d like to share some advice to help companies with their recruiting efforts.

Hiring Do’s

1. Bone up on the terminology

I know there are a bunch of acronyms in the field, UX, UI, UCD, IA, IX, XD, etc.. but you wouldn’t think of just posting an add for a “Developer”, you’d take the time to specify that you want an experienced Java Developer with JSP, Spring, Soap and MVC experience. 

2. Understand the space

UX isn’t graphic design and it isn’t web design and it isn’t (just) making wireframes. An experienced UX practitioner will guide you from research to product launch. They should be part of your strategy team, not brought in at the tail end of the design phase to tidy up the wireframes. 

If you are hiring a consultant, they should want to be part of your team through  launch (and afterwards too). UX isn’t about a hand-off, it is a cornerstone of your project’s success.

3. Skip posting on the generic job boards 

Every qualified (and unqualified) designer I know is too busy to be pouring over the job boards. Reach out to leaders in the UX field and ask for recommendations. Try the UX groups on LinkedIn or the industry specific associations like the UXPA. 

4. Pursue the best fit

Since it is already a tight market, might as well shoot for the stars. If you have a big data visualization project, seek out a UX designer who is passionate about data visualization (like me). Research those designers and try to win one for your project. 

I am more likely to work with a company who takes the time to look at my portfolio before calling, just like they would expect me research their company if I was pursuing them. 

5. Request a portfolio

A UX designers portfolio might not be flashy like a creative director’s will be, but it should showcase their process and deliverables in the context of a projects success. 

6. Do due diligence

I have been suckered in by a gorgeous portfolio more times than I would like to admit, only to find out later the person was only tangentially involved in the project. I have now learned to ask these questions:

  • What role did you play in this project?
  • How long were you involved (2 of the 6 months, start to finish, still working on it)? 
  • Who else was on your team?
  • What process did you use? 
  • Can I contact your creative director, team member, manager, client, etc… for a recommendation?

7. Know the nuances

If you are creating enterprise applications, a UX designer with web site experience probably isn’t a good fit. Look for someone with enterprise and BtoB experience. Conversely if you are working on a mobile app based on community building an enterprise UX designer won’t have the background of experience you need.

There are also specific roles in the UX field, like UX researcher. This is a vital role, but don’t expect your researcher to be a top notch mobile designer too (and vise versa). I have built our my team to have complimentary skills and we pair up based on the product space, and specific project needs.

8. Take a test drive

If the candidate doesn’t have a case study in their portfolio  take a small problem that you may have already solved and ask the candidate how he would approach it as the UX designer.*

*I am not suggesting you try to get free design work as part of the interviewing process, just test the designer like you would test a programmer. 

Hiring Don’ts

And now what not to do

1. Use a recruiter that has no idea what UX is

I have dozens of examples of being contacted by a recruiter who is hiring for a high level position but doesn’t know what UX is. They either think it is something to do with development or graphic design. Hard to have a conversation with this person…

2. Use a recruiter at all

Just got an email yesterday from a company that I would love to work with, but the recruiter suggested I would be great for their UX design as a “junior designer”. Seriously? Conversation over before it even started.

3. Offer 1/2 the going rate

A major hardware company called me a couple of months ago about a UX director role. They are “re-imagining” their whole user experience from soup to nuts. I was intrigued until we discussed the $$. They were paying 1/3  of the going rate. 

4. Think the ‘X’ in UX stands for seXy

So you’ve followed all these pointers and have top talent on the phone or across the table, don’t blow it by telling them you want to design a “sexy” app. The X stands for Experience, and the U for Users. 

The only way to blow your users socks off is to talk with them , get in their heads, and craft an experience that improves their life. Unless you are in the adult entertainment business or fashion, your users are not looking for “sexy”, they  are just desperately hoping for something that makes their life easier or more enjoyable. 

5. Want to start tomorrow

Again, every qualified (and unqualified) designer I know is booked, so please, please PLAN AHEAD. Bare minimum the candidate will need two weeks to wrap up their current project, more if they are leading it. 

But even more importantly, unreasonable timelines are a red flag for any project. I am forever perplexed by companies that call me and want me to start “yesterday”. It typically means the whole project is going to be run poorly and subject to knee jerk decisions during critical phases.

Wrap Up

My recommendations are similar to many other lists already out there, just scoped to the field of UX and my own personal experiences. And remember tip #3, I’d be happy to refer you to designers who might be a good fit for your projects, so reach out to me.

2 UX Designer Positions

September 19, 2011 — Leave a comment

Two of our clients are hiring full time UX designers: Allegiance in Austin and Cloudera in CA. If you have a product application design background, with multiple years experience designing producivity applications- these could be a great fit for you. Strong interaction design skills and data visualizations experience are important.

1. Allegiance

User Experience Designer
Austin, TX or Salt Lake City, UT

Position Summary
Are you passionate about creating user-friendly, efficient, and memorable web applications? Do you want to work in a customer driven environment? Enjoy pushing the frontiers of modern web technology for thousands of users across many enterprises? Are you also a CSS Ninja, jQuery Czar and pixel counter? If so, we have the job for you! Allegiance is looking for a User Experience Designer.
Allegiance builds a web platform that helps its users listen to their customers. We do this by helping our clients collect the voice of their customer through surveys, social media, phone applications, mobile applications, SMS, and whatever else might be next. Then we convert this data into useful information and insight through interactive online reporting, dashboards, and data visualizations.
In this position, you will be responsible for designing the UI experiences that both our business and consumer user see! We are looking for a professional who can immerse themselves in our user’s world, design workflows, wireframes, prototypes, and create great user experiences. We’re looking for a user experience designer that has a blend of artistic product design skills as well as solid skills in HTML/CSS/Javascript. You will help keep our Agile engineering process efficient, and wow our customers.
Continuously learn about needs, listening initiatives, and data communication challenges from customers and prospects
Discover gaps in our product’s usability and workflow
Design the ideal user experience based on functional requirements and our persona’s needs.
Develop early wireframes and high fidelity mockups
Conduct usability tests with our customers
Create and iterate through mockups and prototypes based on feedback
Create and inspire adherence to user interface standards across the product
Ability to take designs from PSD or wireframe to product
Help the engineering team build high quality, cross browser interfaces
Be the artist for our user interface!
Experience developing SaaS/enterprise web application interfaces
Strong knowledge and experience with web applications, HTML & CSS
Experience with Javascript and jQuery
Experience with Adobe Creative Suite
Strong organization skills and ability to multi-task
Experience designing BI tools or reporting applications a plus
Experience with server-side web frameworks such as ASP.Net a plus
Education and Experience
5+ years of UX design experience and expertise in interaction design fundamentals
A degree in Interaction Design, Visual Design or equivalent experience
Application Procedure
Qualified candidates submit resume to and reference the User Experience Designer position.
In addition please include the following:

  • Cover letter indicating why you would be the best fit
  • Portfolio of your most recent application designs
  • Link to your website, if you have one
  • Tell us about one “I wish I had thought of that” moment you had recently

2. Cloudera

The Role

Cloudera is looking for a User Experience Designer to join its growing team. This role has a unique
opportunity not only to create some great products but also to set the standard for Cloudera’s overall
interaction design. Responsibilities include:

User research: organizing end user interviews and usability tests as input into the design process.

Interaction design: work with product management to take high level requirements or use cases and
elaborate those as process flows & wireframes.

User interfaces design: create the reference UI patterns that will create the visual signature for all of
Cloudera’s products. Evolve wireframes into high fidelity mockups.

Product design: collaborate with product management and engineering on various aspects of the
product design & development process


For this role, some prior experience in user and interaction design is a firm requirement. The ideal
candidate is someone who has done user or interaction design before as part of a larger team and is
ready to step up into a leadership role. More important are the candidate’s attributes. We are looking

Analytical rigor – someone who understands design as a method & data driven not a “flash of brilliance”
driven process

High energy – keeps a fast pace and encourages others to keep up with them

Nosy – knows enough about product management to call out bad inputs. Knows enough about UI
development to call out bad outputs.

Persistence – can visualize what a win looks like and won’t accept less than that

Attention to detail –keeps iterating on an issue until they’re satisfied they’ve found the optimal solution
for the user

Good taste

Interested candidates should submit a resume and some screenshots of past work to me, theresaneil at gmail. No cover letter

About Cloudera

Cloudera provides software and services for Hadoop, the leading platform for petabyte scale data
management. Founded in 2008, Cloudera has more than 50 customers including Visa, eBay, Bank of
America, Netflix and Groupon. Cloudera is backed by leading institutional and individual investors
including Accel Partners, Greylock Ventures, Diane Green and Martin Mickos.

I’m leading the design on a new project and we are seeking an experienced UI engineer to bring the designs to life. The front end technology has yet to be decided- so you can guide the direction.

Here is a bit about the project:

The IQVine platform will provide niche market info and customized insight at mass pricing. This is a $3B+ addressable market. We use a crowd-sourced approach with what we think is a very differentiated back-end. Our longer-term goal is a real-time collective intelligence system that can extend into other ‘long-tail’ info/advice spaces. We plan to raise capital in January.

IQVine was started in early 2009 by Scott Kwon and Jim Heerwagen, who have success with taking several concepts to commercial product in venture-backed and public companies. Our profiles are on LinkedIn. Over the Spring/Summer we did initial customer and contributor validation. Based on this we now have two seasoned N-tier architect/programmers working on the object model, community authoring tools, a proprietary real-time transaction system, and a quality filtering system to automate a good chunk of the interaction processes. A project is underway to produce a clickable prototype. And we are doing more validation and fine-tuning go to market strategy this Fall. We need a technology leader who can bridge the gap from the object model on through to pixels.

What we need:

  • Previous success as a team leader in successful startup
  • System-level web app architect
  • Hands-on development horsepower – doer, not supervisor
  • Champion of open source, agile, and lean development
  • Knack for great user experiences
  • Crowdsourcing, rec. engines, machine learning, and content mgt. a plus
  • Solid engineering education or meaty large web-company experience
  • Communicator with a sense of humor . . . life’s too short

Our tough challenges:

  • Data visualization that shows semantic structure of complex and evolving market information.
  • Real-time transaction system that converts rated community contributions into dollars.

Email me, theresaneil at gmail, if this appeals to you and I will make the introduction.