Auditioning For UX Work

Posted By Debbie on May 20, 2013

Categories: Business

Tags: auditioning, jobs

Lately, I’ve had some potential full time and contract jobs give me small projects to show my skills and/or approach. I call these auditions since I have a music background. 🙂

It’s funny that some companies need these audition pieces while in a few cases, I’ve been hired without an interview. Someone looked at my website. They saw a little of my work. They read my LinkedIn recommendations. They hired me. Very different ends of the spectrum!

I’ve noticed two things all of these auditions have in common so far:

  1. The audition comes BEFORE the hiring manager/agency tells you what they would pay you for this job/contract. I think that conversation should come first. If you don’t pay anywhere near my acceptable range, why should I spend hours doing a sample job for you?
  2. They don’t want to pay for your time. I would greatly appreciate it if anybody who wants to use my time would pay for my time. I understand that most places won’t do that, but I think they should. If you are asking me to do work, real or sample work, it would show the most respect for my time if you offered to pay something for that time.

Be Clear On Deliverables

I think I’m messing a couple of these auditions up because I’m not sure what these people really need to see to assess what they are trying to assess. Do they want a document of the details of HOW I’d do a project like this? Do they want actual wireframes of the sample project? Do they want Axure prototyping for the sample work? I can’t always tell what they want.

Be Clear On How Much Time You Expect Me To Spend

Out of all the auditions I’ve received, I have rarely received one that was clear in how much time they were hoping you’d spend. Like hey, don’t spend more than an hour. Please spend 2 hours. So I’m never sure how far they want me to go down the rabbit hole of a fake project.

Be Clear On Scope

Do you REALLY need me to do all that for you to get to know my work or approach? I would hope an audition piece is really meant to cover what you think you will NOT learn during a phone interview, in-person interview, or from reviewing my work. This audition should be to cover some other skill or intangible that you wouldn’t otherwise get to know about me.

Be Clear On Intention

You should streamline your fake or real project so that it’s going to show you exactly what you need that you won’t get from our other interactions. Concerned about my approach? Ask for a long document detailing my approach. Concerned I don’t know mobile? Ask for something really specific that’s mobile.

Are you looking for me to dream up something fresh? Or for the purpose of an audition, can I rip off something that already exists out there? Please let me know if you’re looking to see what kinds of new ideas I have or if you’re OK with me leaning on pre-existing stuff.

Don’t Use A Potential Job To Get Free Consulting Out Of Me

One audition I won’t be doing anymore is the one where someone appears to want HOURS of me going through their current website/product, giving a detailed analysis of what I think is wrong/what I would change, and then (in some auditions) providing a wireframe or idea of how I might change some things.

I charge for that. That’s real work. That’s Deb’s brain for rent. That’s consulting. You’re going to benefit from hours of my expertise and analysis. So that’s not available for free. If that’s what you want from me, I’ll do it. But you will pay my hourly rate for my time. That’s not a fake or sample audition project anymore. That’s real work on a real website, app, or experience.

Here is one actual audition that I got:

Imagine a photo upload experience in a mobile application. It has cropping, different photo filters, and the ability to show geolocation information. How should it work?

Well, to really answer that, I’d have to build an Axure prototype. I could do wireframes. But this seems like hours of work easily, especially if you want me to try to think of something fresh rather than how Facebook has you upload pics from phones!

Or do you care if I rip off another paradigm? Are you trying to see what kinds of fresh ideas I come up with? Or are you trying to see if I can clearly wireframe something, even if it already exists? Is “how should it work” a document, a wireframe, or a prototype? How much explanation of my approach do you want?

And the questions don’t end there. Mobile web or native app? Android or iOS? Do you REALLY need me to dream up that many features in a photo uploading experience as an audition for a job? Could that be scaled down to something that’ll take me less time?

Ultimately, I didn’t do that audition. I instead asked what the job paid, and found out it was half of my acceptable pay range. HALF. So I passed on the job and the audition.

But these are my tips for any startup, agency, or hiring manager that feels like he or she needs to get a sample piece of work before hiring me. Please take the above into consideration, and streamline your audition project. Thank you!