Should You Do Design Challenges When Interviewing? 2019 Update

Posted By Debbie on February 6, 2019

I’ve blogged on this topic twice before and I’m trying something new that I wanted to share.

I’ve seen some recruiters and hiring managers on LinkedIn saying everybody should do design challenges, you have to “earn” the right to work here, etc. And I’ve always advised people to not do design challenges except for specific reasons previously blogged about AND only when paid since your time is valuable.

But I have found a new reason to give someone a (paid) design challenge.

Is this project a fit?

At Ptype, we’re not Short Order Cooks. You don’t ask us for bacon and eggs and get a wireframe based on your idea. We are Interaction Scientists, solving problems with creativity and process. Short Order Cooks will never be a match at Ptype. We need Interaction Scientists, but not all Interaction Scientists are right for all projects.

I have started giving UX practitioners a small amount of work, no more than 3 hours. Here are all the elements you need to do this… we might have Card Sort results, notes from the client, previous approved design patterns that this would follow, etc. OK, how would you solve this?

I have them sign my consulting contract, we agree on an hourly rate, and I’m happy to pay a few hundred dollars to see if someone is right for this project or not.

We’re auditioning each other.

They’re getting paid to decide if they like working with me. These challenges go both ways. If your directions are unclear, if you judge my sample work on elements you told me wouldn’t matter, you are so so so clearly telling me not to work there even if offered the job.

You think you’re scrutinizing your candidates but we’re scrutinizing you.

Not everybody is a match.

Not everybody is a match. Right now, we’re working on a project that is absolutely the most difficult and complex of my 24+ year career. Luckily, it’s a GREAT client… smart, fun, decisive, open to ideas, knowledgeable about his product and industry, he’s really a dream. It’s what we’re building that has endless possibilities due to customer settings and business types.

Even a high-level, very experienced UX designer might not be a fit for this. And that’s OK! Doesn’t mean you’re bad at anything. Doesn’t mean anybody failed. It means that this project isn’t the best one for you to work on given what we need.

Other projects will be right for you to work on. And I don’t mind spending a few hundred to find that out.

Why does the hiring manager need a design challenge?

Make sure this is not an ego adventure or a power play. Don’t assign candidates sample work because they need to “earn the right” to work here, as I saw someone saying on LinkedIn. Anybody saying that is someone I don’t want to work for, which means bullet dodged. Keep yapping, sir! You are your own warning.

And pay candidates for their time, especially if your sample project is connected at all to a real project at your company, as mine are. Don’t claim that HR won’t let us do that. Find a way. Give them real money. Pay through one of your approved vendors. Send them an Amazon gift card. Show the candidate how much of a great manager and problem solver you are.