Interview exercises

28 Oct 2004 - 2:34pm
10 years ago
17 replies
1366 reads
Dave Malouf
2005

Hey there folks,

As I've said earlier, I'm in the process of interviewing folks and I'm
really interested in the types of "exercises" people use to learn how people
think. I've been to a bunch of MS interviews and I've applied to cooper
before, so I know those. But I'm curious how people have come up w/ their
own and how they use these to do evaluations.

-- dave

Comments

28 Oct 2004 - 2:49pm
Listera
2004

David Heller:

> I'm in the process of interviewing folks

What are you interviewing them for?

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

28 Oct 2004 - 2:52pm
Dave Malouf
2005

being that this is an IxD list, I thought that part was obvious ...
An interaction designer. ;)

-- dave

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesi
gners.com [mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com->
bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Listera
> Sent: Thursday, October 28, 2004 4:50 PM
> To: 'Interaction Designers'
> Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Interview exercises
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant
> quoted material.]
>
> David Heller:
>
> > I'm in the process of interviewing folks
>
> What are you interviewing them for?
>
> Ziya
> Nullius in Verba
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
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28 Oct 2004 - 3:16pm
Listera
2004

David Heller:

> being that this is an IxD list, I thought that part was obvious ...
> An interaction designer. ;)

OK, smart aleck, is it a staff position, contract, agency hiring, etc?

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

28 Oct 2004 - 4:09pm
Jonathan Grubb
2004

One tip: be sure to keep your test legal and fair in an
equal-opportunity-employment kind of way.

- Give the exact same test to everyone you interview. In our sordid national
past all typist applicants would take a typing test, but minority applicants
would get a test with harder/longer words. :(

- Don't include local or cultural references, or anything that would skew
results based on gender, nationality, etc. These may not be obvious at
first. A fun IXD problem might be to redesign the windshield wiper system
for a car, but many New Yorkers have never driven a car.

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Jonathan Grubb
Yahoo! Mobile GUI
Office: 408-349-6122
Mobile: 415-722-9449
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.
com] On Behalf Of David Heller
Sent: Thursday, October 28, 2004 1:34 PM
To: 'Interaction Designers'
Subject: [ID Discuss] Interview exercises

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]

Hey there folks,

As I've said earlier, I'm in the process of interviewing folks and I'm
really interested in the types of "exercises" people use to learn how people
think. I've been to a bunch of MS interviews and I've applied to cooper
before, so I know those. But I'm curious how people have come up w/ their
own and how they use these to do evaluations.

-- dave

_______________________________________________
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discuss at ixdg.org
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to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest): http://discuss.ixdg.org/
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28 Oct 2004 - 4:51pm
Alex Bainbridge
2003

Jonathan wrote...

>- Don't include local or cultural references, or anything that would skew
> results based on gender, nationality, etc. These may not be obvious at
> first. A fun IXD problem might be to redesign the windshield wiper system
> for a car, but many New Yorkers have never driven a car.

Hang on a second - I have designed interfaces / interaction for things I
have never done before - isn't half the skill in our profession to be able
to research and emphasise a little?

I agree with the overall concept of what Jonathan writes, but the example
confuses me and crosses where I think I would draw the line.

alex

www.travelucd.com

28 Oct 2004 - 5:55pm
Jonathan Grubb
2004

> I agree with the overall concept of what Jonathan writes, but the example
> confuses me and crosses where I think I would draw the line.

The New Yorker example was slightly tongue-in-cheek, but I stand by the
sentiment.

To expand...
Unless the interaction designer will be designing cars, any car knowledge is
irrelevant to the position. Since car-driving is culturally specific it may
be discriminatory to ask about it. I used an edge-case as an example of how
the distinctions can be small and unexpected. (Note: I'm not a lawyer, just
so happens I was reading a book about the legality of interview tests last
week and was fascinated by the rules.)

To keep things safe and relevant, it makes sense to use a real problem that
the user would face on the job, or an actual problem that you recently had a
hard time solving.

Not everyone agrees that questions should be relevant. When I interviewed at
Microsoft they asked me a question about dropping glass balls off a 100
story building...

- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Jonathan Grubb
Yahoo! Mobile GUI
Office: 408-349-6122
Mobile: 415-722-9449
- - - - - - - - - - - - -

-----Original Message-----
From: Alex Bainbridge [mailto:alex.b at travelucd.com]
Sent: Thursday, October 28, 2004 3:52 PM
To: jgrubb at yahoo-inc.com; 'Interaction Designers'
Subject: RE: [ID Discuss] Interview exercises

Jonathan wrote...

>- Don't include local or cultural references, or anything that would skew
> results based on gender, nationality, etc. These may not be obvious at
> first. A fun IXD problem might be to redesign the windshield wiper system
> for a car, but many New Yorkers have never driven a car.

Hang on a second - I have designed interfaces / interaction for things I
have never done before - isn't half the skill in our profession to be able
to research and emphasise a little?

I agree with the overall concept of what Jonathan writes, but the example
confuses me and crosses where I think I would draw the line.

alex

www.travelucd.com

28 Oct 2004 - 6:21pm
Dave Malouf
2005

> > being that this is an IxD list, I thought that part was obvious ...
> > An interaction designer. ;)
>
> OK, smart aleck, is it a staff position, contract, agency hiring, etc?

You think you have a monopoly on that position?

Ok, staff, full-time, direct-hire, web-based on-demand hosted (think ASP)
application in the CMS + collaboration cross-section, in a small team.
In midtown, Manhattan. The position works under the Principal Designer (AKA
me). The design department is part of product management which is in the
development & technology department headed by the CTO. The company has 200
people or so and is growing rapidly. There are actually 2 of the same
position open (increasing your odds).

Ziya, did I miss anything that could help you.

-- dave

28 Oct 2004 - 6:31pm
Listera
2004

David Heller:

> Ziya, did I miss anything that could help you.

I'd like to think of myself as being way beyond help :-) but the point I had
originally thought of making was that interviewing strategies for
staff/contract positions can be quite different, a point that people haven't
addressed yet.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

28 Oct 2004 - 6:50pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Feel free to address the point and state how you would interview someone
different.
-- dave

> I'd like to think of myself as being way beyond help :-) but
> the point I had
> originally thought of making was that interviewing strategies for
> staff/contract positions can be quite different, a point that
> people haven't
> addressed yet.

29 Oct 2004 - 9:07am
Dave Malouf
2005

What do people think about "take home exams"?

Someone offlist for privacy reasons suggested that this is much better than
an in-house "not enough time to really delve into issues" type thing.

I know that cooper.com does this approach. I have not done an in-house
interview with them, so I don't know what they do to continue that process
internally.

Things that I'm interested in though are presentation skills and your
ability to think on your feet. I think the take-home test idea is good, if
it is done in combination w/ a presentation of the exam "results".

Something else I'm interested in discovering, is how you lead workshops. Can
you work with a cross-functional team meeting and lead it and facilitate it?

I think that maybe a good approach is to do both the take-home and then have
an in-house exercise as well.

One thing I KNOW I don't like is when the exercise is too related to the
core product (unless that product is ubiquitous and they know that you've
obviously been using it and thinking about it). The reason I like it to be
different is that I don't want someone to think that they are giving out
free consulting. I like that MS does this by asking questions about parking
lots and manhole covers which are more about "how you think generally" and
less about can you solve this problem for me.

-- dave

-- dave

29 Oct 2004 - 9:09am
Todd Warfel
2003

One of our favorite interview exercises is to have the candidate
(re)design an interface to a car stereo for a company in the UK that's
concerned about safety. It's not that we're looking for "the right
answer" but that we're looking at their thought process of how to get
to an answer.

For us, taking the candidate out of their comfort zone is important.
It's not uncommon for us to work on products that require a bit of
non-traditional thinking, or some type of industry first innovation.
So, this provides us with a method that provides insight into how a
candidate would handle such a challenge.

And by the way, while most of our focus is software interfaces, we do
occasionally work on hardware interfaces as well. Not to mention that
even this type of exercise does typically have some software interface
work.

On Oct 28, 2004, at 4:34 PM, David Heller wrote:

> But I'm curious how people have come up w/ their
> own and how they use these to do evaluations.

Cheers!

Todd R. Warfel
Partner, Design and Usability Specialist
MessageFirst | making products easier to use
--------------------------------------
Contact Info
voice: (607) 339-9640
email: twarfel at messagefirst.com
web: www.messagefirst.com
aim: twarfel at mac.com
--------------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

29 Oct 2004 - 9:45am
Lilly Irani
2004

With regards to the "take home exams," I think they should be used
cautiously. When I've seen them used at work, you often end up seeing
the person's design without any chance for the person to justify their
tradeoffs. What looks like a design that violates the values we tend
to emphasize in our in-house stuff might be a fresh perspective. But
we're not always lucky enough to see that when the submitted design
isn't a "culture fit." I think the "take home" can be unfair because
in our work environment, what really would predict your success is how
quickly you can take and incorporate feedback into iterating and
moving forward quickly, which the "take home" doesn't capture.

I've never seen anyone submit a take home with a design paper
explaining their process and choices, but that would be far more
interesting.

Another downside I've seen to the "take home" is that it demands a lot
of the interviewees time, which may make the assigning company seem
arrogant.

~lilly

On Fri, 29 Oct 2004 11:07:29 -0400, David Heller <dave at ixdg.org> wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> What do people think about "take home exams"?
>
> Someone offlist for privacy reasons suggested that this is much better than
> an in-house "not enough time to really delve into issues" type thing.
>
> I know that cooper.com does this approach. I have not done an in-house
> interview with them, so I don't know what they do to continue that process
> internally.
>
> Things that I'm interested in though are presentation skills and your
> ability to think on your feet. I think the take-home test idea is good, if
> it is done in combination w/ a presentation of the exam "results".
>
> Something else I'm interested in discovering, is how you lead workshops. Can
> you work with a cross-functional team meeting and lead it and facilitate it?
>
> I think that maybe a good approach is to do both the take-home and then have
> an in-house exercise as well.
>
> One thing I KNOW I don't like is when the exercise is too related to the
> core product (unless that product is ubiquitous and they know that you've
> obviously been using it and thinking about it). The reason I like it to be
> different is that I don't want someone to think that they are giving out
> free consulting. I like that MS does this by asking questions about parking
> lots and manhole covers which are more about "how you think generally" and
> less about can you solve this problem for me.
>
> -- dave
>
> -- dave
>
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Interaction Design Discussion List
> discuss at ixdg.org
> --
> to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest): http://discuss.ixdg.org/
> --
> Questions: lists at ixdg.org
> --
> Announcement Online List (discussion list members get announcements already)
> http://subscribe-announce.ixdg.org/
> --
> http://ixdg.org/
>

29 Oct 2004 - 10:02am
mtumi
2004

frankly, considering most companies have either a trial period or go
temp-to-perm nowadays, I would consider the take-home to be a very
annoying concept that I hope never takes hold in the marketplace.

The potential employee is taking a risk. The company must also take
some kind of a risk as well. Consider the first month or so your
take-home exam.

MT

29 Oct 2004 - 1:00pm
bill pawlak
2004

> Things that I'm interested in though are presentation skills and your
> ability to think on your feet. I think the take-home test idea is
> good, if
> it is done in combination w/ a presentation of the exam "results".

I'm not a big fan of the "tests," especially take home ones... I try to
take a more pragmatic approach to interviewing: show them a problem,
ask for their input, and discuss why they made the suggestions they
did. Argue with them a bit about why that approach may/may not work.
Get them to defend their decisions. You don't have to be
confrontational about it, but I try to present them with challenges
that happen in the real world (and esp. at our company) and which I'd
be paying them to address.

Example: reservation system. Someone on the client team saw
Macromedia's use of the "accordion" concept and wants to make the whole
browse/select process using the accordions, but there's data
dependencies between data elements/inputs on the different "folds."

So, will the accordions concept work? Is it the best solution to the
problem? How else could the problem be solved?

The key in this example is that yes, the accordion concept *could*
work, but there's a lot of issues that need to be addressed. For
example:

- interaction issues (might be odd to users who've never seen the
accordion concept before)
- technology issues (how to build? Flash? DHTML? What are the IxD
issues that need to be considered depending on the technology?)
- business issues (how much of the client team thinks the accordion is
a good idea...? the designer may not be able to move mountains, so that
heavy-duty-client-preference may actually be a design constraint that
isn't all that flexible.)

Now, given all that, let the designer work out some sort of solution or
at least a strategy for coming up with that solution... Heck, why not
the two of you work on a strategy/solution... that way you can get a
feel for how you'd work together, if they were part of the team.

> One thing I KNOW I don't like is when the exercise is too related to
> the
> core product (unless that product is ubiquitous and they know that
> you've
> obviously been using it and thinking about it). The reason I like it
> to be
> different is that I don't want someone to think that they are giving
> out
> free consulting.

Again, being pragmatic, *I* would then have work to do to be able to
say: "hmmm... s/he had an interesting solution about manhole covers
(your example). Now how the *heck* does that relate to what the
designer will be doing for the company?" If you're worried about the
"free consulting," tell all interviewers that if they get the job,
you'll pay them retroactively for the interview time. The assumption
is that you generally tend to hire the people who give you good answers
to the problems presented to them.

> I like that MS does this by asking questions about
> parking
> lots and manhole covers which are more about "how you think
> generally" and
> less about can you solve this problem for me.

But you *are* hiring the person to solve actual problems for you,
right? So I think you had better make sure that they can work through
the types of problems that you need solved and that they can do those
in the context of running a business.

Just my $.03 (long post)

bill

__________________________________
Do you Yahoo!?
Yahoo! Mail Address AutoComplete - You start. We finish.
http://promotions.yahoo.com/new_mail

29 Oct 2004 - 2:13pm
Listera
2004

David Heller:

> What do people think about "take home exams"?

Would you pay for the applicant's time?
If everybody required them, would you still favor them and think they are
fair?
How would you know if they had any help at home?

BTW, one thing I haven't seen discussed so far is that the job interview is
a *two-way* street. Unless you're interviewing someone who has no other
choices (in which case, do you really want to hire him?), you're being
'interviewed' by them as well.

So my simple rule in this regard is: would you sign or ask your sweetheart
to sign a prenuptial?

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

29 Oct 2004 - 4:35pm
Kim Goodwin
2004

At Cooper, we suggest that people try our take-home exercises (unless
they think their portfolios will be sufficiently convincing) and we also
do an on-the-spot exercise at the whiteboard. Our take-home test
presents both a nitty-gritty screen design problem and a more conceptual
problem. Our on-the-spot test is a simple screen design exercise with
room for both detail-level and conceptual improvement. If someone passes
that, we ask them in to join a couple of design meetings to see how they
collaborate.

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesign
ers.com] On Behalf Of David Heller
Sent: Friday, October 29, 2004 8:07 AM
To: 'Interaction Designers'
Subject: RE: [ID Discuss] Interview exercises

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
material.]

What do people think about "take home exams"?

Someone offlist for privacy reasons suggested that this is much better
than
an in-house "not enough time to really delve into issues" type thing.

I know that cooper.com does this approach. I have not done an in-house
interview with them, so I don't know what they do to continue that
process
internally.

Things that I'm interested in though are presentation skills and your
ability to think on your feet. I think the take-home test idea is good,
if
it is done in combination w/ a presentation of the exam "results".

Something else I'm interested in discovering, is how you lead workshops.
Can
you work with a cross-functional team meeting and lead it and facilitate
it?

I think that maybe a good approach is to do both the take-home and then
have
an in-house exercise as well.

One thing I KNOW I don't like is when the exercise is too related to the
core product (unless that product is ubiquitous and they know that
you've
obviously been using it and thinking about it). The reason I like it to
be
different is that I don't want someone to think that they are giving out
free consulting. I like that MS does this by asking questions about
parking
lots and manhole covers which are more about "how you think generally"
and
less about can you solve this problem for me.

-- dave

-- dave

_______________________________________________
Interaction Design Discussion List
discuss at ixdg.org
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to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest):
http://discuss.ixdg.org/
--
Questions: lists at ixdg.org
--
Announcement Online List (discussion list members get announcements
already)
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29 Oct 2004 - 4:41pm
Kim Goodwin
2004

Consider the other side of take-home exercises: they give applicants who
haven't had great portfolio-building opportunities a chance to show
their stuff. If a hiring manager sees what they need to see in your
portfolio, then yes, asking for a take-home test would be a waste of
your time. If that hiring manager doesn't see what they need to see and
asks you to do an exercise, they're giving you another shot. I've hired
a number of excellent designers I would have passed over if I'd just
looked at their portfolios. Evaluating exercises is an investment of the
company's time, as well.

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesign
ers.com] On Behalf Of Listera
Sent: Friday, October 29, 2004 1:13 PM
To: 'Interaction Designers'
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Interview exercises

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
material.]

David Heller:

> What do people think about "take home exams"?

Would you pay for the applicant's time?
If everybody required them, would you still favor them and think they
are
fair?
How would you know if they had any help at home?

BTW, one thing I haven't seen discussed so far is that the job interview
is
a *two-way* street. Unless you're interviewing someone who has no other
choices (in which case, do you really want to hire him?), you're being
'interviewed' by them as well.

So my simple rule in this regard is: would you sign or ask your
sweetheart
to sign a prenuptial?

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

_______________________________________________
Interaction Design Discussion List
discuss at ixdg.org
--
to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest):
http://discuss.ixdg.org/
--
Questions: lists at ixdg.org
--
Announcement Online List (discussion list members get announcements
already)
http://subscribe-announce.ixdg.org/
--
http://ixdg.org/

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