Hiring New UX People

12 Apr 2010 - 11:43am
5 years ago
11 replies
5628 reads

When hiring a UX lead what do you think is one of the most important questions to ask?


12 Apr 2010 - 12:00pm
Andrew Otwell

I'm amazed how poorly people answer the question: "what online or offline user experiences do you think are really great? What are you looking at lately for inspiration?" I get a lot of "um...Google, and, er, Amazon are rilly good."  Good candidates--especially leads--need to be overflowing with enthusiasm for UX, and to see it everywhere, all the time. 

12 Apr 2010 - 1:04pm
Robert Racadio

That's actually a great question.  I remember being asked that and was surprised at my own inability to answer it fluently. Never again!

12 Apr 2010 - 3:00pm
Jeremy Kriegel

I'd expect a good lead to respond to that question with something like, "for what kind of person? and what are they trying to do?"
Great experiences are relative (mostly).
You want a good UX Lead to have good design skills, but their bigger goals will most likely be growing and mentoring a team, expanding the reputation and utilization of UX in the company, and communicating design and facilitating interactions with other parts of the organization. Ask about how they have done these things in the past. 

"Be well, do good work & keep in touch."
    - Garrison Keillor

On Mon, Apr 12, 2010 at 2:20 PM, Andrew Otwell <heyotwell@gmail.com> wrote:

I'm amazed how poorly people answer the question: "what online or offline user experiences do you think are really great? What are you looking at lately for inspiration?" I get a lot of "um...Google, and, er, Amazon are rilly good."  Good candidates--especially leads--need to be overflowing with enthusiasm for UX, and to see it everywhere, all the time. 

13 Apr 2010 - 1:14pm
Andrew Otwell

I guess so...though I want to see people who are excited by the products and services they use without immediately jumping into design analyst mode. "What do you find inspiring?" isn't a question about how you'd approach a design problem, it's a question about how you look at design and where you draw enthusiasm from.  It's specifically because experiences are relative that this is a valuable question.

12 Apr 2010 - 1:50pm
Ben Sykes6

These are the questions I always ask, then I move them directly to the whiteboard as good talkers can't always execute (which is a common problem):

  1. What is the definition of user experience?
  2. What components make for an optimal user experience?
  3. Describe and create the worst user experience you can and explain why it's poor.
  4. Describe user experience as it relates to "going to the movies" or "going out to eat".
  5. Does user experience equal human experience and why?

Ben Sykes

Sent from my iPad

On Apr 12, 2010, at 11:25 AM, Powers wrote:

> When hiring a UX lead what do you think is one of the most important questions to ask? > >

12 Apr 2010 - 2:08pm

Be very careful with the question "what web sites do you love?", because a) it's a loaded question, and just as apt to get what you want to hear, as what the interviewee really feels, and b) some extremely talented UX leads are result-driven problem solvers, who aren't "geared" to finding great web sites, they're just geared to fixing bad ones.

As you can tell, I fall under the latter category (the 'extremely talented' bit being questionable =]), and have a very difficult time answering this question out of context.  There are a thousand different answers, depending on your perspective (e.g. ecommerce? intranet portals? data management tools? shopping sites, cms apps, widgets, plug-ins, etc etc)

Granted, as a UX lead, depending on the role, the question does have merit.  I just wouldn't nix someone just because they love a site I'd never heard of, or if I disagreed with their answer to the question.

One question I've asked and loved in the past:  Describe a project on which your usability research or design work had a measurable impact on the user experience (e.g. improved adoption, increased user satisfaction, revenue, etc).  What challenges did you overcome to implement the results of your work?


13 Apr 2010 - 1:22pm
Andrew Otwell

There are a thousand different answers, depending on your perspective...

True, but doesn't everyone have a perspective? I had someone answer this question once who was a new parent who talked to me about discovering the world of baby strollers, and what they thought were great user-centered design choices that some manufacturers had made. He was excited not just as a new user of a type of product he'd never thought much about, but as a designer noticing how product design made him think through behaviors in a new way.  He showed that he was curious, analytic, and empathetic through this one example (and it had nothing to do with websites).  

12 Apr 2010 - 3:07pm
Greg Petroff

We use a behavior based model. Define the role you want to hire for. Define a list of critical behaviors necessary for the success of the role. Review candidates resumes. Create an interview guide for each candidate you find interesting based on their resume and the behaviors you need. The goal is to ask questions you can follow up with. When you were at company x in your role of Y describe a situation where "behavior you need for your company here" .....Walk me trough the steps you took?  

When you phone screen start in the past and work toward the present asking the same sets of questions for each job. What you are looking for is consistent behavior in their response over time. Reverse chronology works great because it is easier for people to remember details as they transpired forward in time. Do not believe you can change someone's behaviors... it can happen but it's unlikely. If they pass the phone screen then have a follow up with a colleague on site. You can even separate your interview guide into sections and have different people tackle different aspects of their work history.

Here is the part that seems weird but I have found works great.

Hire the first person that matches your needs and exhibits the behaviors you need for them to be successful.  Do not compare candidates against each other, only against the spec you have identified for the job you have at hand. Again hire the first person who meets the spec.  If you do the upfront work it allows you to hire quickly, meet your needs, get the right person, etc.

But this method requires a strong understanding of your own work environment, projects, work needs.

12 Apr 2010 - 10:30pm
Jared M. Spool

Here's the best question, in my opinion:

What's the accomplishment you're most proud of?

This question, and the subsequent discussion, will tell you everything you need to know about your candidate.

In our office, every interviewer is required to read Lou Adler's Hire With Your Head before their first interview.

Here's an article by Adler talking about the single question interview technique.


Jared M. Spool
User Interface Engineering
510 Turnpike St., Suite 102, North Andover, MA 01845
e: jspool@uie.com p: +1 978 327 5561
http://uie.com  Blog: http://uie.com/brainsparks  Twitter: @jmspool

21 Oct 2010 - 2:06am
Larry Tesler

Like Jared, I often ask candidates: "What's the accomplishment you're most proud of?". A great question for every position.
For a management or lead position, I often use something like this: "Describe a project that was very disappointing or frustrating to you and tell me what you would do differently next time." I am looking for an ability to explain project leadership challenges and to develop and articulate credible solutions.
A person who is never surprised by user study results is probably a person who won't learn from user study results. So, when interviewing a UE researcher or designer, I almost always pose these questions in this order: 
>> Describe a user study in which you expected the design to work well but it failed badly. >> Describe a user study in which you expected the design to fail badly but it worked well. Because this is not a very common interview question, some people will need a minute to recall a nontrivial example and formulate an answer. That's OK.
If it seems necessary, I remind a candidate not to reveal confidential information to me during the interview. Although this may force them to be less specific, I want to be sure they know how to communicate their knowhow without communicating some former employer's secrets.
Larry Teslerwww.nomodes.com
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13 Apr 2010 - 4:36pm
Robert Skrobe

Two questions immediately come to mind:

  1. How do you explain what you do?
  2. Describe your ideal work day experience as a UX Lead.  What kinds of things happen during the day?

The first explores their communication style.
The second measures expectations. 

If I had to pick one of them, it would definitely be the first.

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