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UX Design Jobs in High Demand: Improving the Hiring Process Yields Better Outcomes For Talent & Employers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment rate for web developers and digital designers — which includes UX designers — is expected to grow 23% from 2021-2031, much faster than average.
Aron Kressner

For years, heavily regulated industries like banking and healthcare were reluctant to make the switch from antiquated user experiences to fully embracing the digital world. Step into the odd doctor’s office and behind the counter, you will unquestionably find a relic known as the fax machine; granted, many states prohibit the transmission of medical records on unsecured networks.

But the days of excusing heavily regulated sectors of the economy controlling private and sensitive information for fear of a data leak and liability are coming to an end. Companies that fail to make products people want to use eventually lose market share, no matter how deeply entrenched they believe they might be in our lives. Better solutions come along, users jump.

Why UX talent demand is so high.

Earlier this year Chase conducted an internal survey, demonstrating that years of UX aversion by both the industry and customers, Chase’s internal Digital Banking Attitudes study revealed that the perception and frequency of banking from your phone has skyrocketed – 87% of respondents indicated that they use Chase’s Banking App at least once a month. Here is a breakdown of Chase App usage by demographic:

Chase App usage by customer age (respondents ages 18-65):

93% of millennials say they prefer to manage their banking in one place, followed by Gen X (90%) Gen Z (89%) and Boomers (84%)

Features that help request card replacements (54% usage, +5% YoY) and pay friends, family or other people (P2P) (50% usage, +4%YoY) saw the largest increase in usage.

Consumers Digital Paying Habits: 

Four in five P2P (peer-to-peer) payment users use the service most often to transfer money from family and friends (54%), compared to cash (16%) and checks (3%).

82% use digital payments once a month or more, and nearly half (47%) pay digitally once a week or more (+5% YoY). Monthly usage has increased across digital payment methods:

  • Tap & Pay — 60% (+10% YoY)
  • P2P payments — 59% (+5% YoY)
  • Payment through apps — 58% (+4% YoY)
  • In-store mobile wallet — 41% (+3% YoY)

Forty percent of respondents reported that they have used a BNPL service. The market has spoken. There has been a foundational and seismic shift in digital banking over a relatively brief period of time. Compare these figures to pre-Pandemic levels – merely four years ago – when McKinsey announced that we were at an inflection point for the US digital wallet in 2019.

Through their McKinsey Digital Payment Survey, the report proved to be remarkably prophetic. There has been, at minimum, a 12% increase in mobile payments across the board with the largest sectors of growth found in the advancement of Boomers (+20%) and Gen X’ers (+9%). The original McKinsey report accounted for all mobile transactions – online, in store, or in app as opposed to solely through their mobile app – reinforcing the notion that there has been an explosion in the usage of mobile apps in consumer banking.

Consequently, there has been a job hiring spree, a rush on talented UX designers with salaries rising due to the limited and competitive nature of the talent pool.

Standing Out From the UX Talent Crowd

Given the market, it may seem like every General Assembly graduate is now a UX professional.

Impressing an interviewer isn’t always a matter of credentials and expertise. In fact, it is a more delicate balance, and evidence suggests that hiring new employees can be nearly as stressful for the hiring manager during the interview process due to the financial burdens that accompany hiring the wrong candidate.

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that a bad hire can cost 30% of the employee’s first-year earnings. For example, a UX Designer role salaried at $100,000 per year could result in $130,000 in direct costs including salary, severance, benefits, and related operational expenses.

While there may seem to be a power imbalance in the dynamics of the interview process, it is important to remember that each interview is meant to highlight the very best qualities of a candidate.

Here are 10 basic qualities employers look for in a UX Design applicant:

  1. Strong UX design skills. This includes the ability to conduct user research, create wireframes and prototypes, and design intuitive interfaces.
  2. A passion for user experience. UX designers should be passionate about creating products and services that are easy to use and enjoyable for people.
  3. Empathy. UX designers need to be able to put themselves in the shoes of their users and understand their needs and wants.
  4. Problem-solving skills. UX designers are constantly faced with challenges, so they need to be able to think critically and come up with creative solutions.
  5. Communication and collaboration skills. UX designers need to be able to communicate their ideas effectively to a variety of stakeholders, including users, developers, and other designers.
  6. Attention to detail. UX designers need to be meticulous in their work and pay attention to even the smallest details.
  7. Adaptability and self-determined to learn on the fly. The UX design field is constantly evolving, so UX designers need to be able to adapt to new trends and technologies.
  8. Teamwork skills. UX designers often work on cross-functional teams, so they need to be able to collaborate effectively with others.
  9. Portfolio of work. Employers want to see examples of your previous UX design work, so be sure to have a strong portfolio to showcase your skills.
  10. Enthusiasm and positive attitude. Employers want to hire people who are excited about the work they do and who have a positive attitude.

At first glance, these ten qualities may appear glaringly obvious. The search for quality UX designers is not algorithmic in nature, and most of those hiring demonstrated not only a dissatisfaction with the pipeline of talent; they also expressed an ambivalence to outright displeasure during the hiring processes and the manner in which the interviews were conducted.

Nielsen Norman Group conducted a survey of 646 UX respondents – all of whom were a part of a UX team (60% managers; 40% contributors) and the results were illuminating. Of the respondents, 93% stated that they had been directly involved in the hiring of their UX team:

Participants frequently cited a lack of planning and organization to identify team needs and ideal candidate qualifications before starting the hiring process.  

A few respondents discussed how they had no idea for which role they were even evaluating candidates. In some cases, management possessed a low UX-maturity, thereby turning the recruitment and hiring process into an unfocused mess. Overreliance on UI-design skills when hiring a UX designer is one example of a narrow perspective. Other comments pertained to:

Expectations for the role or individual are unclear in the job description, interview process, or at the start of the engagement.

Management deficiencies include a lack of understanding for the basic requirements of a successful UX-design candidate.

Insufficient assessments of the skills of the team; thus, they don’t know exactly which skills they are meant to look for.

During the interview, one of the most overlooked components in the job hiring process occurs when interviewees fail to ask thoughtful questions of their prospective employer. In order to stand out from the crowd, it is essential that candidates elucidate a focused and intelligent line of questioning for the interviewer.

Important UX interview topics & questions

We’ve compiled a series of topics and proposed questions for you to have in your back pocket for your next UX interview (of course, these questions may be applicable to other positions as well).

What are the biggest challenges the team faces at the moment? What are the team strengths and weaknesses? It’s a positive sign if you get a genuine and forthright answer from the interviewer about what challenges they and their team are up against. If you can’t get an honest answer, it’s a red flag. And if you do, then you might have just discovered an impediment as to how you could bring value as a new hire.

What current problem in the product would you solve right away? This gives you insight on the product and its challenges; more specifically, it allows you access into the interviewer’s perspective on what’s an immediate priority. Moreover, it is all about the product. With any luck, these so-called issues will become your problems too. Lastly, it pivots the conversation to opportunities that you might be able to take on yourself or help your new team solve.

Where is the company going in the next 5 years? This question indicates that you don’t work in a myopic bubble. As a designer, you should focus on flows and screens as much as being concerned with the broader needs of the business and how features support company-wide goals.

What are the expectations and achievements I should aim for over the first 90 days? This question helps the interviewer think of you as an employee. It also gives you some insight into your first days at the company, and a more practical sense of how your new team works against deadlines on a weekly and monthly basis.

Do you have any doubts or concerns regarding my fit to this position that I can address before we end? If you have time for only one question, this is it. Mentioning the elephant in the room (or Zoom) and asking for feedback is essential. Perhaps initially awkward, this question can be both powerful and effective. After all, you are giving the interviewer an opportunity to clear up any apprehensions or inaccurate assumptions.

Don’t Fall into the Same Traps

For employers, this lack of uniformed or structured planning of interviews is one of the leading causes for UX dissatisfaction in the workplace. The hiring process is directly related to the success of a company and a strong indicator of future success or mediocrity.

Here is step-by-step example of a structured hiring process: 

First, analyze the UX role and generate a list of roughly 30 task statements. Refer to the job description, recall accomplishments of high-performing employees, or ask employees in that role to brainstorm essential tasks, critical situations, and productive behaviors.

What do you want to determine or predict about your job candidates? Consider a skill-mapping exercise to uncover your team’s current gaps in knowledge and collectively discuss how a new hire might fill them.

Survey your team and team leaders, and rank the task statements by importance.

Take the top 10 tasks and develop situational or behavioral questions, the most effective question types for predicting future job performance:

Behavioral questions ask the candidate to draw upon their life experience. For example: “Tell me about a time where you had to present controversial UX research findings to stakeholders. How did you prepare, and what did you do?”

Situational questions present a hypothetical yet relevant and realistic dilemma to the candidate. For example: “Two months ago, you joined an app team as their first UX designer. You recently completed a qualitative usability test with users, revealing several high-severity usability findings from a recent feature launch. You suspect these findings pose a risk to the success of the project, but you also know that the dev team worked long hours to complete the latest features. What would you do?”

Create a scoring rubric for each question. Rubrics help interviewers rate answers against a consistent, objective standard. This can be more scientific but we’ve also worked with high-performing teams that use a simple thumbs up or down score for each candidate.

Some teams will even test interview questions with a team member in a mock interview and adjust appropriately.

Document all questions and scoring rubrics into interviewer guides. Assign at least 5 questions to each guide; the questions can be identical or unique for each interviewer.

Select 3–4 interviewers. Brief them on the interview guides and the pertinence of structured interviewing. Encourage them to take objective notes on the candidate’s answers and not rely on their subjective opinions.

Once a candidate has finished interviewing:

Arrange a 30-minute followup with all interviewers within 24 hours. Review each question and ask interviewers to share insights based on their notes. Finally, ask everyone else to imagine working with this candidate. Then have them submit a final intuition score from 1 to 5.

Tally each candidate’s score by averaging interviewer ratings across all questions. Calculate the average intuition score across all interviewers to arrive at a decision. If there are no objections and there is a clear winner among the candidates, it’s time to start the offer and negotiation process.

This may seem like a lot of extra work but it is well worth it to find great candidates who also carry the benefit of consensus among the team.

Hiring
Talent
UX Design