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How to Hire a UX/UI Designer in 2021 (FULL GUIDE)

Iryna Matiyashek
Iryna Matiyashek
How to Hire a UX/UI Designer in 2021 (FULL GUIDE) Cieden

Intro 

After 8 years of the designer recruiting experience, our team mastered all its kinks. This guide is a structured and polished outcome of our trials and errors along the way. Here you'll find answers to most of the practical questions related to hiring a proper designer.

We'll start with the basics. What is the role of UI/UX designers in the production cycle? Then you will discover the types of contractors, their pros and cons, and the best ways to hire them. Finally, you’ll get an invincible guidance on the portfolio analysis and candidates’ interviewing.

All this will allow you to make the best choices for your business on all the stages of designer resourcing.

Content

Designer’s Work
What does a designer do?
In-house VS Freelance
In-house VS Freelance
Where to hire?
Where to hire a designer?
Design Portfolio Review
Design Portfolio Review
Design Interview
Design Interview
Part 1

If you’re developing a product, odds are you need a designer. But which designer? Due to the growing complexities of modern tech, designers come in different flavors, if you will. In the design community, there are UI, UX, UX/UI, product designers, graphic design professionals, and even designer-developers. 

And, you need to know which designer to hire and which to avoid, to ensure you meet your business objectives, specifically:

  • Optimize costs;
  • Streamline development process;
  • Ensure the product appeals to a target audience;
  • Create intuitive and reliable software.

To help you find the right pros for your project, we’ve examined the differences between the designers and answered the question, “When do I need a designer?”

UX Designer 

A user experience (UX) designer is responsible for how a user will interact with software, be it a website, app, or desktop program. In other words, a UX designer determines which actions a user should take to achieve the intended result and how to make these actions intuitive. 

For example, have you had an unnecessary long sign-up process that frustrated the hell out of you? Perhaps you had too much information to provide, or you had to deal with inconvenient drop-down menus? Bad user experience design.  

Or, have you ever visited a website that was incredibly easy to use? It didn’t bother you with intrusive pop-ups, and you found all you needed quickly as if guided by an invisible hand? Good UX design.

How to Hire a UX/UI Designer in 2021 (FULL GUIDE) Cieden

When do you need a UX designer?

During the early stages of product development, UX designers lay the foundation of easy-to-use software. Later on, the designers ensure any updates are intuitive for a user, help polish the product, and deliver quality-of-life improvements. 

Also, UX designers can determine the weak spots of the system’s user flow that do not meet your business goals and hence harm your business. For example, 30% of commercial customers leave before the checkout and report a convoluted process. What makes it so? 

UI Designer 

User interface (UI) designer transforms the results of UX designer’s work into aesthetically pleasing interfaces.

Such a designer ensures that your product looks modern, meets industry standards, and is pleasing to the eye. They pick fonts, add colors, juggle visuals, and make other artistic decisions to create beautiful software. 

Their work breathes life into the project. Without UI design, including high-quality graphic design, most apps and websites would look like soulless pieces of software in shades of grey.

How to Hire a UX/UI Designer in 2021 (FULL GUIDE) Cieden

When do you need a UI designer? 

For better or for worse, looks matter. A UI designer makes your website or app aesthetically pleasing. Also, every time the change to the visuals is due, the UI designer is a person for the job. 

UI and UX are the yin and yang of software design. Though it’s rare you find a pure UI designer or UX designer. Often, the skills are combined in the face of a UX/UI designer. 

UX/UI Designer 

A UX/UI designer is a person who combines both UI and UX skills.  

The majority of modern software designers learn both disciplines to be more efficient and in demand. The understanding of the UI helps to establish a solid foundation for a visually appealing product at the early stages of UX design. Then, they can handle UI design with a deeper understanding of the underlying functionality and without the need to consult other designers.

How to Hire a UX/UI Designer in 2021 (FULL GUIDE) Cieden

When do you need a UX/UI designer?

If you need both UI and UX expertise, a UX/UI designer is your person. 

Also, hiring UX/UI designers has two big pros: 

  • A single person is cheaper than two pros; 
  • No difficulties and extra time spent communicating visions and ideas between UI and UX employees. 

Though, if your budget allows it, it’s often better to hire two UX/UI designers, one of which is better at UI, and a second at UX. They’ll be a real software design powerhouse, and capable of dealing with a significant workload.

Product Designer

A product designer, the most misunderstood designer, solves product-related problems to improve business performance.

If you need to change the product or update it to address a relevant business need, PD is the one who determines the most efficient way of doing so. 

Need a new page on a website to sell new goods? First, PD analyzes the problem, the market, and the target audience. Then, based on findings and experience, they develop a concept, structure, and functionality of a new page that helps to sell more. 

  • A UX designer answers the question, “how can I make the page as intuitive as possible?”
  • A product designer answers the question, “how can I make sure the page is more valuable for business?”

Both are important but at different stages of development.

How to Hire a UX/UI Designer in 2021 (FULL GUIDE) Cieden

When do you need a product designer? 

If you want a person who can direct the strategic growth of your product through well-planned updates and changes, a product designer is a go-to.

Graphic designer

A graphic designer (sometimes, brand designer) creates visual content to help communicate your company’s ideas and messages as well as strengthen the visual identity of your brand and online presence. This content includes but is not limited to social media banners, infographics, posters, flyers, corporate presentations, etc. 

How to Hire a UX/UI Designer in 2021 (FULL GUIDE) Cieden

When do you need a graphic designer? 

A graphic design specialist is a must if your company wants to expand its online presence and work on its brand. You may also need such a specialist to create graphic designs for the internal needs of the company. 

Developer-designer?

Better not. 

Some people combine designing software and developing it, but they’re rare, and the road is treacherous. 

Modern development and design require a broad set of skills. Without devoting half their life to learning, trying, and failing, a designer-developer won’t be able to deliver decent design and code. At best, you’re risking mediocrity, at worst clunky, slow, unusable software.

Exceptions exist, but they’re rare. It’s safer to hire developers and designers separately.

There are more types of designers, but we examined the core of modern software development. They cover all the needs of most apps and websites. 

What designer level do I need? 

If the previous section wasn’t confusing enough, designers are also classified according to their level of experience and skills. Generally, there are three levels: junior, middle, and senior. Let’s figure out the differences between them. (There are intermediary levers, such as strong junior or strong middle, but we won’t focus on them here).

How to Hire a UX/UI Designer in 2021 (FULL GUIDE) Cieden

Summing Up

The world of design may seem like a lot to wrap your head around. But in essence, it’s quite straightforward: 

  • Software development needs UX/UI designers;
  • Brand development needs a visual designer and graphic design professionals;
  • Product and business growth requires product designers. 

If you still feel confused and want consultation on the topic, feel free to contact us. Also, as an award-winning digital product design and marketing agency, we are ready to cover your design needs. 

Part 2

Now that you know which designers you need, you may wonder, what is the best way to hire a designer?  

With over 900,000 design professionals online, it seems like a mind-numbing challenge.

But, at the core, you have three main approaches to consider: 

  • Get an in-house design team;
  • Hire freelance designers;
  • Partner with a design agency. 

We’ll go through the pros and cons of each approach to help you determine which is most suitable. 


The Pros and Cons of an In-House Design Team 

At first glance, hiring an in-house design team seems like a stable, convenient, and lasting solution. But it also comes with its fair share of issues you should consider.  

Pros of in-house design team:

  • Independence from third parties. You have only your company to rely on. 
  • Full control over the management processes. You get to decide how to manage the team and which approach is the best within the company’s framework. 
  • A long-term benefit. If your designers stay, they will become well-aware of your company processes, product peculiarities, and the “internal kitchen.” 

Cons of in-house design team:

  • Price. You have to pay salaries, office costs, additional taxes, and employee benefits.  
  • Time. Finding even a single designer can take a few months considering the preparation, search, and interviewing process. And even after all the challenges of recruitment, you can’t be sure that the person you’ve found is a proper match. If you need several designers, multiply the amount of effort by their number. 
  • Liability. After you’ve hired in-house designers, you have to keep them busy. With no workload, you're forced to cover unjustifiable expenses, and your employees can become frustrated. 
  • It’s unpredictable. If your employees get sick or go on vacation, the work stops or slows down.

When to hire an in-house design team?

An in-house design team can be relevant for companies with substantial budgets and a stable design workload. Consider that each month of downtime will cost money.

An in-house design team is overkill if you only require style development or initial UI/UX design of a product, with minor updates here and there. It’s quite likely you’ll spend more time hiring than actually working on the design.  

Addressing the main risk of hiring an in-house design team

The greatest risk of an in-house design team is hiring the wrong people. To ensure you have relevant professionals for the job, you need to carefully validate their portfolios and skills. How to do it? Well, it’s a complex topic that deserves its own article.You can read more about it down below. 


Pros and Cons of Freelance Designers

The attitude towards work from home changes, people prefer flexibility and freedom, so the freelance niche is booming. So what about freelance designers? 

Pros of hiring freelance designers:

  • Price. Hiring a freelance designer is less expensive than hiring an in-house designer or partnering with a design company. There are no overhead costs, and you usually pay an hourly rate.
  • Time. If you need the work done tomorrow, freelancers are the best choice as they often work on short notice. Also, they’re used to quickly switching between various small projects. 
  • A huge pool of pros to choose from. There are hundreds of thousands of freelance designers, and most are ready to go to great lengths to get a gig. 

Cons of hiring freelance designers:

  • Reliability. The saturation of the market also means there are a lot of beginners. Finding an experienced freelance designer who also would have a free slot soon enough may prove difficult. 
  • No supervision. Not all people can organize and plan work equally well. While agencies and in-house teams have dedicated professionals, freelancers have no choice but to do it themselves. 
  • Less focus on design. Freelancer designers are also their own managers, supervisors, and salespeople. It means they have less time and energy for design. 
  • Bad for big and complex projects. Complex projects usually require a whole design team. Hiring a team of freelancers is difficult, but making them work together efficiently is a true challenge. 

When to hire freelance designers?

Freelance designers are great for minor tasks. If you need a single screen designed, a simple landing page UI, or some basic marketing materials, freelancers will do the job.

If the task is hefty or requires a wide range of design skills (UI, UX, product, and brand design), you’re better off with an in-house team or design agency.

Addressing the main risk of hiring freelance designers

Finding freelance designers that’ll deliver on time or deliver at all is the greatest challenge of this approach. To minimize the risk, pick freelancers with proven track records and either sign a contract or work through specific platforms that offer some guarantee. You can find the list of said platforms in the next article. 


Pros and Cons of Design Agencies

Design agencies combine the best of both worlds. On one hand, you don’t have to spend time and money hiring and supporting the in-house workforce. On the other hand, you have the access to a well-put-together design-focused team under professional supervision. 

Pros of design agencies:

  • Time. A design agency is the fastest way of getting a full team to work on your project. 
  • A battle-ready team. You get a team fully equipped with all the professionals you need for the project, including a project manager and HR to keep them happy and productive. Whether you need animations, illustrations, graphic design, or branding materials, there will be the right person for the job. 
  • Reliability. You don’t get to worry about designers getting sick, leaving their jobs, or underperforming. It’s an agency’s responsibility to make any bumps unnoticeable to you. 
  • Best designers. Agencies invest a lot in professional growth: courses, libraries, certifications, time for self-development, challenging tasks. It means you get skilled, experienced designers. Besides, the best agencies need to have powerful recruitment departments. It helps to hire and grow strong teams — a crucial competitive advantage. 
  • Time to market. If you need a quality product on the market ASAP, a design agency will deliver. Besides, you don’t have to spend time hiring freelancers or assembling an in-house team. 

Cons of design agencies:

  • Price. Partnering with a design agency will be more expensive than hiring freelancers (but less expensive than hiring an in-house team if it’s an offshore design agency). 
  • Lack of full control. You’ll have some degree of control over your team, but the agency will handle the management/supervision. Also, just like in-house teams, design agencies rarely work on weekends or late hours. 

When to partner with a design agency? 

Design agencies are great for complex design tasks of any complexity, be it UI/UX design, product development,  business analysis, high-level consultancy, customer relationships management, or design audit. If the task is too big for a freelancer, and you don’t want the hassle of an in-house team — partner with a design agency. 

Sometimes, it’s beneficial to mix hiring approaches. For example:

  • A design agency can bootstrap a product, create the initial style, 
  • In-house designers can be hired later to manage A/B testing, long-term support, and optimization.

Addressing the main risk of hiring a design agency

You want an experienced design agency that will address all your needs and will be a good overall fit for you. An intuitive decision is to hire an onshore design agency. But, this solution has a few cons.  

First, an onshore team is usually more expensive than an offshore one. The difference between economic conditions in different countries allows the latter to keep costs low and margins thin.  

Second, an onshore team doesn’t mean better quality. As far as offshore agencies play on a global field, they should keep the quality high to compete with onshore companies as well as other offshore agencies. 

To pick an offshore design agency that will do you justice:

  • Check the reviews;
  • Carefully check their portfolio; 
  • Make a call with them; 
  • Ask about the level of English in the team;
  • Ask to share working hours and who will be working on your project.

There are plenty of amazing design agencies in the world, and you’ll be able to find a perfect match for a lasting partnership. 

Part 3

Whether you want to hire an in-house team, freelance designers, or a design agency, you need to know where to look for them. We’ll guide you through the most popular places for hunting designers and agencies. But first, you need a good job description. 

How to write a perfect job description

Half the success of finding a high-end professional designer is writing a proper job description. Though it seems like a fairly straightforward task, plenty of people still get it wrong by trying too hard or not trying hard enough. 

Our advice is don’t try to reinvent the bicycle. Be straight to the point and include all essential information with minimum to no vague statements and cliches. You can read a perfect job description diagonally and still get all the info you need.

How to Hire a UX/UI Designer in 2021 (FULL GUIDE) Cieden

You don’t necessarily need a job description If you want to partner with a design agency. Give the agency enough information about your project, and they will provide you with the project estimate and optimal team composition. 


Where to search for designers and design agencies? 

Now that you have a solid job description, it’s time to find suitable candidates. Different platforms will help with the task depending on which approach you prefer. Let’s check them out.

How to Hire a UX/UI Designer in 2021 (FULL GUIDE) Cieden

Job Listings: for in-house designers

Job listing resources—such as Indeed, Glassdoor, Monster, Work in Startups, Angellist, LinkedIn—are the most reliable way of finding in-house employees. Create a company profile, submit your job offering with your attractive job description, and wait for people to apply. 

One of the reasons job listings are so effective is that people who need a job approach you and not vice versa. If you open a “remote design position” on a job listing resource, you may receive a lot of requests from design agencies. If you’re 100% sure you don’t want to work with the agency, mention it in the description. It’ll save you time. 

Sometimes though, job listings aren’t enough. So, it’s a good idea to improve your chances of success with some social media ads. 

Active recruiting: in-house designers 

Active recruiting is the most effective hiring approach. What’s that? It’s when you don’t wait for perfect candidates to show up, but go and ask perfect candidates to consider an opportunity of your job opening. 

As a result, your reach is wider. Designers who could miss or ignore your proposition otherwise notice you. Your chances of success grow as you become an initiator and can lead the conversation. Minimum waiting, maximum acting. 

The majority of our employees are the result of active recruiting and talent nurturing. 

But, you need experienced recruiters for active recruiting. They know where to look for potential employees and how to get their attention. One of the most popular places for active recruiting is LinkedIn.  

If you lack resources for active recruiting, you can hire a recruiting agency. 

Portfolio websites: freelancers, agencies, in-house

Behance, Dribble, and other portfolio websites exist so designers and design agencies can showcase their design and idea communication skills. Users present their visual case studies with some insights of the product development process. This makes said websites great for finding experienced designers whose styles match your taste 

But, you should know how to analyze a design portfolio if you decide to search designers or design agencies on Behance or Dribble. To learn more about how to analyze a design portfolio, read down below.   

Social media ads: in-house designers 

Social media ads can be surprisingly effective in finding employees. And no wonder, people still spend an ungodly number of hours there. So, why not use Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to your benefit? 

Word of Mouth: in-house designers, agencies, freelancers 

Nothing beats a recommendation from a trusted source. If you have contacts in the industry, ask them for advice. Maybe, they partnered with a great agency and can connect you. But, don’t forget to check the experience of the recommended company. In rare cases, the sole reason for the recommendation is a referral bonus. Such bonuses are a normal practice, but monetary compensation shouldn’t be the only reason. 

Or, if you want to work with a particular design agency, but it’s too expensive or too busy, you can ask the agency to recommend an alternative. 99% of the time, they have reliable partners and won’t leave you hanging. 

Clutch: design agencies 

Clutch is a B2B market research platform. Clutch gathers and verifies client reviews on service companies. Then, the platform organizes data into an elegant rating system with all the essential information on the companies’ service quality and work ethics. 

Because of its approach and convenience, Clutch has become one of the primary places for discovering top B2B service providers. With Clutch you shouldn’t worry about the lack of social proof regarding your potential design partner. 

Upwork: design agencies, freelance designers

Upwork is a freelance talents and design agencies marketplace. 

The process is straightforward: create a job posting, wait for the proposals, shortlist the candidates, check their profiles and portfolios to find the best fit. Or you can search for talents by categories and keywords. 

(Also, a shameless self-plug, Cieden is a top-rated agency on Upwork).

There’s also Toptal — a more expensive alternative to Upwork without design agencies. 

Local design courses: in-house designers

If your budget is low. local courses are amazing for finding trainee/junior designers. Research the local courses and ask the mentors or tutors to recommend you the students. They would be happy to help their best students get the job, and the students would be happy to work for you. That’s how plenty of successful and lasting partnerships began. 


The best way to hire a designer

We don’t want to be downers, but there isn’t the best way to hire a designer. 

Different tasks need different design tools. Which tool will suit you best depends on your circumstances and requirements. If you’re unsure, there’s no beating the experience. Sometimes, you just need to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks. We hope our little article will help you aim your throws better.

 

Part 4

You’ve found a few design experts and design agencies that match your requirements. Now, it’s time to look at their portfolios to determine their skills and figure out who’s the best. 

There’s a problem though: analyzing design portfolios is tricky. Designers know how to make things beautiful even if there isn’t much substance to said things. Only when you’re able to see past all the tricks of catchy visuals, you’ll determine the most suitable candidate. 

We’ll show you how to analyze UI/UX portfolios to determine whether the designer has the necessary skills. 


How to analyze a UX designer’s skills through portfolio 

UX prowess is visible through articles or text-heavy case studies that show design thinking, strategic thinking, problem-solving and analysis skills.   

To analyze a UX designer’s skills check their portfolio for:

How to Hire a UX/UI Designer in 2021 (FULL GUIDE) Cieden

How to analyze a UI Designer’s skills through portfolio

A good portfolio is a selection of works that demonstrate a designer’s ability to create interfaces for different software products in different styles. Also, such a portfolio should demonstrate the general flow of the products and consistency of style and not present the best screens from different apps.  

To analyze a UI designer’s skills check their portfolio for:

How to Hire a UX/UI Designer in 2021 (FULL GUIDE) Cieden

You can analyze the things mentioned above sufficiently well without much experience. Still, there are other aspects — such as contrast ratios, grids, adherence to the platform guidelines, alignment of data in forms and tables, etc — that require extensive UI training to wrap your head and eye around. But, the analytical basis we provided is enough to pinpoint inexperienced designers. 

Also, you can test your ability to see UI imperfections with this fun little test. It also explains correct answers, so you can learn a bit in the process. 


How to analyze UI/UX designers portfolio

A UI/UX designer’s portfolio should demonstrate user experience and user interface skills. As follows, UI/UX cases are often a combination of UI and UX portfolios. They provide not only the visuals of software but analysis and thinking behind the solutions. 

To analyze a UI/UX designer portfolio, use the recommendations we provided in the previous two chapters. 

But remember:

Some designers have stronger UI skills, while the others — UX. So, when looking for a UI/UX designer pay more attention to whichever skill your company needs more. Sometimes, it’s easier to find a unicorn than a person who has equally powerful UI and UX expertise. 


General questions to find the best design portfolios

Here are a few questions you can ask about UI/UX portfolios to find the best candidate. 

Does it tell a story?

All cases should in a portfolio be presented in a coherent and easy-to-follow way. In the end, you should have a clear picture in your head about the designer’s contribution. If the designer fails to do so, it means they lack idea-communication and flow-construction skills, which are essential for any designer. 

Is their role in those cases transparent? 

Often, an entire design department works on a product. If a designer presents such a case in their portfolio, it should be clear what exactly the designer did. Maybe, the designer just created wireframes; or did UI based on wireframes of other designers; or did a bit of customer research.   

Are there any cases in your industry or domain?

We can’t stress this enough: if you want the best match, find designers who have experience in your domain or industry. 

So, pay twice as much attention to portfolios with cases that are similar to your product. The more similarities the better: market niche, platform, target audience, etc. 

Are there any views and comments from other people?

Social proof is tricky. Especially if you don’t know the credentials of the social proof providers. Nonetheless, if the portfolio is publicly accessible, check the comments (Medium, Behance, and Dribble are particularly useful in this regard). If the cases in the portfolio are really bad or really good, you’re more likely to find comments that acknowledge such an achievement.  

Besides, you can always do some quick Googling to check whether the commenters have the experience to back up their claims

Do you personally like their cases?

You need a designer with a taste that matches yours. It will lead to productive “creative chemistry” between you. As a result, watching how your product grows better and more beautiful with each iteration will inspire you even more.  

So, pick designers with portfolios you find beautiful. Or, if it’s not the option, make sure their works don’t lead to aesthetic discomfort 

Do you like their way of thinking and solving problems?

Designing a product is all about continuous problem-solving. How to make the user flow more intuitive? How to increase conversion rate? How to keep the design fresh and appealing? How to improve usability? 

If you like how a designer solves problems in their domain, you’re more likely to have a lasting professional partnership.

Does it address business goals? 

Designers, especially middle and senior ones, should help the company to meet its goals through their work. As a result, portfolios that state the mission objective of the product and show how designers helped achieve it get the bonus points. 


Summing Up

You will be able to analyze the design portfolios and determine people who lack experience or skills following our recommendations. But still, there’s no substitute for professional help. Game recognizes game: only an experienced designer will see all the nuances and red flags of design portfolios. If you need any help with hiring a designer, feel free to contact us. 

 

Part 5

You’ve checked dozens of resumes and portfolios, selected the best designers, and now, it’s time for the interviews.  

We reviewed thousands of design portfolios and conducted hundreds of interviews. We know how to get the maximum information out of an interview in a limited time and want to share this knowledge with you. 

In this article you’ll learn about:

  • 3 types of designer thinkers
  • Questions to ask a designer during the interview 
  • Test assignment you can give during the interview to test UI/UX skills
  • Is there a perfect interview? 


3 Types of Thinkers in Design

There’s a rough division of design thinkers into three categories that our experience supports as well.

How to Hire a UX/UI Designer in 2021 (FULL GUIDE) Cieden

1. Creative (divergent) thinking 

Openness and extraversion were shown to be associated with creativity. Openness assesses intellectual curiosity, imagination, artistic interests, liberal attitudes, and originality. 

Designers with creative thinking make a source of incredible opportunities for projects that require originality and creativity.

2. Convergent (analytical) thinking

It’s an ability to see patterns, seek structure, and make data-based decisions. Great for data-driven design. Superior for projects built on the research and constant validation. 

3. Lateral thinking 

Rare lateral thinkers can think in both modes simultaneously. Their brain is able to create original ideas based on structured information and logic or momentarily select the best, viable ideas from hundreds of creative ideas that come to their minds. 

The worst thing you can do is ask a creative person to spend time in a month-long analysis or ask an analytical person to waste their talents trying to come to multiple original design solutions. Your goal is to give people tasks and projects that will help them shine. 


8 questions you can ask during an interview 

Here are a few universal questions that can tell you a lot about the experience and expertise of the designer regardless of the context. 

How to Hire a UX/UI Designer in 2021 (FULL GUIDE) Cieden

Tell us about yourself, what is your background? 

You want a candidate to be as relaxed and sincere as possible. So, in order to create the proper atmosphere and connection, start with a casual question. But, you should direct the conversation, so it doesn’t sidetrack and take too much time. Ask additional questions to receive required information. 

For example, 

  • “Why did you leave the previous company?”
  • “What did you like the most about your second job?”  

Feel free to gently interrupt to nudge the conversation in the direction you need. 

What is your professional experience? 

You may be confused, “But I already know everything from a resume, don’t I?” Yes and no. 

It’s one thing to read an almost sterile carefully planned description. And it’s a completely different thing to hear the person describe their experience on the go. It will help you to understand their career status, professional focus, how they frame their responsibilities, and whether they’re superficial in their view of the job. 

If it’s a UX or UX/UI designer, pay particular attention to how empathetic they are towards users’ needs and proficient in mapping the customer experience. If they tend to ignore or gloss over this issue, it may signal a lack of expertise or understanding of the role.

Who was your manager and how would they evaluate your job?  

It’s a great question to get a sincere answer as people wouldn’t risk embellishing the truth in case you would contact their manager to get feedback on their work. 

What was your best role on the project?

If you want to know what the candidate is the most comfortable with.

It’ll help you to pinpoint their passions and main areas of expertise as well as a deeper understanding of the design process.

How do you stay up to date with the design industry? 

Designers should stay up-to-date with the recent trends as well as effective design tools and techniques in the industry. So, ask them where they get their information from? 

There are some top resources. For example, 

  • Baymardinstitute — a top provider of UX research data for e-commerce projects

  • Nilsennorman group — a #1 destination for interaction design findings

  • NFX.com — probably the best source of knowledge for people that create marketplaces and work with the network effect.  

Of course, there are more relevant resources, books, and style guides. So if the designer names a few you don’t know, feel free to check them later. 

We also pay much attention to whether designers read books on design. Without it, a professional isn’t likely to efficiently improve. They also show that a person is persistent about learning new things.  

What was the last design problem you solved and how did you approach it?

A great question to check how a designer thinks; 

It will help you determine whether he or she has a more visual (UI) or analytical (UX) mindset. Pay attention to whether the answer is objective (based on facts and analysis) or subjective (based on feelings and tastes). Most of the time, you want the first kind of person. 

How would you do user research for our future market?

Ask the question to evaluate UX designer research skills.

Ideally, first, you want to hear questions in return. For what product should I do research? What is the goal of my research? Who is our market? 

As for the research approaches, there is qualitative research (interviews, tests, and cultural background studies) that shows what and why the user wants; and quantitative research (analytics, surveys) to test whether the implemented solutions work well. 

What is your greatest professional success/failure? 

A tricky but insightful question.

The first variation helps to discover what “success” and “best” mean to the person. Is it about the awards their projects won or about lifting the customers’ engagement by 25%? 

The “greatest failure” question reveals their humility and humbleness. Professionals should recognize and own their failures, especially in the era of “making mistakes fast.” Also, ask about the cause to see whether the person tries to shift the blame on anyone or anything but themselves. 

There are no wrong or right answers to the questions, but they will help you understand where the person stands.  

What are your motivations?  

Soft skills and emotional intelligence are crucial for productive collaboration and a healthy emotional atmosphere in the company. No wonder some employers prefer less experienced employers with better soft skills than skilled but “abrasive” professionals. 

Not only are emotionally intelligent people more pleasant to be around, but they also minimize conflict and possible burnouts.  

Therefore, to check the emotional intelligence, motivations, and personality of the candidates, you can ask some of the following questions: 

  • What is your motivation in work? 
  • What makes you irritated? 
  • What would you do if you couldn’t pursue design? 
  • Which projects would you decline under any circumstances? 


Test Assignment 

Usually, you’ll give a junior or middle candidate a big design task that they’ll do in their spare time. Said task mimics your real work and is constructed to test the basic skills of the designer: research, analysis, and actual design. 

If the candidate is senior, it’s better to give them a lengthy paid task or a few paid days of work with your team.

However, there are tasks you can give a candidate during the job interview to quickly assess their skills and ability to work under time constraints. 

Prepare a few screens with usability flaws to show to your candidates and ask them about their ideas for improvements. The answers will show you the dominant mindset of your possible teammate.

  • Newbie designers: in the worst case, you will hear vague, subjective  statements: “It's bad, I'd redesign it completely, I do not like colors, icons, the screen is way too dense...” Those are the signs of an inexperienced designer. 

  • UI-focused designers: If the designer tells you how to fix colors, icons, fonts, layout, and screen density, their main focus is visuals. It is perfectly fine, especially if you need strong UI expertise. 

  • UX-focused designers: The designer has ideas for new features that can improve the UX. He or she can also tell you how to decrease the number of clicks or scrolls, how to name elements better, and how to improve data visualization. 

  • Designers with a business-oriented mindset: Some designers will start by asking more questions about design goals and main usage scenarios. If you’re not sure how relevant their questions are, ask how they are going to use this information to change the design.  

For example, here’s the screen with a few usability flaws we use.

How to Hire a UX/UI Designer in 2021 (FULL GUIDE) Cieden

A UX designer could notice the following flaws:

  • There are 3 scroll blocks on this page. It's better to have one scroll if possible so users will not make mistakes, and it will take less time for navigation around the page.
  • The active menu item is named differently than the page header.
  • The master-detail view can be implemented differently so it's not so disconnected. Some users may need some time to understand how navigation works.


Here are a few examples of new features that can improve the design:

  • A user of this CRM has to do extra clicks to get info about customer search. We can parse his search and provide aggregated information on the first screen.
  • We can add a sidebar with the ability to save contextual notes before the call. Or canvas similar to the notion app so users can easily link properties, contacts, documents, or specific info about those properties.
  • If agents work on multiple contracts at once, maybe we should consider opening contracts in new tabs or even internal tabs inside the app.


Overall, we define 250 topics of design theory we want a middle+ designer to understand.

In addition, we have around 50 design skills validated by portfolios, test assignments, and performances on projects. 

Of course, we can’t teach you here how to check all of them. But the test assignment examples we provided can help you test at least some of them.


A one-size-fits-all interview process

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all interview process. 

You’ll have to adjust your approach depending on your requirements, budget and time constraints, and available resources. Nonetheless, the backbone of the successful interview remains the same: know what you want, prepare, ask relevant questions, analyze. 

Also, a word of warning

Even the most polished and well-executed interview process doesn’t guarantee a 100%-success rate. As one of the top Ukrainian design agencies, we have a multi-stage interview process and sophisticated test tasks that rate Product, UX, UI. And still, around 20% of our hires aren’t successful.  


Summing up

Remember, design knows no gender, race, age, and cultural background. What really matters are the experience, skill, and emotional intelligence of the candidate. Approach the hiring process with an open mind and heart, and you’ll have a perfect opportunity of finding a great match for your company. 

We all are in the people business even more so than in the technology business. So, the ability to select and grow the best teams is the number one competitive advantage. Feel free to reach out to us if you share our vision and would like to build great things with us.

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