Forewarning: this post is a bit of a rant relating to recent experiences I have had hiring designers.

This has been bugging me for a little while now but recently I have been interviewing a lot of designers to take a leading role for UX / UI design in a startup I have been working for. I have been handed a number of nice portfolios with some very good looking work and a few candidates have moved through from the initial application phase to a more serious candidate/interviewing phase.

Here are the 3 things that I see way to often.

1. Designers call themselves UX designers but don’t always understand what UX means.

UX is a pretty hot word in the design world at the moment and it seems that many designers believe that you can read a few blogs, pick up a some juicy keywords to drop in interviews and you are suddenly a UX designer.

The biggest problem I have with this is you are selling something you don’t know a whole lot about, and most of the time, your interviewer will be an experienced designer who knows their stuff. You might get through some of the initial interviews with HR, but once you get into the thick of it, interviewing with the people you will work beside, it just won’t hold up.

Instead of trying to fake your way through, just be honest.

Everyone has more learning to do. Everyone wants to be better at what we do. If you don’t, then you better stay content with where you are in your career.

I think a better course of action is to admit it, be honest about your skills, and show your enthusiasm about learning and where you want to go. Explain where you are now, where you want to be and how you plan to get there.

This kind of honesty and attitude shows you are not trying to bullshit your way into a job you are not suitable for, but showing that the position is somewhere you want to be. You will at least be considered for what you are and might find yourself getting a job based on the merits of your drive to learn and passion to be a great designer.

I mean, what happens when you fake your way to a lead UX gig somehow and actually don’t have the experience you need for it? That’s going to be a rough ride. It’s much harder to fake your experience when you are actually required to do the work.

2. Not being able to show actual UX work.

Lots of people work so hard to make a beautiful portfolio that is full of vibrant designs and pixel perfect work, but lack any real insight into their design or decision making process.

How did you solve the problems faced?

It’s really important that we hire someone who can solve problems. Someone who can understand the users perspective, product and business side to produce a solution that makes the product better.

This kind of work is a little more difficult to show as it’s more conceptual, and it’s never as pretty as a finished product, but by being able to see this kind of thinking and able to explain your process along with some proof (Personas, journey maps and case studies for example) will go a long way to helping me understand your skill set and ability to go deeper than just making something look cool.

3. Understanding the technology you are designing for.

As a product designer, it baffles me that many designers don’t look past Photoshop or Sketch and skill up in other areas like basic coding (html/CSS at least) or understanding how gitHub or Google analytics works.

Working in a cross functional team with engineers, data analysts, product managers etc, these skills are invaluable. Being able to take part in the entire process and understand what everyone is talking about allows you to be a stronger part of the team, contribute more and design products that really appreciate and compliment the technology that is delivering the experience.

I’m not saying you have to be an expert on GoLang or machine learning, but showing an interest and having some technical skills outside of your creative experience shows you have an interest and ability to understand more than just visual elements.

In the end

I think the first point of being honest about your skill level is the best way to move forward. When people understand you, they know what to expect and understand how to help you move forward. If they think you already know all this stuff, then there is no point trying to help you learn it again, right?

Thanks for reading.

Alex Knight – UX/UI Designer – Tokyo, Japan.