Use this complete guide to hire a UX designer in 2020.
Learn how to find, interview and recruit a designer with this step by step guide.
Anyone who has gone through the process of looking for, evaluating, and hiring UX designers will tell you that it’s not easy. First, you need to find UX Designer, then you need to evaluate them against structured criteria, and then finally, you need to convince them to join your payroll. Of course, all that is easier said than done.
To make sure you get through this process as smoothly as possible, you’ll want all the help you can get.
- I: Freelance UX Designer vs UX Design Agency vs In-House?
- II: Where to Find a UX Designer?
- III: How to Evaluate a UX Designer?
- IV: 6 Mistakes to avoid
- V: Interview Questions for a UI UX Designer
I: Should You Hire a Freelance UX Designer or a UX Agency or Do It In-House?
Hiring a UX Designer Is Not a Piece of Cake Anymore
Since UX design plays such a vital role, businesses often find themselves in a fix when it comes to hiring a UX designer.
This is because there are more than 900,000 UX designers on the LinkedIn network alone, which are either working as a freelancer, or as a part of a UX agency, or are providing their services as an in-house UX designer to businesses,
Choosing one between these three options is not an easy task. But we will make it easy for you. Let’s weigh each of these options based on their pros and cons.
Different Ways to Get UX Services
1 - Hire a freelance UX designer
When it comes to hiring a freelance UX designer,there is no dearth of options. As of 2017, about 36% of the U.S. workforce was freelancing, and this figure is expected to rise to 50% by the next decade.
Thus, hiring a freelance UX designer could prove to be an ideal option if you are looking for skills that are not limited to a certain region.
Let’s have a look at a few positive and negative aspects of hiring a freelance UX designer.
When compared to full-time employees, hiring a freelance UX designer or UX Strategist is definitely a cost-effective option. If you go by hourly rate, you only need to pay them for the number of hours that they work.
This means that if in a certain month, no UX upgrades or new changes are required, you don’t have to pay anything to them. This is definitely a better option compared to hiring an agency or full-time employee.
Pro: Easy-to-access remote skills
Hiring a freelance UX designer doesn’t limit you to a certain area or region. You could be running a startup in Australia and still be able to hire a UX designer from India, or the other way around. This exposes you to a wider pool of talent and ensures that you get nothing short of the best.
Pro: Specialized skills
You might already have an in-house designer, but you are now looking for a particular skill set, like data visualization or user onboarding. This is when a freelance UX designer can fill the gap and work with your in-house team to add value.
If you have a time-sensitive project and you want a UX designer to get started on it ASAP, a freelance UI UX designer is your best bet. This is because they tend to start working on short notice. The quicker they get started, the more they earn! Secondly, since they are experts in transitioning from one project to another and toggling between various projects, they are good at delivering quality work at the maximum speed.
Although most freelancers are quick to get started and quick to deliver, you can still have sour experiences working with freelancers. They might go unresponsive, delay your work, and/or submit substandard quality.
Since a freelancer might not necessarily be in your city, communication could become tough, especially if they are in a different time zone. Tools like Slack, Skype, Trello, Basecamp, and the like could make things easier, but you would still need to analyze things well.
2 - Hire a UX agency
If you are ready to invest more of your budget into your company’s success, meaning the best quality work and utmost professionalism, you should hire a UX agency. Let’s see why (or why not).
Because top UX design agencies care about their reputation, they tend to be professional in their approach.
Pro: Timeliness and Reliability
If you are looking for timely submissions with proper communication, a UX design will fit the bill. Generally, a dedicated project manager is assigned to you and takes care of your needs and serves as your ultimate point of contact.
Therefore, you no longer have to fill your head with all the aspects related to UX — the interaction design agency will take care of everything.
The best UX design agencies are known for delivering quality work. This is because each project goes through a rigorous quality check before it is delivered to you. Furthermore, a UX research agency is backed by experienced professionals who know how to meet clients’ expectations flawlessly.
Although hiring an agency sounds like the best choice, be prepared that they will cost you more. This is because most agencies follow a systematic approach that includes research, planning, analysis, goal setting, and prototype creation.
All this requires extensive knowledge, experience, and understanding that a freelancer or an in-house designer might not have.
3 - Hire an In-House UX Designer
The third option that you could choose is the conventional path:hiring an in-house UX designer. This option has its benefits but it also comes with many hassles: From documentation to training and insurance, so much needs to be taken care of.
Pro: Product Experience
When you hire a UI UX designer in-house, they will only work on your product and application day-in and day-out. This will make them intimately familiar with your product, audience, and end users.
Although this is what a freelancer and agency can also achieve, if an in-house designer is working at your setup, they are more likely to get accustomed to your requirements.
Pro: Long-Term Value
Since designing UX is a long-term process, you need to make changes and introduce upgrades quite frequently. Hiring an in-house designer equips you with the long-term expertise that will work on your UX as and when needed.
Con: Limited Skills
One of the drawbacks of hiring an in-house UX designer is their limited skills. They might be the best at user research, but landing page creation is not in their wheelhouse. Alternatively, they might be good at designing interactive design and prototyping, but not doing content strategy.
In situations like these, you are left with a gap in your team, which puts you in a tough spot.
Hiring a UX designer is never easy on the pocket. According to Glassdoor, the average salary of a UX designer working at a company is $81,906. According to Payscale, it is $72,504. Either way, this is a hefty sum, even if you opt for junior to mid-level designers only.
Needless to say, these figures will go toward the higher end as the designer’s experience increases.
For a more extensive cost breakup, read this post by HuffPost.
II - Where Can You Find UX Designers?
Targeted outreach is one of the most effective ways to find a great UX designer, especially if you have a team that has worked with — or knows someone who has worked with — designers in the past. As the name suggests, targeted outreach means you need to make the first move and contact prospective designers.
Sit down with your team and brainstorm a few names. Create a list of UX designers to hire and start reaching out to them. If they’re too busy or not interested, ask them to refer someone else. Essentially, targeted outreach is based on referrals, so you can rest assured knowing that you’ll find someone with relevant experience and expertise.
Online UX Design Communities
There are plenty of online communities where UX designers can show off their designs and share portfolios. Here, you can find skilled UX designers for your startups from all around the world, browse endless designs, and even post a job with your specific requirements.
Keep in mind that while these online communities are an awesome place to screen visual designs, they’re not particularly useful when it comes to understanding the strategy, vision, interaction, or architecture used by the designers to build the final product. Namely, you get a glimpse of the surface but not what is beneath it.
”A beautiful product that doesn’t work very well is ugly.”
— Jonathan Ive
For this reason, it’s important that you know exactly what you want and need from your UX designer. Otherwise, you might hire a UX designer who excels in creativity but is lacking in the strategic department.
Prominent online UX and digital design communities include Dribbble, Behance, Coroflot, and Awwwards.
UX Job Boards
Even though you can post your UX design job post on any job search engine, it’s best to post on job boards that specialize in UX design. This way, you can be certain that your post will target and reach the right audience: UX designers.
Here are UX job boards where you can find your ideal UX designer:
III - How Do You Evaluate a UX Designer?
When you find a UX designer who seems like a good fit, it’s time to put them to the test and evaluate them. How do you do this? Everyone has their own methods, but most interviewers just go with their gut feeling. This is wrong. Your instincts — or innate biases — should not be the main selection criterion for a UX designer.
You have to know what you want in a UX designer. What is good depends on a candidate’s matching the competencies that you’ve chosen, at the levels of proficiency that you need.”
— Nathaniel Davis
Instead, you should develop valid selection criteria to make the evaluation — and ultimately, the selection — more accurate.
To objectively evaluate UX designers you want to hire, follow these four steps:
- Know what you want. Define the specs of your project and design requirements.
- Evaluate hard skills. What skills are vital to the successful completion of the project?
- Explore soft skills. What personal attributes does the designer possess?
- Test UX designers. Can they create a viable design solution that satisfies expectations?
Additionally, you want your criteria to feature various qualities and skills that are essential to your project. This will ensure that the UX designer can easily adjust and contribute to your team.
Here’s what to look for when hiring a UX designer:
What do you want to find out? Can this UX designer do the job efficiently?
How can you find out? Review portfolio, ask questions, and give design exercises.
- Experience. Do they have sufficient experience in UX design?
- Problem setting. Can they identify, question, and prioritize problems?
- User-centered process. Do they base their design decisions on user insights?
- Idea generation. Are they able to quickly generate high-quality solutions?
- Systems thinking. Do they understand how their solution will fit into users’ lives?
- Visual appeal. Is their design appropriate for the audience?
- Innovation. Does their design feel new and original?
What do you want to find out? Do I want to work with this designer?
How can you find out? One-on-one interviews, cover letters, and back-and-forth emails.
- Communication. Are they a good listener and a persuasive speaker?
- Collaboration. Can they work efficiently as part of a team?
- Cultural contribution. Do they represent your company’s values?
- Leadership. Do they take proud ownership of their work and decisions
- Mission. Did they read up on your company prior to the interview?
UX designers that possess these skills are definitely worth considering for the job.
If you’re stuck on finding the right questions to ask UX designers during interviews, here are a few that will give you the information you need to make the final decision:
- Describe your design process and methods.
- Describe the challenges you faced on a recent project.
- How did you approach the problem?
- Provide examples of how you deal with user research and usability testing.
- How do you handle criticism from clients?
- What does it mean to be a great UX designer?
- What analytical tools do you use to evaluate your designs?
IV - 6 Mistakes to avoid when hiring a Designer
1. Merging Several Roles
A common mistake that many companies make is merging several job roles into one. Though it can be super tempting to hire one person to handle a wide range of tasks, like UX, UI, development, marketing, and QA, onboarding a technical “rockstar” can be counter-productive. In fact, it can even be detrimental to your product.
Sure, you can get lucky and strike gold with a multi-talented designer who can juggle several roles. However, most of the time, you’ll end up with an amateur, namely, someone who only dabbles in UX design.
Avoid hiring a second-rate UX designer, and opt to hire a bona fide expert instead. This move will save you a great deal of time and money in the long run.
2. Prioritizing Specific Skills
Constant changes in technology means the demand for specific skills are also changing. This is why hiring a UX designer based on a single skill can be dangerous.
So, avoid it.
Hiring should always be part of your long-term strategy, not a quick fix to an immediate problem.
― Steven J. Bowen
You need to keep an open mind and take a more holistic approach when hiring. For instance, rather than base your hiring decision on a specific skill set, assess the designer’s critical thinking.
How do they go about solving complex problems? Are they able to translate intricate business requirements into great UX design? What about their design process?
These are the skills you should be assessing when hiring a UX designer. Critical thinking, intuition, and problem-solving skills never go out of fashion. This, you can be sure of.
3. Overestimating a UX Portfolio
When going through a UX designer’s portfolio, it’s important that you know what to look for. A frequent mistake that many companies and recruiters make is judging a UX portfolio on quantity, specifically, the number of case studies and samples that the designer has included.
This is a costly mistake when hiring a UX designer. Why? The number of samples has nothing to do with the UX design process nor does it accurately reflect the designer’s skills and experience.
Don’t assume a UX designer with 3 to 5 work samples in their portfolio is any less experienced or qualified than someone with 10 to 20 samples.
Because they’re not.
A great UX designer is aware that several case studies are more than enough to showcase their skills and experience.
Ditch the assumptions and focus on what’s inside the portfolio. A UX portfolio should be presented in a way that clearly shows how and why the designer contributed to the project and the end result. Here’s what you should be judging when looking at a UX portfolio:
- Clearly defined problems
- Initial user research findings
- User testing insights
- Final designs and solutions
- Skills used in the project
- Key metrics
When screening a UX portfolio, put an emphasis on quality and depth, not quantity.
4. Expecting a Quick Turnaround Time
Just because a UX designer has 10 years of experience doesn’t mean that they can magically finish a project overnight. It’s not going to happen and you shouldn’t expect it to.
The whole point of a great UX design is to improve user experience and amplify conversions. Unless you want to sabotage your own product, then rushing a project and the UX designer isn’t going to do you any good. You must allow enough time for the designer to perform their job accordingly.
Speak to the designer about expected deadlines to avoid any misunderstandings and disappointment later on.
5. Posting a Boring Job Ad
In order to attract top talent, you need to create a job ad that will stand out from the crowd. Don’t use a stock template you copied from somewhere on the internet. Take your time to create a job post that will give designers a glimpse into your company. Share your company story, promote your work culture, and present your vision.
If you’re at that stage of getting your business off the ground and can’t offer a huge salary, don’t stress. High salaries don’t always guarantee finding a great UX designer.
When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.
— Simon Sinek
Focus on other ways to spark interest. Offer career growth, learning opportunities, and a stable work-life balance. Explain how your opportunity is unique, and suggest the ways designers can make an impact. Making a good first impression is a crucial part of the hiring process, so make yours count.
6. Ignoring the Fiercely Competitive UX Market
UX is an extremely competitive market. Companies, agencies, and consultancies are all vying for the attention of UX designers. For this reason, it’s important that you learn how to retain talent — even before you acquire it. Here are effective ways to motivate and retain top UX design talent:
- Opportunity. Let the UX designer work on projects they are passionate about.
- Self-actualization. Help them achieve their personal goals and ambitions.
- Autonomy. Encourage them to share ideas and take initiative.
- Professional development. Offer training and benefit packages that inspire growth.
- Breathing space. Ensure a positive and stress-free working environment.
Whatever you do, do not underestimate your competitors when it comes to hiring a UX designer. The competitive market makes it difficult to find and then retain UX designers. Fine-tune your employee retention strategy prior to hiring.
So now that you have done your homework, it is the time to fix an interview with your shortlisted candidates.
V - Hiring: Interview Questions to Ask While Hiring a UI UX Designer
Undoubtedly, when you are out in the market to hire a UX designer for your firm, start-up, venture or business, you are just as nervous and pressurized as the candidate in front of you. This is simply because you don’t want to make any mistake and lose a gem of a UX designer.
No worries. Here are a few interview questions for UX designers that you must ask your candidate.
- Did you solve any problem area that was invisible but enhanced the overall user experience of the application?
Your candidate could provide a range of answers here. And believe us, there is no right or wrong. However, to judge your candidate, look for any indication in their answer that demonstrates their skills to handle complexity in a product. This will prove to be a testimony of their understanding of what UX is composed of.
Some possible answers could be removing a redundant step from the process, reducing the amount of data inputted, or developing a data-rich dashboard.
- How do you understand the vision of the product and display it appropriately on the screen?
Needless to say, there are a lot of appropriate answers to this question. To understand the feasibility of this answer properly, it is important that you understand your vision properly. Analyze how the answer of your candidate aligns with your overall vision. Although they won’t necessarily be the same, they should resemble a large extent.
- What will you term as an ideal working environment?
This an important question both for you and your candidate. It is essential that both the parties involved work in harmony with each other, and prove to be a great fit. For instance, if your candidate answers the questions with, “working in a team with vibrant and dynamic atmosphere”, and your company is a bunch of tech-geeks with everyone focusing on their tasks and no one speaking to each other, you can sense the incompatibility out there.
Similarly, if you prefer your employees to work remotely, and if this is not something that doesn’t go well with your candidate, you might need to reconsider.
Other important factors that you must bring into consideration include – how joyful will they be when working with you, do you have projects that are the right fit for their skills and interests, is the person in question trustworthy, and do their mission and vision statement aligns with the mission and vision of your company? Are they comfortable with the business goals of your company and will leave no stone unturned in achieving that goal?
- What UX tools do you commonly use?
This question is asked just for informational purposes and you should not base your decision solely on the answer to this question. Although tools play an important role, the tool match is not that important.
If your candidate knows one tool and not another, the chances are high that they will easily be able to pick up the different tools too. However, there are a few exceptions here. If you are hiring a UI/UX designer for an urgent project and want them to work on a tool right from day one, do not expect a quick turnaround time here. Your designer will take their own time, depending on the learning curve of the tool, and their grasping power.
Thus, the know-how of your designer on the UX tools should not be a subject of concern if you are hiring them for long term product development. However, if it is an urgent need, you should choose to hire someone who is already familiar with your preferred tools.
- What factors do you keep in mind while designing for varied types of users?
This is an important question of the entire UX designer hiring process. Most User Experience designers answer this question with demographic data. However, an even more important factor here is triggers. What will trigger your potential user to use or choose your products and services? It is important that your product not only flaunts a user-friendly user experience but also compels your users to take the desired action.
While asking these questions is important, what is critical is to understand that there is no best designer in this world. There is only the BEST designer that suits your team well, fits any gap in between, and enhances the overall user experience of your product, thus helping your company move forward. Also, the next important question that you should ask includes the expected UX designer salary. Don’t forget to ask for a UX design portfolio.
Finally, a Few More Questions and You’re Good to Hire a UX Designer!
Although the above-mentioned interview questions for UX designer will provide you with a brief overview of the candidate, here are a few additional questions which will help you in making the right choice:
- Enquire them as to how do they keep themselves updated with the industry trends? Do they attend any conferences?
- Give them a test task to analyze their problem-solving skills, designing skills, and communication.
- The top UX designers have a degree in fields like graphic design, psychology, and human-computer interaction.
- Do they come with any prior job experience? The size of the firm that they have worked with doesn’t play a vital role, but they must come with hands-on experience of a few months, if not years!
- Look at how diverse is their portfolio. Prefer them if they have worked on a good mix of UX methods. If they have taken care of various stages of UX design – that’s an added plus. Also, have they worked on a range of applications – web applications, desktop programs, mobile applications, consumer applications and the like – that’s a bonus!
Finding, evaluating, and hiring a UX designer is not the easiest task. There’s no denying that. But with the right approach and can-do attitude, you can find and hire UX designers to join your team.
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Where Can You Find & Hire UX Designers?
You can find & hire a ux designer using targeted outreach, online UI UX design communities or UX job boards.
How to get UX Services and hire the right provider?
You can hire a freelance UX designer, work with an Agency or build your in-house team. Choosing one between these three options is not an easy task. But we weigh each of these options based on their pros and cons.