How to hire a UX designer for your team
Are you thinking about hiring a UX designer? First, learn what a UX designer’s role is, what skills a UX designer should have and what questions to ask when interviewing a UX designer.
What does a UX designer do?
Generally speaking, UX designers define the way people interact with a service or product, such as an app or website. Their goal is to make a product not only easy to use without thinking (otherwise known as intuitive design), but also enjoyable to use. That said, a UX designer’s role varies widely depending on the company and the product they are working on.
Depending on their area of focus and role on the team, a UX designer may:
- determine the flow of product
- design the visual interface (the elements people see, click and navigate through)
- conduct user research
- create personas and scenarios to better understand your audience
- write copy that helps people navigate your product (UX copy)
- define the information architecture of a website
- create wireframes and prototypes
- lead product testing and more
In fact, many designers specialize within the field of UX design. There are UX designers, UX/UI designers, UX researchers, UX strategists, UX copywriters and more. As the field grows, it becomes more nuanced and more specialities are defined as their own practice. However, many UX designers are at least proficient in most of these areas.
What to consider when hiring a UX designer
First, you’ll need to define exactly what areas you’d like your UX designer to focus on and how they fit into your team. While the UX designer’s skills will depend on their role, you can generally expect to see the following from candidates who apply for a UX design position:
1. An online portfolio
While UX design can translate to many different areas, to most people today it means working on digital products. So a modern online portfolio should be a given, considering the nature of this field.
UX design is a trendy job right now, and a fairly accessible field to enter. So many designers are taking bootcamp courses, teaching themselves UX design or changing their titles to include it. While someone may call themselves a UX designer, look for work in their portfolio that backs it up. Ideally, they have at least a couple projects where they lead or significantly contributed to the userflow of a product.
UX design requires simplifying complex information and making it easy to understand, so a UX designer’s portfolio case studies should do the same. Look for thorough case studies that explain clearly how the UX designer approached the problem and solved it, without relying on too many buzzwords or confusing technical language.
A UX designer’s portfolio is typically filled with wireframe sketches, whiteboard brainstorms, handwritten userflow notes, product screens and embedded prototypes. It’s not always as glamorous as a traditional graphic designer’s portfolio because this work is more technical and abstract. However, the best UX designers know that beauty is also a part of function. They should have foundational design skills that allow them to present information in a visually pleasing way.
2. Hard skills
As previously mentioned, a UX designer’s skills vary greatly depending on their specialty. However, your UX design candidate should possess some or all of the following skills:
UX design - Naturally, a UX designer should be skilled in shaping how a person interacts with a product and how they feel doing it. Their portfolio projects should share success stories detailing how they made products usable and enjoyable.
UX research & concepting - The purpose of UX research is to understand your audience, your product and its potential. This skillset may include skills in user research, usability testing, analysis, interviews, data and analytics, which should ideally be demonstrated in the designer’s portfolio case studies.
Strategy - The user experience arguably defines the entire direction of the product. A UX designer should be thinking one step ahead to how their work affects the whole and how it influences and impacts the goals of the project.
Wireframing and prototyping - Wireframing shows a simple, abstract view of the experience while prototyping is more of a working model. Many UX designers do both.
UX copywriting - UX copy (what some call “microcopy”) are the little pieces of text – headlines, buttons, helptext, form text, etc. – that guide you through a product. While this is a specialty of its own (many large product companies today have dedicated UX copywriters), a UX designer with even basic UX copywriting skills is a better UX designer.
Proficiency with common UX design tools - The popular UX design tools change all the time, and most designers can pick up your team’s tool of choice on the job – so not having experience in a specific tool isn’t a deal breaker. That said, some of the most common UX design tools right now are Sketch, Figma, Adobe XD, Invision, Marvel and Proto.io.
3. Soft skills
- Excellent communication skills: UX designers are responsible for taking complex problems and simplifying them. They often need to present abstract ideas or involved systems to their team. And they collaborate with every part of the team across every department. So if your UX designer is not a strong, clear communicator, the project will unravel fast.
- Strong collaboration skills: UX designers work with every team on a project, from strategy to content to design to engineering to the clients themselves. They should work smoothly with others and be able to advocate for their ideas and their users.
- Attention to detail: UX design is all about the small stuff. If your candidate is overlooking typos, forgetting details you requested or sending you a half-finished portfolio, that same carelessness will carry over to their projects.
What to ask when interviewing a UX designer
Planning to interview a potential UX design candidate? Here are a few common questions to ask in UX design interviews:
Q: Tell me about the project you’re most proud of in your portfolio.
This question will reveal how a UX designer measures success. Is their favorite project one where their work led to an increase in conversions? Is it one where they solved a complex problem? Where they worked on a big-name client? None of these answers are wrong, but they will allow you to understand how your priorities align.
Q: Can you tell me about your most challenging project?
Here you will learn how the designer approaches problems and works their way through them. You should get a sense of their determination, optimism and critical thinking skills as they walk you through a specific problem they faced and overcame.
Q: How do you approach a new project?
A good question to gain insight to their process and experience level. What information do they need to begin a new project? Who do they talk to from the team? What are the requirements for them to feel set up for success? This allows you to know how to best support your UX designer, and explain how they can best support your team.
Q: How do you prefer to receive feedback on your designs?
This should give you a sense of the UX designer’s communication style, ability to collaborate and importantly, their ego.
Q: What is good UX design, in your opinion?
You may get a range of answers here: That good UX design is accessible, empathetic, intuitive, useful. All of these answers are correct, but press for your candidate to expand on the textbook answer. Look for an answer that shows a deeper understanding of what they do, and a passion for what they do.
How to get a UX design job
Wondering how to learn UX design and get a job as a UX designer? Read our guide to getting started in UX design, creating your UX portfolio and preparing for your UX design job interview.
How to get started in UX design
The good news: You don’t need any formal degree to begin your UX design career. Many designers today are self-taught, either by online courses or UX bootcamps. Others were already designers who simply added UX/UI to their skillset and title.
The other news: Because so many people are entering the UX design field, you face more competition. But don’t let that discourage you – those UX designers who stand out and rise to the top are the ones who keep pushing themselves to learn and get better.
Teach yourself something new every day, whether you do a short YouTube tutorial, redesign a screen from your favorite app or create a fake app of your own. Study other websites and products to see what makes them successful. Pay attention to what delights you when using your favorite products. And, importantly, don’t just focus on UX design. Great UX designers have a foundational understanding of traditional graphic design, of color theory, typography, of copywriting, of psychology, of culture. UX design is about people. Understanding what informs, inspires and resonates with people will make you a better UX designer.
Once you have the knowledge and a few projects (either professional or self-initiated, to start) under your belt, it’s time to make it official: by creating your UX design portfolio.
How to make a UX design portfolio
The heart of a UX designer’s portfolio? Case studies. It’s here you make your somewhat abstract job tangible. It’s where you can take the finished product most of us see, and bring us behind the scenes to show how your UX work made it successful. It’s where you connect all the dots for us that we might not otherwise appreciate – because the best UX design goes unnoticed.
Choose your favorite two projects (the ones you’re most proud of) to start. Think of each project in phases – from the initial challenge, to your research, to your analysis, to your concepting, to your design, to your solution, to the final result – and write just a few sentences for each. It doesn’t have to be super long, just enough to help us understand your thought process. It should still be scannable and easy to read in just a few minutes.
Now it’s time for visuals. Collect any images you have to share for each phase, whether those are pictures of a whiteboard, sticky notes or handwritten wireframes in a notebook. You can make these images more visually appealing by styling your own mini-photoshoot with simple props and backdrops, or just edit the images to be clean and cohesive. Include the relevant visual with each phase of your project, keeping each section bite sized and easy to read through at a glance. If you can embed the final product at the end so we can interact with it, that’s a big plus. Finally, make sure to add credits so it’s clear you’re a team player and we understand what role you played on the project.
From there, it’s a matter of creating a homepage to show off your projects, and an About page to show your personality. Make your About page personal. List your experience, any awards, press or recognition, but also any interests or fun facts that will set you apart and make you stick in our memory. Include a photo of you (whether it’s a professional headshot, an artsy pic or something more playful is up to you!) and links to any social networks where you’re active. And of course, don’t forget your email address so we can contact you.
That’s it! You’re done! Don’t obsess too much over perfection. The great thing about an online portfolio is that you can easily update and make regular refreshes after you launch. The important thing is to get it out there and continue improving after.
How to prepare for a UX design job interview
You lined up a UX job interview, congrats! Here’s how to make sure you’re on your game and ready to answer any question they throw at you.
- Update and review your portfolio - If you haven’t already updated your portfolio, back up and read the paragraph above this one. If you have, now’s the time to review it again. Make sure all the links work, that it’s loading fast, that everything looks as it should. Then read your own case studies and get familiar with their structure. The person interviewing you will likely ask you to walk through a project or two in your portfolio during the interview. If your site’s not working or you forget the details you wrote, it will make you stumble during the interview and shake your confidence.
- Look at the problems the company typically solves - Go to the company’s website and read every single case study on it. This will help you understand the type of work they typically do, their standard process, how they measure success, how they communicate, the type of clients they typically work with, what their tone of voice is, the various team members they include in their UX projects – everything you need to know for your interview.
- Reflect on your process - Now that you’ve read how they work, think about how you work. Look at your own projects and filter it through what you’ve learned reading the company’s case studies. What new details do you take note of? How does your measure of success compare to theirs? How does your process compare? A better understanding of how they work will help you better articulate how you work in their language.
- Relax! Easier said than done, right? But hopefully, if you’ve thoroughly prepared (see #1 - #3 above), you can relax in the confidence that you’ve done everything possible for this interview. Now it’s just about being your charming self. Watch a standup comedy special before leaving for the interview. Listen to your favorite podcast. Dance out the nerves in your living room. Set a confident, positive tone for your brain going into the meeting and you, and the person interviewing you, will feel the difference.