Some designers love to be part of the hiring process. Others dread having to make the “right” choice for a new teammate or colleague.

Whether you love or avoid the hiring process, growth is inevitable. And, with product designer recently named as the “most in-demand design job” of the year by Dribbble, chances are you’ll be part of the hiring process for a new colleague soon.

So, how can you make hiring more interactive and less of a chore? And how can you ensure that you’re gauging a potential new hire’s skills and not just their interview style?

Many design teams have turned to a whiteboard exercise to help. 

What is a whiteboard exercise?

A whiteboard exercise asks an interviewee to take part in a simulated exercise to test their skills, knowledge of design technology, and ability to work as part of a team. The exercise can take place on an actual whiteboard—in the case of a face-to-face interview—or can be held virtually. 

Either way, at some point during an interview, the hiring team should give the interviewee a prompt to respond to. Working with members of the hiring team, the interviewee should do their best to explain how they would solve the challenge. 

Exercises don’t need to run long—10 or 15 minutes is usually enough—but they should be collaborative, with the interviewee working alongside the team to solve the problem at hand. 

Why should I use a whiteboard exercise instead of a take-home assignment?

Traditionally, hiring teams have assigned a take-home exercise as part of the second or third round of job interviews. While take-home exercises can work well for disciplines like software engineering, they don’t work as well for UX design. This is because designers often must collaborate with others to achieve results, as well as ask questions, conduct research, and work with a design framework. 

Plus, take-home exercises can be highly stressful since interviewees don’t know how much—or how little—time they are expected to spend completing the assignment. Whiteboard exercises help eliminate this stress and allow members of the hiring team to see how the interviewee performs their work. 

How many people should participate in a whiteboard exercise? 

Generally, a whiteboard exercise goes smoothest when there are multiple members of the hiring team present during the exercise. This allows the interviewee to discuss the challenge with members of the team, brainstorm solutions, and ask questions. Some organizations like to have a diverse hiring team that spans departments, while others prefer to include just the team that the interviewee would join. Either way, at least two hiring team members should plan to participate in the exercise so the interviewee can experience working with a team.

How do I know if a participant did well on an exercise?

Determining whether or not the interviewee did well on a whiteboard exercise depends on your goals for the role. In general, though, watch for interviewees who are collaborative, explanatory, and respectful of others. You may be looking for specific technical abilities or knowledge, but also keep an eye out for the way interviewees treat the people on the team and handle stress. These are all important characteristics to consider when adding a new person to your team. 

Curious about incorporating a whiteboard exercise into your hiring practice? Check out this in-depth guide from UX Planet for a step-by-step walkthrough.