Among all things UX, design exercises may be the most polarizing. Some designers, like Jonathan Lieberman, former head of design at Operator, believe that design exercises are a great way for candidates and employers to assess each other simultaneously, according to Design Playbooks.
However, others say these preliminary exercises can dissuade highly qualified UX designers from applying, which isn’t ideal in building an advantage over your competition.
Here, we explore some of the pros and cons of using design exercises in your hiring process:
Pro: You get to see the designer’s process
The most obvious benefit in using a design exercise is getting to see firsthand just how a candidate works. With the right test, you can see how a designer tackles certain problems using visual design, critical thinking and technical abilities.
Con: Designers often view it as working for free
One of the biggest detractions of these exercises is that, to designers, it often feels like they’re being asked to work for free. Though you may want to see how candidates can work specifically with your brand and product, it’s better to instead have them solve a generic problem that doesn’t take up too much time. This way, candidates won’t feel like you can use their ideas without hiring or compensating them.
“The general consensus was that these sorts of tests were not necessary, but if they are helpful to you in choosing a candidate, at least make them nonspecific to your product and don’t ask for a lot of the candidate’s free time,” Mike Davidson, the vice president of design at Twitter, said, as reported by Design Playbooks.
Pro: You can strengthen your interviewing skills
By administering design exercises, you are building your interviewing skills over time. According to UX Magazine, the more design exercises that you and the interviewing team evaluate, the better equipped you are to assess candidates. Through seeing how different applicants solve the same problem, you will learn how to quickly identify core strengths and weaknesses.
Con: You may not know what to test for
Creating a design exercise isn’t simple. You have to strategically build this test so it extracts the information you need to evaluate a potential employee. However, that can be easier said than done. According to Design Playbooks, your exercise should test how candidates will handle day-to-day responsibilities of the position. UX Magazine suggests outlining the deliverables in the exercise prompt so you make sure you’re getting the information you need.
Ultimately, the choice is yours based on what feels right to you. Before you settle on using design exercises to assess candidates, look at other ways you can get a sense of a designer’s capabilities. Try strengthening your interview questions or having a potential employee walk you through his or her portfolio. These methods can also give you a good idea of how a candidate will perform on the job.