How to Find, Interview and Hire UX Designers: Essential Guide for Product Owners

Masha Panchenko

One day each product company comes to a point where they need to hire a UX designer. As of now, the user experience has become a priority for a wider range of companies, so the demand for UX designers is rising. And as the competition is much more fierce the expectations of the professionals are not the same as they were 5 years ago.

As a design agency, we have been observing these changes closely. We are always on the lookout for new UX talent. In this article, we've decided to share some thoughts on what employers should be looking for in a design candidate, where to look for them, and how to choose the right one.

So, how do you know when your team needs a UX designer?

First of all, you have to understand  your current needs and then which specialist will fit the most. There are so many related design jobs that it is easy for employers to mistake one for another. Let's take a closer look at the most common design professions to define whether you really need a UX designer:

  • UX designers work with the product to make it easy and enjoyable to use. They work closely with the rest of the product team at all the stages of product design: from research to developing user flow, building structure, wireframes, prototypes, and testing them. You can read this article to learn more about what UX designers actually do.
ux designer vs IxD UI Product Graphic designer, front-end developer
  • UI designers work with the visual side of the interface. If you want someone to change illustrations, typography, and animations on your website to make it trendier, you might be looking for an UI designer. UI/UX designers who master both skills are very common: they will be on your shortlist, too.
  • Graphic designers work with visuals: they can develop logo and corporate style, create images for social media, or design T-shirts. Many UX designers come from graphic design backgrounds.
  • Product designers follow the product at all the stages of the design and development. They typically have more responsibilities. Product designers follow the product at every stage and their work does not stop at the launch.

Other professions that may be confused with UX designer are front-end developer and interaction designer(IxD). Front-end developers work with code and serve as a link between user interface and developers. Interaction designers are close to UX designers, but have narrower responsibilities: they focus only on the moments of interaction between the user and the product.

Now that we know that a UX designer is someone you're looking for, let's move to the list of skills one should have.

What skills to look for?

Here is an essential but not exhaustive list of both hard and soft skills needed for UX designer:

  • Familiarity with UX design tools such as user flows, user journey maps, wireframes, and so on
  • Mastery of software: graphic editors (Figma, Sketch, Adobe products), prototyping tools (Invision, Framer), animation software (optionally)
  • Knowledge of UX research methods and tools, such as usability testing and Google Analytics
  • Understanding of design thinking methodology
  • Knowledge of basic principles of psychology and their application in UX design
  • Understanding the importance of design metrics

Collaboration forms. In-house, freelance, agency

While most companies would be looking for an in-house designer before anything else, we recommend you to evaluate other options as well. Having an in-house designer is always good, but in some cases, it is not the most efficient choice in terms of time/money.

When you are short of time and have occasional design tasks, you can find a freelancer. But when you want to start a serious and systematic work on user experience, you have to allocate more time and money on this and find a good in-house designer.

Of course, there is always an option of trusting the matter to a classical design agency, where all your design needs would be served on a turn-key basis. It might be rather pricey but saves you lots of time and in the end you will get a much better result, since the product created by the agency is a collective work, not a job of just one individual. But that's not all: in our article about in-house designer vs agency, we've covered the topic in more detail, so feel free to check it out.

If you think that the options described are all the variants to choose from- not exactly, as there's a third option that combines the efficiency of the design agency, and the appealing pricing. Here, we're talking about ,   a retainer agency, such as Eleken: we take care of all your design needs for a monthly fee. No matter how many designers your project needs and how long it lasts, our team can deal with it and save you time on the hiring process. When curious to learn more, read our other article where we explain our pricing model in detail.

How much does it cost to hire a UX designer?

To get an overview of UX designers salaries, let’s take a look at Glassdoor. The average salary is around $115,000, from $105,000 for juniors to $129,000 for seniors.

UX designer salary
Image credit: Glassdoor

The prices vary from state to state, the difference between California and North Carolina may be up to 30%.

ux designer salaries USA map
Image credit: kent.everspringpartners.com

If you are looking for a freelance UX designer, expect to pay $25-75 per hour. Average hourly rate on Upwork is $27, which includes designers from all over the world.

UX designer hourly rate
Image credit: www.ziprecruiter.com

If you want to save money and don’t need to have a designer in the office regularly, consider hiring a UX specialist from a different state or even country. Here is a heatmap of UX designers salaries around the world to get an idea of the regions with higher and lower salaries (dark blue are the highest). UX designers in some European, Asian, or African countries can cost you 4 or 5 times less than in the US.

ux designer salaries world map
Image credit: https://uxdesignersalaries.com/

Most of the clients of our design agency are located overseas, and we know well that time difference is not a problem when managed properly. If you want to ensure that the designer knows how to manage remote work, check the list of their past clients: if they have experience working with clients from other countries, it is a good sign.

Where to look for UX designers?

Platforms with references

In a perfect world, you would find a designer by reference of a friend. That is how it works with many other specialists: hairdressers, dentists, and so on. If you don’t happen to know the right person, you go to reference services. Some of our favorite clients came from Clutch, a B2B reference website. If you are looking for freelance UX designers with reviews, check platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, 99designs.

LinkedIn

Although LinkedIn does not work for all professions, with UX designers you can give it a try. To get an idea of what a perfect candidate would look like, find accounts of experienced designers who work for companies that are a point of reference for you. On LinkedIn, you can see work paths and references, and most profiles would have a link to portfolios.

Behance

Behance is an ultimate designer pool. This website focuses on the most important thing: the designer's portfolio. There are tons of great design cases, so it is easy to get lost. Here is a tip: on Behance, you should be looking not only at beautiful images, but at the work details, too.

The format of Behance cases encourages people to share all the working process, behind-the-stage, and so on, explain where the solutions came from and what influenced the final result. Be sure to read this part carefully. The things that you should be paying attention to are: how the user research was done, how the user flow was improved, and how much design relates to the business goals.

Dribbble

While Behance is a place for all kinds of designers, photographers, and creative professionals, Dribbble is a platform mostly for UI/UX and web designers. Compared to other design platforms, it has a higher concentration of UX designers, but the downside is that the images there only give information about the visual aspects, leaving aside all the essential information about the project.

If you lack time for a long-lasting HR screening, a good practice can be to post a message on your company’s social media asking for recommendations and see what happens. That way, you are likely to get candidates who are already interested in your product.

Interview

Nowadays, when interviews have moved to online format almost entirely, they tend to be more skills-based and leave less space for personal contact. In other words, when we had interviews in person, we related more on some external factors. Whatever people say, the personal contact and overall impression matters a lot. That is something hard to assess during an online interview.

Some people consider it a disadvantage, but we recommend you to think of the positive side: now you can focus on professional qualities and avoid confusing them with situational factors.

What does the UX designer interview process look like? First of all, make sure to check the candidate's portfolio. You might not have read their CV in detail, but having the portfolio at hand is a must. Chances are that it looks more like Dribbble and less like a Behance case. Ask questions about the projects:

  • What led you to this solution?
  • How does this user flow improve the experience?
  • How did you do user research for this project?

And so on. The same questions must be asked about the test task, if there was one. Add some more general questions like:

  • What is design?
  • Why did you become a UX designer?
  • Tell me a case from your experience when you had a challenge and how you dealt with it.

If you are curious, we have more UX designer interview questions (and an example of Eleken’s UX designer test task).

How do you evaluate candidates?

If we would have to choose just one thing for evaluation, this would be the test task. It would also be the most objective option. But picking the right candidate is more complex than that. Here are the most important evaluation points:

  • Relevance of portfolio. Check if the candidate has experience in working with similar projects, solving relevant problems. For example, Eleken agency works on SaaS, therefore our designers know well all the design challenges specific for SaaS. You should also see if you like the portfolio style: we talk a lot about research and analytics, but having a good sense of aesthetics is important, too.
  • Presentation and communication skills. Can the candidate express themselves clearly? How do they explain their works? Designer’s work is not just visual editors, it’s a lot about communication, both with the team and users.
  • Last but not least, values. The most skilled designer will not be a good fit for the position if they don’t share the same values as you do.

To sum up

Hiring a UX designer might be as long as this article is. If you're looking for the fitting candidate to work on your project, the hiring process may include various steps, such as screening, interviewing, and last, yet definitely not least - candidate onboarding. All this takes time and resources, and let's hope that the chosen candidate would not decide to quit a week later- otherwise, you'll have to start all over again.

 

Want a shortcut? Contact us and choose from top UX designers experienced in SaaS products to work with you.

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