September 2021
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During a job interview, I need a simple fit-test to be sure that we have built the right connection in this very short time, that your credentials are honest and your intentions are sincere. It needs to be something practical and concrete. Because I will be facing direct consequences if the candidate is irresponsible, negligent or blatantly criminal.

My approach to the interview is seeing it as a fluid conversation, where the questions the candidate makes are even more important than the answers given. At the end of the hour, I need to be sure I have the answers for me three questions that I will never directly ask. Here they are:

This first question is a very simple one. It is so obvious that most of the time we all assume it. Do you want to come here every day and do your best, whatever your best is at this time in your career?

It is really shocking how some candidates do not really show any sort of interest on the job. It is like they applied by mistake while their phone was on their pocket. This apathy should not affect me, but I get very demotivated when I see that as good candidate (on paper) putting less effort that me.

I need to know you are not only motivated, but you have the right kind of motivation.

Ok let’s do a multiple choice interview practice.

If you had four candidates and you ask them, do you want to do the job? Which one has the right motive?

Candidate #1: “Absolutely! I got into UX for the fame, the fans and the bags of money thrown at us”. Then he does an almost perfect impersonation of Matthew McConaughey in “The Wolf of Wall Street”, chest pondering and everything.

Candidate #2: “I do not have a choice. I was well on my way to become a brain surgeon-astronaut but my parents forced me to become a designer, so I can have “real job security”. You see, in my country there are only three respected professions: Tiktok videographer, social media manager and UXer. My mother did not talk to me for a month when she discovered I did not renew my UXPA membership on time.”

Candidate #3: “UX is literally in my blood. I come from an ancestral lineage of user experience designers from the west coast. Every full moon, I become a “UX were-wolf”. The last time I transformed, I woke up the naked, covered in post-its and I found out I invited my ex-wife to next week’s design sprint.”

Candidate #4: I am passionate about design. I am on a lifetime mission, I want to make the world a better place, regardless if you give the job or not.

Candidate #4 The passioned about design guy/gal.

It does not matter what the perfume industry tells you, you cannot buy Elisabeth’s Taylor’s “Passion” (or anybody else’s). If your heart is in the right place, and your life mission is reflected in the job that you will do every day as part of the team, you are in!

By the way, I know were-wolf designers could be very useful to keep some unruly developers in line and following design specs. Sadly they tend to shed too much, I hope that does not come across as discrimination against mythical communities. My best friend is a unicorn.

Some companies see a designer as robot that has leaned to do programmable tasks and runs on coffee. Input is money, output are pixels and SASS (the styling, not the other one). What I call “The job” really goes beyond the technical skills, tool mastery and experience. It has multiple levels and it is dynamic, based on the team’s need and the development this person achieves over time.

The job’s dimensions:

  • Functional — Getting done what you said you were going to do in the time that you estimate it.
  • Social — Being a team-member and a decent human being.
  • Emotional — Offering a safe environment for you and every body around you
  • Supporting — Helping a teammate succeed is your success. If I ever hear somebody saying “that is not my job”, I would make sure to make everything else becoming “not his/her job” as quickly as possible.

The last thing I would do is hiring somebody for the current job opening, because I am looking for somebody that can take the current labour and make it evolve in to the maximum expression of what this function can be. I need to detect curiosity, desire to learn and a frenetic speed of implementation.

I do not use time to measure experience, if you are capable to learn something from a book and applied immediately in a project, in one year you will be a much better designer than senior that has used the last ten years of his life as an office decoration. Some years ago I knew a guy like that, some people even try to water him thinking it was a plant.

I know, most likely you have the same expression I have seen multiple times in other people when I get to this point. Of course, I am not going to ask this as if the candidate will become my driver. Remember, this is not a question for the candidate, it is a question for me. This question means: Do I trust you?

If I give you the keys of my car, I am responsible for you and everyone on the road. If I get a $400 dollars ticket on the mail, that payment most likely will come from my budget. And if you are speeding in a school zone and something happens, I am on the hook for the legal consequences. I know, too dramatic, but real, almost as real as giving this candidate access to my projects.

Being honest, I care more about my projects than my car, specially because most design projects go from $25,000 to $750,000, and my savaged Chevy Malibu 2008 cost less than the computer I am writing on. This is a great indicator for me to know if I trust a person I just met, or even if after an argument. Trust is not a 1 to 7 Riker scale. It is binary and absolute in its own context. You trust somebody or not.

Trust is the main indicator and precondition for a highly effective design team. This is not a switch you can just turn on, you earn it every day. It is a line in the sand that can be easily erased and really hard to redrawn if it gets blurred.


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