• Sridhar Rajendran

Day 18 — Design assignment? No thanks

Updated: Aug 23, 2018

Not all interviews are create equal

Image credit : Pexels

In the 5 month period I was job hunting, nothing irked me more than the words — Design Assignment. The official explanation is testing a candidate’s problem-solving capabilities and thinking process while solving a problem. It is totally a valid concern for hiring managers for weeding out portfolios filled with fake projects and group assignments. But what bothers me is the way some people misuse it.

In the initial phases of job hunting, I was thankful if a company noticed my application and asked me to complete a ‘task’ to qualify for the next round. Little did I know that — there are better things to do in life. The first problem is the staffing recruiter in the company. More often than they have no idea how to judge a designer for no fault of theirs. The hiring manager has not educated them how to review a portfolio. So as a blanket rule, the recruiter sends out a questionnaire and a design task to every resume that comes across their desk.

It takes a minimum of 9 hours to do a decent medium-fidelity prototype and document the process. And sometimes it takes more time. Most of these requests come on a Friday night or a Saturday afternoon and want candidates to submit by Sunday. WTF?

And when I slog through the weekend, canceling my plans at the last moment and send in my work, the response is — radio silence. Most HRs do not even acknowledge they received the assignment or provide any updates about the status. After 1–2 weeks and multiple follow-ups mails, they send a canned response they do not want to proceed with my profile. And no reason provided EVER.

This happened several times and infuriated me to write a post on how to conduct a design interview.

Interview is a two way process, it is not just the companies interviewing the candidates, the reverse holds true as well.

For Designers

  • Read the job description carefully and curate your portfolio accordingly.

  • When asked to solve a design exercise, ask for an in-person meet-up before you proceed.

  • Ensure you do not commit too much time or resources. A couple of hours(4–6) of brainstorming and low fidelity prototypes(paper or tools like Balsamiq) is a good workout for your creative muscles. Worst case scenario, you get another project to add to your portfolio.

  • If someone asks you to create new logos, branding, hand over source files and your father’s will, pack your bags and leave. They are never going to hire you.

For Interviewers

  • People go through a lot of trouble to create their portfolio, so please give them a fair trial. There will always be a few rotten apples which is difficult to avoid.

Innocent until proven guilty is a better stance than guilty until proven innocent.
  • Have a clear scope of the design problem. Schedule an in-person interview, or if not possible a video call to discuss the problem. For the second round, stick to low-fi prototypes. Test the thinking process and reasoning.

  • For the third round, evaluate competence with tools like InVision, Sketch, etc,. A gradual progression such as this would allow the trust to develop between both the parties.

  • At any stage, whether you accept or reject a candidate — always provide feedback for the decision. Just because someone is not up to the mark right now doesn’t mean, they never shall be in future. The world is a small place and the design community even smaller — people are bound to run into each other at some point in time.