The UX Interview
In the heat of the summer our social media guru dragged our UX recruiter from his desk to quiz him about the UX marketplace and what it has to offer. He reveals to us what the hiring managers are looking for right now and how there has been a boom in the number of creative Designers and Developers making a transition into UX.
So, Chris I see you are constantly busy within the office all day, every day. We understand you look after both permanent and contract roles, what is the current state of the UX marketplace in the Permanent sector?
The UX marketplace is very healthy currently and the demand for User Experience professionals continues to grow. This may seem like quite a broad, sweeping statement, however almost 20% of the positions that I have recruited for over the course of the last 6 months have been for clients that are looking to make their first UX hire. This is certainly encouraging to see, and this kind of growth creates a real demand for UX professionals that are able to implement an adaptive UX process and to communicate their ideas to internal stakeholders that aren’t familiar with UX practices. Established teams also continue to be a key point of growth for many expanding agency and client-side organisations.
Would you then say it is a Candidate driven marketplace?
This is without doubt a candidate driven marketplace; in that the increasing demand for strong UX candidates outweighs the number of candidates available with the desired credentials. It is unlikely that a candidate with UX specific experience will have less than three or four interviews arranged when beginning their search, and it is common for a strong candidate to receive a number of offers of employment.
So how is the Contract Market doing?
There are more contractors now than there were 6 months ago, and this is bringing down the contract rates slightly. There are still plenty of contract opportunities out there, however the competition is greater now, and we are finding now that many relatively seasoned contractors are willing to be flexible on rates in order to ensure consistent work.
Non-financial-services based contract positions that require a UX practitioner capable of leading UX on a project are likely to pay £375-£425 per day. At this level there will certainly be an element of strategic involvement aside from the UX deliverables that will need to be produced.
In terms of the types of contract position that are available, we have seen in increase in the number of rolling contracts which are created as a means of filling in until a permanent hire is made (an effect of the candidate driven nature of the permanent marketplace), and also in increase in the number of very short term contracts (3-5 days) to facilitate focus groups and user testing sessions.
What are Hiring Managers looking for right now?
I don’t believe that there has been a great deal of change over the past 6 months in terms of what hiring managers are looking to see from hands-on UX candidates right now.
As I mentioned within my blog post last October, multi-platform and responsive design experience offer a real advantage over those with solely desktop experience, although that is probably relatively obvious in this day and age.
Axure is certainly the wireframing tool of choice as a result of its prototyping capabilities, with knowledge of HTML5, CSS3 and Jquery are becoming more important. Social media UX specific experience is also becoming increasingly sought-after within digital agencies.
Specifically relevant to contracting professionals, given the increase in the number of candidates available, employers are focussing more on specific project relevance more-so than the UX skill-set which is now broadly available.
During your time working within the UX marketplace what changes have you noticed?
Over the past year or so I have noticed an increasing number of Visual Designers and Front-End Developers trying to make the transition into UX; and where-as 12 months ago this was a constant cause of complaint for hiring managers ‘I have advertised a UX position and have received 40 CV’s; not one of them a UX Architect – Can you help me?!’, the market is now becoming more accepting of both creative designers and developers.
Why do you think the market is now being more accepting towards the creative designers and developers?
For two reasons really, firstly, that there seems to have been an increase in the number of ‘UX/UI Design’ positions that are available, which are very well suited for the creative professionals looking to make the transition into UX. These roles tend to be situated within small to medium sized companies, that perhaps do not have the projects to support a full-time UX professional, and look to utilise a well-rounded skill-set.
Secondly, UX is becoming much more of an iterative process, and one in which prototyping seems to be quickly replacing static wireframing. More and more websites are responsive, and producing pages and pages of static wireframes is not cost or time effective. This is creating a demand for UX Architects that can code, and is opening the door for technical professionals who can quickly pick up core UX principals.
I feel I must add a bit of a disclaimer, as I’m sure there are a number of UX, Usability and Human Factors specialists in a state of dismay. I am not trying to say that a creative designer or a developer can simply ‘turn their hand’ to UX and fill a position that requires complex user research, usability testing and eventual design recommendations. The point that I am making here is that there are more opportunities out there now that do not perhaps require such a specialist skill-set, but can offer a foot in the door for those looking to make a transition into UX. Understanding the specific skill-set required is the key to success here – A UX specialist is likely to be as unhappy in a non-specialist UX position as a creative designer is to be ineffective in a much more specialist usability focussed position.
Have you noticed an increase in Multi-Channel UX/CX Positions?
A noticeable trend has occurred within the UX space in an increase in both permanent and contract positions that are instrumental to client’s multi-channel customer experience. In particular I am seeing an increase in the number of positions focussed on improving the usability of internal systems and interfaces used by telephonic customer support and service staff, aimed at strengthening multi-channel brand experience. Given the access to, and availability of the actual users of these interfaces, these can make for some quite interesting projects, in which improvement is easily measurable. Furthermore, these projects can be refreshingly usability focussed as less importance is placed on visual elements.
Would you have any tips for graduates wanting to get into the industry?
It’s all about the portfolio – make sure you have spent plenty of time making it the best it can be. There is a portfolio guide on the Xcede website: http://www.xcedesolutions.com/portfolio-guide.cms.asp. The graduate will need to show a thought process and really showcase skills. Aside from this, be flexible on salary initially – I’m not saying take less than you’re worth, but it’s important to take the position that offers the best development opportunities, not necessarily the one with the highest basic salary.
What degrees and levels would employers be looking for?
Human Computer Interaction, User Centred Design, Human Centred Systems, Product Design, Psychology, Interactive Media all with an upper second or above tend to the ones hiring managers look out for, but a level of experience does play a key factor.
How would you progress your career in the UX industry and what advice would you give?
The Standard Career Path would be: Junior UX Architect, UX Architect, Senior UX Architect, UX Lead, Head of UX and finally a UX Director- In terms of advice, again, make the moves that present the opportunity to take the next step, always expanding on your existing skill set, I follow by that motto myself!