Building a Great Design Team Starts with the Job Posting: How to Appeal to Top Talent

Building a Great Design Team Starts with the Job Posting: How to Appeal to Top Talent
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User Experience Designer, User Interface Designer and User Experience Research are all titles that made it onto CNNMoney/Payscale’s Best Jobs in America in 2017. The list covers careers with ‘big growth, great pay and satisfying work.’ The design jobs listed have a predicted job growth of between 13-27% – meaning that demand for these jobs is expected to increase by these percentages over the next decade.

Many companies in a diverse set of sectors are building in-house design teams – from banking to telecommunications and healthcare. Increased demand for designers means that talented candidates have lots of options to choose from, and that both design agency/client service firms and in-house teams are competing for skilled practitioners.

So what can you do when creating job postings for design roles to ensure you get quality applications from excellent candidates?

The Goal of a Job Posting is to Get the Right People to Apply

A job post is a tool that helps a designer decide whether a job is the right fit for them – their skills, aspirations, and goals. Being user centred in how you create a job posting is crucial; think about your ideal applicant, and what their needs, goals and aspirations are. A quick empathy map exercise could be a great starting point to get in the head of those you are trying to hire.

The job post is also screening mechanism which should immediately help people to move on if there is misalignment. It is imperative to know the difference between a job description and a job posting. The description is an internal document which explains the responsibilities and expectations of a role. A job posting is the bait – you want to get the right fish to nibble and take the next step.

A well written job ad will be clearly structured and will answer the following questions that a designer will have top of mind:

  • What type of designer and skillset is needed to succeed in this role?
  • Is my skillset the right fit?
  • Are the design challenges that I would be working on interesting and resonant?
  • What will the opportunities for growth and career progression be?
  • What does the company culture feel like and is it a good match?

The user goal is to quickly determine whether or not to take the next step and apply for the job.

Get Specific About What’s Involved in the Role

In order to achieve the above, the job posting needs to be very specific. As Jared Spool points out in his excellent post on hiring designers, vague or high level information does nothing to paint a picture of the exact challenges the designer will be working on: “What top designer could get excited about working on ‘end-to-end digital projects’ or ‘concepting, designing, and delivering new and refreshed creative that meets marketing objectives and acquisition strategies?’”

Clarity on specific challenges, goals, and tasks will be an effective screening tool for both the company that is hiring and the designer. What type of projects will the designer work on? What will their responsibilities be? How many other people are on the team? For example, rather than a vague bullet point such as, ‘support user research,’ use specifics like, ‘plan and execute usability test sessions, including research planning and recruitment, data collection and synthesis.’

Illuminating the difference between must haves and nice to haves is another important level of detail. Job postings for ‘unicorn’ designers that ask for the moon, sun and stars will be off-putting and overwhelming to designers, and may deter people from applying who would be a good fit. Think carefully about what skills are non-negotiables, and which ones are nice-to-haves for the role. Be sure to separate these out from each other in the posting.

Show Me That You Know Me (and Design)

There’s nothing worse for a designer than reading a job posting that gradually (or immediately!) reveals the lack of nuanced understanding of design and the role it can play. It is important to be thoughtful in the title you are hiring for – try to avoid things like “UX ninja” or worse, hybrid, made up roles like ‘UX Developer’ which immediately portray a lack of understanding of the space. If there are specific aspects to the role such as working predominantly on voice platforms, include those – for example Voice Interface UX Designer.

Demonstrating an understanding of the range of design skills and an intention of which ones are needed will certainly earn brownie points and trust among a design audience. There are several useful frameworks that can be used to map this out. For example, The Moment’s Innovation Design Capabilities Map takes a broad look at twelve skills that designers may have competency in, or Paul Adams’ skill profile matrix for designers (above).

Designers want to feel confident that the nuances of a design skillset are understood, and that they won’t be expected be expert in something that is outside of their core competencies – for example assuming a UX designer to be highly skilled visual designer by default. They also want to feel that design is valued within an organization, so communicate how design is valued, or what’s unique about design in your organization as you draft the postings. Is there a design role at the executive level? Do you have a designer co-founder? Is this an opportunity to grow and scale design capability from the ground up?

Connect Me To a Purpose

Many designers are very purpose driven, and feel that it is their duty to ‘do good’ or ‘have impact’ in a positive way on people’s lives. This may in part be driven by the popularity of a human-centred approach to design. Job postings that highlight a company’s broader vision and mission beyond the discrete design role being advertised will appeal to designers who want to contribute in a meaningful way. It’s a win-win for the company and designer if a match can be made at this level.

 

For example, Mozilla includes their mission statement on their job postings:

“Mozilla exists to build the Internet as a public resource accessible to all because we believe that open and free is better than closed and controlled. Join us to work on the Web as the platform and help create more opportunity and innovation for everyone online.”

Appealing to a deeper sense of purpose creates a call to action for a design whose beliefs are in line with Mozilla’s, to contribute to a cause using their skills. It also helps designers to picture their potential role supporting a company mission.

First Impressions Matter

A job posting is often the first in-depth consideration a designer has regarding an opportunity. This touchpoint can be the difference between having lots of great candidates to choose from or tumbleweed in the interviewing stage. The ad is also just that, an advertisement, where you are selling the best design talent on why they should apply. A little extra care and consideration goes a long way – think about how to be specific about the role and required skillsets, demonstrate an understanding and appreciation for design, and how to connect people to a shared purpose!

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