How to Get Hired As a Designer
After reading a lot of posts about finding and hiring designers (and after doing a bit of that myself), I’ve been thinking a lot about the other side of things. Particularly, after searching high and low for designers the last few weeks, there are a few things that keep cropping up that stop me from reaching out, as well as a couple that make me totally stoked. So, for what it’s worth to you designers (or aspiring designers) out there, here’s that list in no particular order:
A Dribbble profile is absolutely not a portfolio
Look, you make pretty things. That’s awesome! I love pretty design work! I love Dribbble (and use it to source potential design hires). But there is so much more to our profession than that. I guess you could use a Dribbble profile to show UX thinking and link to front-end code, but let’s be honest: that’s not Dribbble’s strong suit (at the moment).
Have a web site, that you designed
There is no better way for me to get an instant feel for your style and ability to write front-end html/css. While it’s okay to implement html/css frameworks (like bootstrap or something), if your web presence is a pre-baked Tumblr or Wordpress theme you should really consider designing and writing your own stuff.
And for the love of all that is holy, if your web site link currently goes to a GoDaddy landing page, take it down until you put something up. I can’t believe that’s even a thing amongst designers.
There is nothing more powerful than linking to live products
I do a lot of wishful-thinking design on my own. I even keep some of it displayed on my personal site (though to be fair, we did have a working prototype at one point). But what I primarily want to talk to you about isn’t your new idea for an email app or your latest Weather visualization. I want to talk to you about how your designs have held up against real word usage. I want to hear about that time you launched a design and found out you’d missed something vital. I want to view source on some html and css and ask you about that nice CSS3 transition and what fallbacks you’re using for inferior browsers.
I’m not saying don’t display your personal projects (it’s awesome when people love what they do so much). Do it! But focus on the products I can see, sign up for and mess around with.
Be clear about your role on projects
If you present a product as part of your portfolio, make sure to let me know exactly what parts you owned (on the phone or when we’re emailing is fine if it’s not on your web site). Did you own everything because the product team was tiny? Did you have a UX specialist doing most of the wires while you concentrated on the visual language? There aren’t any wrong answers. It will just help me ask the right questions and prevent any surprises when we bring you in for a loop.
For the love of god, be responsive
If we’re emailing, my personal goal is a maximum of 48 hours turnaround time (usually it’s instant) for candidates, even if the reply is just to say I need a little more time to gather whatever feedback I need on your portfolio. And look, I know that we designers are hard to come by and the onus is on me to put forth the effort. But if you don’t respond for a week at a time when we’re setting up time for a phone call it not only makes you look kind of disorganized, but it sends me the message that you really don’t care about chatting with me. If you’re actually interested, acting like it goes a long way. If you’re not, no problem, just shoot me a thanks-but-no-thanks email (we’re all professionals here). Which leads me to my last point.
Above all, be honest
Is the position not quite right? Tell me and maybe we can work it out. Have concerns about the next step in our hiring process? Let’s iterate on that process together to find something that works for both of us. What I’ve found to be most true is that finding and hiring designers is a collaborative activity between us and you, the candidate. The way we interact during that process is, in a lot of ways, the way we’ll interact when we’re working together. In that spirit, push back if it feels like the right thing to do. Ask lots of questions. Make sure you’re finding the right fit for you, and not just finding a job.
And, of course, if you’re interested in designing at Etsy. Let me know.