The UX of Interviewing

As I’ve spent more and more time recruiting designers over the last six months, I’ve had a lot of chances to consider the interview process and what works well for us and what doesn’t. With every person we interview, even if it’s a phone screen, we’re creating a reputation for our company amongst the candidates out there. So it’s incredibly important that the experience we provide potential employees is empathic and thoughtful. Here are some things we’ve done to smooth out the process, both for our candidates and for ourselves as interviewers:

First of all, get all the interviews on the loop in a room together and make sure they each know what to focus on. It sucks coming away from a day of interviews not knowing how a designer thinks about visual patterns because all your interviewers gave UX exercises. It’s also super lame to be the candidate in that scenario. Before I joined Etsy, I interviewed at a well-established, well-respected startup. They flew me out to SF from Seattle and spent a full day having me interview with the entire design team. While I got a few questions about design, each person spent the majority of their time telling me how awesome the company was (which, hey, great, I was sold!). A few days after I got back to Seattle, I got a phone call letting me know that they enjoyed talking to me, but didn’t get a good sense of my design process, so could I do a few more interviews? When you’re not organized, you wind up wasting your company’s money, your time and, more importantly, your candidates’ time. Pre-huddles help avoid this and ensure that you get all the information you need to make a decision.

Relatedly, we got feedback from candidates early on that was basically “I wish I knew what to expect and what was expected from me.” Lame! Now we let every design candidate know who they’re talking to ahead of time, what the schedule is, and stuff to prep for (for instance, every design interview loop at Etsy includes a portfolio review). As a result, we’ve seen candidates more relaxed, comfortable and prepared during our loops, which is exactly what we want. Interviewing at a company for a job you want is stressful enough in and of itself. Anything we can do to make things simpler and more transparent is a plus.

After the interview, make sure to ask the candidate how things went and what could be better. One of my favorite questions now is some variation of “Is there anything you didn’t know ahead of time or that was unclear?” The answer accomplishes two things: you get to hear the candidate describe an experience and think critically about it, and you get to take that feedback and tune your process for the next person. We’ve uncovered so much this way already and even though our interview process is better than it’s ever been, we’re still discovering new ways to make it better.

Lastly, as soon as you make a final decision, you need to let the candidate know as soon as possible. This is just as important for people you’re passing on as it is for those you’re making an offer to. We’ve dropped the ball a couple of times (not purposefully, but somehow we mixed up who was reaching out to whom) and all of us get a terrible feeling when we let a candidate down like that. It sends the signal that we don’t care, when we really do (really, really do). Not to mention, the effects of being left dangling by a company go ripple out beyond just the person you left hanging. Here’s what you really don’t want:

Awesome Person 1: I got an email from Cap at Etsy. It sounds interesting!

Awesome Person 2: Yeah… I talked to him last year. He said he’d follow up with me, but never did. Eh.

Awesome Person 1: Wait, really? Geez. :\

It’s important to remember that the experience people have speaking with you, your attention to detail, how prompt you are, whether you follow-up quickly, etc., all add or detract from their experience and your company’s reputation. It’s a real world user experience challenge. And an important one if your company wants to grow and attract the best talent out there.


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