Hiring an interaction designer?

Do you know what you are looking for? Do you know what to ask? Do you know what to look for? Do you know who they would work for? Why?

In the enterprise software world, what do you want to look for in an interaction designer? What is an interaction designer? Do they just drawing pretty pictures?

Interaction designers focus on how the user flows through the application. Their goal is to make the user’s life as easy as possible to get their task or job done. So what do they do? I like to describe the responsibility of the interaction designer is to understand the context of the business problem and the limitations of the technology to deliver the best design to be built. An interaction designer spends 80-90% of their time communicating, working with business people, product managers and users to understand the context and the problem, translating that problem into design choices that is narrowed to the best solution and then representing the different stages of design to different people in the way they need to see it.

So here is what I did.

  1. I screened my candidates by having them send a resume with a portfolio. The portfolio is a visual resume. Very little of this can show interaction but it does show communication tools.
  2. If they passed, I had a 45 min conversation with the designer. I wanted to find out how well they listened and then communicated their abilities. I also had them descibe their design process to see how they approach design to see if they can fit with the team.
  3. If they passed, they had to call back the next day with 1/2 hour of questions. Every good interaction designer should know how to ask questions all the time. Here I was looking at how they asked their questions and whether I thought there was a fit for the team.
  4. If they passed, we had them in for an in-person interview. Here they needed to take a couple of hours with the team explaining their work, walking through examples and answering questions. We brought up examples of current design challenges to see what the candidate would do. Would they ask more questions? Did they show examples? Did they just jump into the answer?

Interaction design is not about the answer. There are many answers to a problem. Interaction design is about the questions. The interaction designer needs to gather enough information to make reasoned choices in the design process. At each stage in the process he will need to work with users, business people, product managers, designers and technologists.

Are you hiring an interaction designer? Make sure they can fit culturally within your team since they will be spending so much time trying to influence and communicate.

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