November 26, 2021

UX Hiring: Your biggest UX hiring challenges and how to overcome them

In this two-part blog series, we’re breaking down all things hiring and UX! We cover:

  1. UX Hiring: Build a strong UX team and avoid these major hiring roadblocks

  2. UX Hiring: Your biggest UX hiring challenges and how to overcome them

In part one of our hiring into UX series, we wrote about how to build a strong UX team while avoiding major roadblocks along the way. We made sure to cover signs you might be struggling with the UX hiring process, where to start when hiring in UX, and the value behind hiring a UX Unicorn or a T-Shaped designer. You’ll want to check that out here.

Hiring a new person into any role can be complex and confusing. It requires a significant investment of company resources like time and money. Hiring also comes with a distinct set of hard-to-navigate obstacles and endless questions that need answers: Who are you looking for? How time-consuming is the process going to be? Why aren’t you receiving the impressive applicants you’re looking for?

We get it. It’s tough. So we’re letting you in on the five most common hiring challenges in UX and service design, plus tactical strategies to avoid them!

What we’ll cover in this post:

  • The UX job market – what you need to know

  • Common hiring challenges

  • Top strategies for finding the candidates you need


General Industry Challenges/Factors


UX Job Market

The UX job market is super competitive, moving at the speed of light, and UX designers are being snatched up and poached from existing roles like you wouldn’t believe. Because of this ruthlessness, it can be exceptionally difficult to find an available candidate that meets your needs. Tech and user experience might be the hottest job market on the planet right now.

When the pandemic hit, we saw everything move “online” and “remote” overnight. This impacted the digital and software industries like no other. With social and physical distancing, we needed a solution to performing tasks that had been carried out face-to-face for decades. Suddenly, companies and organizations worldwide were realizing how unprepared they were to switch their processes and offerings to an online database; digital became the one clear way to get things done. There was already a massive uptick in UX and UI jobs before 2020, but the pandemic only accelerated that, and we can only anticipate this surge to pick up speed!

  • According to the US Department of Labour, the projected growth rate of jobs in digital design from 2020 to 2030 is 13% (7% higher than the average growth rate of all occupations!)

  • UX Collective reports that there are “8,000–24,000 job openings worldwide waiting for you at any given time, and the need is projected to grow 22% over the next decade”.

  • According to a LinkedIn report, UX design is one of the top five in-demand skills.

  • InVision’s Product Design Hiring Report found that 70% of people managers increased the headcount of their design team in the past year.

Mass Exodus

Another factor in the number of people jumping into the UX discipline is the “mass exodus.” During the pandemic, people realized they hated their jobs and wanted to quit or change industries and professions altogether. According to an article by CNBC, 1 in 4 people quit their job over the past year. User experience design and research is an attractive industry because, at its core, it’s about people. Designers are lucky enough to spend their time thinking about what people really need and want, and then use their creativity to design applications and make the world a better place (hopefully!)

Online Learning & Certificates

With the surge in jobs, big and bureaucratic universities have been slow to catch up. Universities couldn’t move fast enough to match the job market demand for UX, service design, UI design, and research roles. Enter: the more agile and adaptable online learning and certificate programs. They could move more quickly, and it seemed like overnight online courses were popping up everywhere. Since the year 2000, the e-learning industry has grown 900%, making it one of the fastest-growing industries.

These online courses offer a lot of positives – they are relatively affordable compared to university degrees, they can be completed quickly, and most are self-guided. While some programs provide some level of instructor support, all of them can be completed entirely online.

However, with the hundreds of courses out there, specific challenges arise. Mainly, it’s hard to know how credible a course is, as legitimacy can vary significantly from one course to another. Almost all of them offer some form of certification or certificate of completion, but what does that actually mean? Anyone can take these courses, there is no application process, and most are quite short. So, how can online courses be considered equivalent or comparable to a four-year university or college degree? Well, like most things, the answer to that is layered.

Look for the following in an online UX course or certification:

  1. Developed and taught by a reputable instructor. Make sure your teacher is someone with immense industry experience and is a fountain of UX knowledge.

  2. The online course covers a niche topic course that compliments an applicant’s degree or diploma in the field.

  3. A reputable company or organization is behind the online course (for example, maybe they’re design firm with tons of experience!)

  4. The “level” of the course. Where does it land on a scale from beginner to advanced? Is it advertised as a 101 or foundations course vs. intermediate or advanced content.


What does this mean for your hiring process?

It means it’s getting harder and harder to find qualified candidates. You have a tremendous demand for UX-related roles and not enough people to fill them, then you have a ton of people wanting to leave their current jobs and switch to UX without the know-how. So they are taking certificate courses and applying for UX design jobs. How can you know for sure that a candidate has the skillset or experience you need for your project? Because UX is so nebulous, it’s hard for the average person or recruiter to understand precisely what to look for on a candidate’s portfolio or resume, let alone knowing the right questions to ask.


Common Challenges in UX Hiring
  1. You don’t know what you’re looking for. This might be the first time you’re hiring into a position like this and simply don’t know where to start! There’s a lot to sift through in order to find a qualified candidate. Maybe you don’t know the difference between UI and UX design, research, or coding, so it’s hard to identify a good candidate.

  2. You don’t have the time to find the right person for the job. Looking through resumes and portfolios with a fine-toothed comb is time-consuming, and without industry knowledge, you might not know what to look for.

  3. You aren’t attracting top talent because you aren’t a big-name brand, and designers aren’t itching to put your project on their resumes. You aren’t getting enough traction on your advertisement because designers don’t realize your open position is the right fit for them.

  4. The hiring process is too slow, losing candidates to other job offers because you’re moving too slow and the market is competitive.

  5. You’re sifting through too many unqualified candidates, “fluff,” and resume padding in the industry.


Top Five Strategies to Successful UX Hiring

Here’s what you can do to overcome these common challenges:

  1. Take some time to learn the different skill sets in the industry and start to understand some of the jargon. Read up on UX Maturity and find out the difference between UI and UX design, and the differences between HCD, service design, etc.

  2. Hire the pros! A design consultancy (like Outwitly!) has the expertise to wade through all the resume padding and find the candidate that’s right for you.

  3. This is a tough one, but find other ways to attract talent! Evaluate what makes you desirable to a potential candidate. Among the most important are company culture, flexible work schedule, and benefits and wellness programs. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box to find other incentives to attract new talent.

  4. The job market moves quickly, so don’t take too long to review resumes and portfolios.  Make it a priority to interview candidates right away and make your decision within a week (if possible!)

  5. Finally, learn what to look for in a candidate’s experience. To avoid the resume “fluff,” we’re giving you some great tips that should help your recruiting efforts below…


What to Look for in Your Hiring Process


The “Self-Title Issue”

When hiring a UX Designer, thoroughly examining the candidate’s educational and employment history is important. “Self-Titling” has become an issue in the field of UX as there are a ton of quick certificate courses out there. This is not to say they aren’t good, but a strong title needs to be supported by solid experience. Hiring someone with a certificate who has self-titled as a “UX Designer” without formal design education or industry experience may not be as effective for achieving your organization’s goals.


Education vs Experience

Here are some questions that need to be answered about a potential candidate applying for your organization’s open UX role. It’s essential to get as curious as possible – there’s no such thing as too many questions!

  1. How many years have they worked as a UX designer?

  2. Look through their employment history. What have their job titles been up until this point?

  3. What is their educational background? An applicant’s education may make up for lack of industry experience and vice versa.

Hot tip: Look for educational history in Industrial Design, HCI (human-computer interaction), a Master of Design, or an outstanding balance of education (online certificates) and experience!


An In-Depth portfolio 

When examining a candidate’s portfolio, be sure to check out more than just the final glamour or deliverable shots. Here’s what we mean by that…

It’s pretty easy to take an unappealing app that already exists and make it look pretty, but it isn’t enough to determine if a candidate is a strong UX designer. A hiring manager looking at a candidate’s portfolio work with an untrained eye may decide that because they can make a beautiful-looking app, that means they’re a great UX designer. Don’t make this mistake!

You want to SEE the process and the behind-the-scenes thinking that went into making that application better. What was the challenge? What methods, processes, and tools did they use, and why? Where are the sketches, low-fidelity mockups, and concept ideas? How did they decide to go with one concept over another? The “Design Thinking” behind the outcome is critical, so make sure your candidate takes you behind the scenes of the finished project.

We suggest looking for a minimum of 3 solid projects where the designer has gone in-depth with the project.

Not ready to take on the hiring process solo? Skip the struggle. We’ve got you covered!


Scope, Length and Complexity of Projects 

If you’re looking to hire an intermediate-level designer, be sure to check if their projects are school or work-based. We all know that school projects (even when tied with industry) cannot replace real working experience. Of course, if you’re looking for a junior candidate — then school-based projects are perfect.

Next, ask the candidates: How complex were the projects? How many stakeholders and departments were involved? Who did they collaborate with (developers, product managers, subject matter experts, etc.)? What organizational or business challenges did they have to overcome? How long was the project? How much detail have they provided about the project? What were their specific roles and responsibilities on the project?


Communication and Storytelling

A designer’s ability to story-tell and communicate is one of the most important parts of the job. Almost half of what we do as designers is communicate to other people what and why we are doing something. What are the insights that led to this? Why is this design change the right move for the product? How will it make it easier for users?
Another important part of being a UX designer is championing the best design and research process. Our job is ultimately about change, and change is scary for many organizations. A strong designer knows when to stand up for their ideas and when to push back on the client or stakeholder. This is never in a disrespectful way, but an expert is hired to do their job (what they know how to do best) and a designer with excellent communication skills will be able to move the needle in your organization and make the most positive impact.


Multi-Disciplinary Collaboration

Your designer will likely work amongst a team of non-designers within your organization. Commonly, there are people like engineers, product managers, content strategists, subject matter experts, etc. When looking for the perfect designer, make sure they have experience collaborating with others and can put their egos aside to work well in a team.


We hope we addressed your biggest UX hiring challenges and that you’ll leave this post with some tangible tips to make the entire hiring process smoother. There’s no better time to start a career in UX or to hire UX roles for your organization, and reading this blog entry is a step in the right direction. Become a newsletter subscriber, so you don’t miss any of our new blog posts!


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