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We are in the process of weeding out potential candidates for a new UX position in our company. It is difficult to tell how someone actually works until you get them to go through a project. So, I figure we should get candidates to complete a brief example task before the second phone interview.

What would be a a good (brief) example pre-interview task? The task should allow the candidate to demonstrate the depth of understanding and personal vision for UX that they have.

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'UX' is an incredibly broad set of skills. So, unless you are specifically looking for a very particular set of UX skills, I don't see how a 'test' will really give you much insight into the person as a whole. –  DA01 May 21 '13 at 21:54
    
I'd probably ask them what the 'magic number 7 was'. And then see if they ACTUALLY understood the concept... –  PhillipW May 22 '13 at 19:21
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2 Answers 2

Some pre-interview tasks I can think about:

  • Ask the user to review your own product (website/application). Come prepared with a list of good design, bad design and improvement suggestions.

  • Give a longer design question: Design an app for setting alarms and reminders. Keep the question simple enough that it allows them to show their innovation and general enough that they have a good starting point and you have a good measuring point.

Keep in mind, the answers and your review will be subjective. But, it will also make it easier to find a suitable candidate on the basis of, whose ideas resonate with the company culture, is able to communicate their ideas clearly and is able to explain their design decisions.

The task is only a part of the test. It the how they present it, explain it and defend it that shows their grasp of the discipline.

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"How they present it, explain it and defend it that shows their grasp of the discipline." - agree –  simple May 21 '13 at 20:37
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The challenge with questions like that, however, is that they lack context. I can review a web site as-seen, but I can't truly provide UX feedback without fully understanding their current users, their business objectives, sales strategies, marketing plans, etc. So it might be best to keep it very specific. Perhaps "Please review our site and provide some heuristic usability feedback". –  DA01 May 21 '13 at 21:57
    
Also, don't forget to critique and make completely wrong statements about their ideas to see how they respond. –  smoca May 22 '13 at 17:00
    
@smoca that is what I was trying to get at by "defending" their ideas. –  rk. May 22 '13 at 17:05
    
I think it's great to get some input on their general opinion of your product, like "what do you like and dislike most about our app?" in order to make sure they have some kind of opinion. I'd just be wary of asking someone to spend any significant effort doing design work for it. That kind of thing comes off as getting "free work" from candidates who you might not even hire. –  Kip May 22 '13 at 17:27
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The only thing will truly give you enough context to evaluate a candidate, imo, is their process and ability to explain it. It also depends on the responsibilities of the position. UX is such a broad term that it has different tasks associated with it depending on where you are. Is the position more research focused? UI focused? etc.

If there is a more functional spin to the position (i.e. generate prototypes from preconceived wires), then you'll want to see someone perform that function. But if the position is one where they will research a problem and design a solution to it, then the process more be of more importance.

As a very quick assessment, I usually pose a problem to be solved, typically one that has just been worked through with the team. I give a high-level overview, some context of the users/goals, and then ask them to walk me through how they would solve the problem.

For example, recently I gave a candidate an idea from sales to alter our search page and results. I gave context to our users and how/why they typically use the site and then asked her to show us how she would evaluate the request and, if valid, how she would implement it. The artifact they create isn't as important to me as to show how she evaluated the problem/idea and arrived at her solution.

This article gives insight to how Moment hires designers, focusing on people:

of diverse backgrounds

We actively seek designers from varied backgrounds to enrich our way of thinking about the work we do...The best work happens when you bring all these bright and opinionated people together to work on solving client problems.

that value collaboration and critique

As you can imagine, collaboration and critique are difficult skills to evaluate in an interview. We look for evidence of effective teamwork, and want to hear about the roles that people gravitate toward in different team experiences.

and who can tell the story of their work.

A successful project story should leave your interviewers feeling interested and engaged in your solution, and should provide enough rationale to convince us that your solution is a good one.

Jonathan Baker-Bates answered this question quite succinctly when he wrote:

Finding out whether a candidate has the above qualities takes you about an hour, during which time you will have hardly any opportunity to look at their portfolio. This is a good thing because most UX porfolios are impossible to critique anyway, even if you are a UX professional. So forget that. Concentrate on the person, not whether they can make a site map or a wireframe. Drunk monkeys can make decent-looking wireframes, believe me. And I've seen them do it.

In short, focus on the qualities that you want your UX person/department to have and seek those out, not necessarily creation of an artifact.

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+1 for "focus on the qualities...not necessarily creation of an artifact" –  DA01 May 22 '13 at 17:07
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