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I have never been asked by an interviewer to provide an expert review of the client's product/service as part of the interview process. I would assume that this is a good opportunity to see how a UX designer approaches the potential task of improving the user experience, and also a good opportunity for the UX designer to see the company's attitude and ideas about UX design. Too often I see job descriptions posted requiring UX designers to do user research when it is clearly out of scope for the project, or for UX designers to have knowledge of Agile processes when the company does not implement any. I think it is really strange to accept or reject applicants based on what is written on a resume, because I often have problems believing what is written for a company job description.

What is the main problem with just asking the applicant to review the company's product/service, at least from the perspective of a potential user?

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It's a question of validity. It's unlikely a review of the sort you are suggesting will have any correlation to future work performance. You'd need a validated work sample test to get any benefit out of it (for selection purposes) and those are expensive, time consuming, and expensive to develop. –  uxzapper Oct 7 '13 at 23:20
    
@uxzapper But I think a CV or interview questions are going to lead to very similar responses from the candidates, and it gives no more indication of correlation to future work performance. I am not suggestion that an expert review is more valid, but I am just wondering if there is a more substantial basis for accepting the validity of cv content. –  Michael Lai Oct 8 '13 at 11:35
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3 Answers

There's a number of reasons not to do this.

  1. It could be considered spec work.
  2. It's void of proper context and, as such, becomes more of a subjective heuristic review, at best.
  3. It's void of processes such as competitive research, data analysis, etc.
  4. It's void of history (maybe there were legit reasons why things were implemented as they were)
  5. It's an uncomfortable thing to ask a recruit on the spot. Maybe the person interviewing me is the one that ran the entire project. Am I going to insult him by critiquing it?
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I often get asked during interviews about the process I go through with my UX design work, and if I tell them that it is dependent on the project I am working on it sounds like I am just avoiding the question. Compared to CVs and portfolio work, I still think it is a better measure of a candidate's ability. –  Michael Lai Oct 6 '13 at 22:12
    
I think points 1-4 can be avoided by careful design of the task, and if I come across a UX lead or manager who does not like or cannot take constructive criticism then I would have a hard time working with a team like that anyway. –  Michael Lai Oct 6 '13 at 22:14
    
@MichaelLai that is exactly HOW I'd want you to answer that question. The process is VERY much dependent on the particular project one works on and can vary drastically from project to project. –  DA01 Oct 6 '13 at 23:22
    
As for avoiding points 1-4, the BEST way to handle that is to not have you critique the site you are being interviewed for. While I'm not a fan of employee tests in general, if it has to happen, I'd suggest a going with a neutral 3rd party site as the challenge. Have a candidate critique the IRS.gov site or something of that nature. –  DA01 Oct 6 '13 at 23:24
    
What about critiquing a competitor's website or product? That way it can still be constructive without being direct. But I guess it means both the interviewer and interviewee will be making some assumptions with the analysis. –  Michael Lai Oct 7 '13 at 21:43
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I've just been asked to do just that but been given the task prior to the interview. It's not the first time. It is a great way to filter out those who are UX and those who are more interaction designers. I've been given a scenario and asked to review that against the existing site and then recommend what the next actions would be.

The main problems may be that it puts some people off as they may fear they are being used as a free resource and these kinds of tests do take time but, in my experience, I know I am more likely to land a role if I'm asked to engage with the company and show what I can do.

I would recommend others do this when employing people as it's a better filter, as you say, than a CV or even a Portfolio.

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I have never been to an interview for a UX architect/designer position where I have been asked about my philosophy on UX design or how I would go about implementing a UX strategy for a company. I think doing an assessment of the company's current UX competency would be a great way to show an end-to-end understanding of UX practices. But sadly I have never had the chance. –  Michael Lai Oct 7 '13 at 21:46
    
A UX portfolio should also show an end to end understanding. It should not be a series of end screens but artefacts of several processes you've used. My portfolio is about 80% intermediate deliverables / sketches and photos of workshops for example with only a few end screens. That's what separates the work UX does from UI / interaction design in my view. –  Stewart Dean Oct 8 '13 at 7:50
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Your mileage may vary, right? My employer asked me to evaluate their product during an interview, and further, they asked me to collaborate with the team to discuss potential changes, based on my initial assessment of it as a user.

They also ask developers to write code on a whiteboard during the interview process. Why not ask UX designers to work through a similar thought process? I think it's a great way to discover useful information on both sides. How would this person be to work with (from employer's perspective), and how would this team be to work with (from candidate's perspective)?

There shouldn't be a problem with doing this at all, unless they are afraid of putting the candidate on the spot. Maybe it seems unfair. After all, they don't have time to bring the candidate up to speed and taint them with all of the political reasons why things have to be the way they are -- and as a result, the feedback they receive would be pretty objective. They might see it as useless feedback because it's objective, and therefore neither informed by nor biased by the constraints that every organization has.

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