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I recently went through a long hiring process and it went great. I read and followed the great advice here on how to best present my UX skill set. However, when they made their final decision they said that they loved my passion, UX knowledge and wanted to hire me on but that I was too junior and needed training which they could not yet provide.

So my question is: What skills and knowledge does it take to operate in a UX designer position with out the need of training. Or in other words: What are the basics in order to get the job done?

I've been in design for a long time but I have finally found that UX is my passion, so I want to be ready next time around.

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closed as not constructive by JonW May 14 '12 at 12:41

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2 Answers 2

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Whitney Hess has one of the more awesome guides to becoming a UX Designer on her blog: "So You Wanna Be a User Experience Designer". Very, very good resource for junior folks just getting started. Another great resource is "Getting Started in User Experience Design" from Evantage Consulting.

As an existing designer who is transitioning into UX, I would say that you actually have a strong advantage, as you should be able to explain why projects that you've worked on in the past represent great experiences, and be able to talk through the process that you went through to get to the end product. While some of the methods that UX'ers use are a bit specific (e.g. usability testing, card sorts, etc.), almost everything can be learned as you go if you already have knowledge and passion for creating amazing experiences.

That being said, if the company was looking for someone who was "ready to go on day one" for leading a project, then you might not have been the right fit... but I promise, there are tons of companies out there who are willing to work with people who have the knowledge and passion (but who may lack in direct experience).

Direct experience, to me, would mean working in UX-specific deliverables. Flow diagrams, personas & scenarios, wireframes, specifications, heuristic analyses, usability tests, and so forth (More info on UX deliverables). When we hire, we look for a UX portfolio that includes samples of things like that -- helps us evaluate a candidate's thought process. But I was hired for my role without a portfolio, because I can speak to how my previous (non-UX) projects were designed to improve our users' experiences.

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Thank you for your answer. Those are some fantastic links and great advice. But my question is what are those "direct experience[s]" That are needed to be ready to go on day one? –  jonshariat Jul 28 '11 at 22:05
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@jonshariat Direct experience, to me, would mean working in UX-specific deliverables. Flow diagrams, personas & scenarios, wireframes, specifications, heuristic analyses, usability tests, and so forth (More info on UX deliverables). When we hire, we look for a UX portfolio that includes samples of things like that -- helps us evaluate a candidate's thought process. But I was hired for my role without a portfolio, because I can speak to how my previous (non-UX) projects were designed to improve our users' experiences. –  Daniel Newman Jul 28 '11 at 22:13
    
Awesome! Well my question is answered. Thank you @Daniel –  jonshariat Jul 28 '11 at 22:24
    
For completeness sake, could you add that to your answer? –  jonshariat Jul 28 '11 at 22:25
    
@jonshariat No problem, glad to be of help. –  Daniel Newman Jul 28 '11 at 22:28

I wouldn't take this company's lack of an ability/time to train you right now as a signal that you should try to get hired in a position without training. It sounds more like the company was just busy or unable to take you on at the moment. That happens sometimes. Keep looking.

As for specific skills?

  • Having actually done usability tests is a big deal. Anyone can just read about doing them, but developing software and discovering surprising insights from just watching people is an experience you're not like to forget.

  • Methodologies related to design are important. If you've only designed a website for your uncle but you went through a card sort with your whole family to figure out what to make, that's a plus.

  • Having created something for a client - any client - counts. Anyone can design a website for themselves, but it's not until you face down compromise and still successfully deliver that you know what it takes to work in this field.

  • Knowing the value of money in this business is important. How much does it cost to do X? What about X without usability testing? When the next client comes to you and gives you a budget 60% below what you need, what do you compromise on and how do you cut the right corners?

  • Being able to build what you design broadens your usefulness. For web, that means HTML, CSS and basic jQuery. Then I can hire you even if I don't really have any research work right now and you can jump in with the team and get stuff done anyway. Your UI insights will be invaluable.

  • Working knowledge of what's hot and what's not. Even if you have little experience, knowing what's coming up and what's old news fits with the "young upstart" thing you have going. Surprise the old fogeys with new ways to do old things.

Off the top of my head. Seriously, though, I think your positive attitude, brightness, communication skills and enthusiasm are the biggest things going for you. I would hire you based on those first, not on the rest of the stuff in the above list. Find the right company and they'll agree with me.

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It's funny, you completely disagree with me, but I completely agree with you... I think that everything you've laid out here is vitally important (indeed, they'd be things that we look for when we hire), but without seeing a portfolio, all of this is just talk. We've had a lot of candidates who can talk a big game but then absolutely fail to get meaningful work done. We've found the best way to test this is via a homework assignment -- give the applicant a real project that we're working on and have them do a heuristic analysis, flow, or wireframe... that tends to be how we find the best. –  Daniel Newman Jul 28 '11 at 22:43
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How is this "just talk"? Having worked with clients, knowing HTML/CSS, knowing trends are all proveable in a conversation during the hiring process. You can easily tell the difference between hot air and real experience in these cases. –  Rahul Jul 28 '11 at 22:58
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True, but I don't think that having worked with clients, knowing HTML/CSS, and knowing trends are all the ingredients necessary for a junior UX person... at the very least, you need to understand usability and interaction patterns, be able to conduct research, and have a passion for end-to-end experience. Those things can be hard to test for in an interview. –  Daniel Newman Jul 28 '11 at 23:02
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Yeah but the thing is, a junior can pick up the things in my list without training. The things you're mentioning can pretty much only be learned as a UX designer. So it's a kind of chicken and egg situation. In any case, this is why I originally said we disagreed :) –  Rahul Jul 28 '11 at 23:16
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Thanks @Rahul I agree, and I think I might wait until they are ready since my current job is growing, however I want to be more ready next time they come knocking. Thanks for your pointers. –  jonshariat Jul 29 '11 at 16:10

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