The Role of Co-Creation in Hiring for UX

A case for using a ‘co-creation’ process for hiring UX Designers.

I prefer working in a Co-Creation design process for products, which looks like this.

DEFINE (The Problem) ⟶ ORGANIZE (The Information) ⟶ CONCEIVE & ANALYZE (The Ideas) ⟶ BUILD (The Prototypes) ⟶ DISCUSS/ITERATE (On The Feedback)  ⟶ IMPROVE (The Design). Loopback until I get to a design solution which works for the user in a co-creation process.

The purpose of a ‘Co-Creation’ session is to assemble a group of people you’re designing for and include them in the design process.

This ensures that, of all the other things, I get a chance to capture divergent insights in drawing an empathetic view of how a product could be perceived and used. So why not use the co-creation process in hiring for UX?

I’ve been through some tedious hiring cycles and every time there’s an elimination I wonder what could have wrong.

Here’s one such typical hiring process –

  1. I receive a call from the recruiter (agency or company) and a 15-20 min average discussion to understand my background.
  2. If all goes well a meeting is scheduled with a UX Manager from the company on a 1-hour phone or personal visit to the office.
  3. One company also included a portfolio review in the hiring process by an in-house Product Designer in a 1-hour video call.
  4. After about a week I receive a polite email stating that I’ve not been selected but I can still apply for future positions.
  5. But most importantly, when I ask a feedback there’s just silence!

The company and the applicant are deeply involved in this hiring process, however, their experiences & expectations are pretty disconnected. And, as the company moves on with the process the candidate is struggling to meet closure to improve his/her chances of securing a better future because constructive feedback wasn’t forthcoming! So I framed the problem and sought to design a process around it. Here goes.

How might we make the hiring process a collaborative exercise in achieving an insightful experience for the applicant and the company?

What inspired you to become a designer? What are your other interests? etc is an equally critical set of queries as asking “tell me about the design process?” or “describe a difficult situation you’d to deal with in a project?” and so on! The design workspace of tomorrow could be more than just a place where people would flock to work, it’d aspire to become a second home to an individual’s creative endeavours beyond regular work. In that sense, UX interviews need to be fun & engaging going beyond just the regular screening questions in a meeting room. If designers work with real end-users in their respective environments then why should the hiring exercise kickstart over the phone or workplace in the first round?

Have the first conversation with the applicant at a local coffee shop.

Also because applicants are not overwhelmed by the situation and they can be judged purely from a personal standpoint. A casual setting such a café unlocks the inner persona and drops the level of anxiety which enables a healthy discussion beyond the mundane back and forth. I once met with a product designer at a coffee shop while I was in process for a role at his company and rest assured we connected on different levels during that 1-hour coffee chat including knowing how the team works! Conversing with a fellow designer is engrossing because their hands-on experience allows us to comprehend & connect with the technical terms perceptibly than perhaps an HR recruiter over the phone. I recall having this conversation about ‘information architecture’ on a phone interview with a recruiter and there was complete silence on the other side but I knew I couldn’t have elaborated myself enough.

There’s more to this engagement than merely answering questions fashionably. It’s about knowing the applicant on a personal aspect, the body language, the maturity, and so on, introducing him/her to the team’s culture, finding odd quirks, etc. Being in an ambiance away from work does make every person comfortable under his skin.

Include the applicant into the workspace culture.

Here’s a good opportunity to have the candidate glance over into the workspace with a guided office tour and an introduction to the design team. Who wouldn’t say ‘yes’ to that? Making the applicant a part of the team and inviting her/him to showcase their portfolio while taking questions from the design team. Keeping the comments constructive may bring more insights into the work while the person is demonstrating the process in a breakout session.

How about indulging the applicant in a design exercise now? To track whether the designer is aligning with the design framework the company could give a design problem to solve and present to the team later. A half a day session perhaps in which the infrastructure of the company could be put to good use by visiting prospective applicants – the desktop computers, a software of any choice, paper sheets, meeting rooms, colours, food, and so on. Not only does it allow the company a peek into the applicant’s working style and energy it gives the applicant a fair chance at understanding if he/she could fit culturally with the rest of the team.

Technology has proliferated our psyche and connecting on a 1-1 basis rarely gets the respect it deserves. But the co-creation process offers the chance to work together with the candidate to seek a favourable outcome in a sociable, friendly atmosphere.

What about the feedback?

Feedback’s an important component but it’s also tricky to give or receive feedback without first developing some sort of an understanding, which is what the ‘co-creation’ process is designed to do – foster trust & value in the system.

Rarely would applicants get a shot at being part of a team without first signing an offer letter for confidentiality purposes but ‘co-creation’ changes that arrangement. A rejection is definitely an unexpected outcome for any interviewee but knowing that they were invited willingly to be part of a team culture builds confidence, which ingrains a positive outlook for the brand, and provides a reasonable explanation for any outcome.

Featured Image Courtesy: Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash