May 30, 2024
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Job Descriptions Red Flags or Opportunities?

In many companies, UX roles, especially leadership and management positions, are not very well defined yet, so it may be left to us to chip in and fill them with meaning.

In the last month, I spoke at three different UX conferences. Among many other topics, I discussed my thoughts on ownership of your role.

In many companies, UX roles, especially leadership and management positions, are not very well defined yet, so it may be left to us to chip in and fill them with meaning. To illustrate this idea, I used a random job description for a UX leadership position and discussed with the audience what the description told them about the role. To my surprise, many felt that it was filled with red flags and that they would never apply for this role.

This got me thinking. Was it a particularly bad job description, or was there a mismatch in expectations?

Here are some of my thoughts on evaluating a job offer.

The company casts a wide net

Finding the right candidate is not easy, even in market conditions that favor employers. To get a large group of qualified candidates to chose from companies may have very broad descriptions in the hopes that many find points they can identify with.

Job descriptions indicate UX maturity

Understanding the UX level you are getting into is essential in finding the right role. The way an organization describes its designer positions can be an indicator of its understanding of the craft and responsibilities. If you are determined to work in a highly mature UX team, look for signs of process and strategy involvement.

Now if you know me, you‘ll already know that I believe working in an organisation with lower maturity can be highly impactful if you can get commitment to work on improvements. But you should know what you are getting into to avoid misaligned expectations.

IC, Manager or Player/Coach

Lack of standardized titles also leads to the same roles and titles, meaning different things from company to company. While a team lead may be a full people manager in one team, they may be a player/coach who is asked to work on products hands-on in other setups. Job descriptions can be misleading when it comes to hands-on involvement at times. While I have seen only very few offers that didn’t ask for people managers (even Head of Design) to be proficient in Figma and co, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want their managers to do design prototypes themselves.

Often, it‘s just about the ability to guide and review that level of work, so don‘t be afraid to show off your skills.

Your Team, beyond the UX team

Have you ever encountered terms like „must collaborate well in cross-disciplinary teams “ or „align with product and engineering leadership“? When applying for leading UX positions, these terms may very well indicate who your real team members are. The more you advance in UX, the more you partner with other disciplines at eye level. Design leaders and managers are expected to go beyond the needs of their craft and work with teammates to reach business goals. The sooner you understand who your partners are and how to align your goals and expectations with them, the more impactful you can become. The job ad can be a great starting point.

Assume Goodwill

This one may be most important to me. As I mentioned, many design leaders and managers, I saw a bunch of red flags when we analyzed the job description. I, on the other hand, saw a bunch of opportunities and commitment to give design both a driving role and a chance to improve how the company was engaged with the users and customers.

Keep in mind that absolutely no company is hiring UX designers with the intent of keeping them from doing their jobs correctly. If a company has opened a UX leadership role, it is a pretty good indicator that it is committed to raising the bar for design. If we partner with them to achieve both business and UX goals, this can turn out to be just the opportunity we have been looking for.

Written by

Marvin Hassan

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