August 6, 2023
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Not all UX jobs are created equal

Uncover the actual quality of UX job roles. Gain insights to make the right career move. Assess opportunities wisely.

How do you separate the good from the bad and the ugly?

Many UX professionals are looking to find new positions in the wake of recent layoffs. Many of us are privileged and get invited to conversations and interviews with recruiters and hiring managers regularly. So we are presented with quite a few opportunities.

Still, one thing remains a challenge, especially for those UX design professionals who don’t yet have many years of experience and different situations to draw from. How do you judge the actual quality of the role? How do you know that you‘ll actually be able to do proper UX work, and how can you tell that the company can actually deliver on the promises the job description created?

At first glance, many job openings sound great, and almost all promise opportunities to practice truly customer-focused UX work with plenty of impact and space for professional growth. Unfortunately, not everything that shines is gold, and finding out that a company has lower UX maturity than you expected, only after you were hired, can be a real disappointment. 

It’s a bit of a dilemma; as hiring managers and recruiters, it is your job to attract the best possible candidates, and while you may not straight out lie, you’ll undoubtedly do your best to highlight what works well at your company. 

On the other hand, candidates are often so eager to be considered for the position that they downplay any concerns they may have about the role and setup. Ultimately this is a disservice to everyone involved. Application processes are always a matching job. You need to find a good job/candidate fit, which can only be achieved by gaining clarity on both sides. 

Over the years and from my experience as a manager, I have found a few things to be helpful when trying to assess the quality of a UX position.

  1. Read the job description carefully
    I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but the range of tasks and focus on tools can already give you an impression of how high UX maturity is at the company. If you are asked to do everything from UX Research to delivering high-fidelity prototypes in Figma in a single role, or they are referring to tools that aren’t really relevant anymore, don’t expect to find a fully user-centered design-driven environment.
  2. Check out who else is onboard
    There is nothing wrong with a slight bit of LinkedIn stalking. Check out if the company employs any other UX designers and see how they position themselves. Are they heavily UI-focused or more on the conceptual side? Don’t stop at UX roles. Product managers play a vital role in collaboration with UX. Find out a bit about them and see what they post and like on LinkedIn. This can give you an impression of how they see their role, which reflects on how you will be able to execute yours.
  3. Use your interview time for research
    I have said it before, and I’ll repeat it. Interviews go both ways. If you have a conversation with a UX manager or Product manager, ask them about actual work processes and what they have done in the past. What worked well, what didn’t, and what they took away from the experience. Interview them a bit, just like you would a customer. Have them look at past experiences and not just tell you what they want to do.
  4. Reporting lines
    Try to find out how big the UX team is and how many reporting levels UX has. While it may be most important who you’ll report to directly. The highest level of UX in the organization will be critical in building a user-centric practice that can be truly effective and if design is regarded as an equal partner to product management and engineering.
  5. Come prepared
    Knowing what you’re good at and what drives your passion is a big advantage, especially while you are in the market for your next UX career step. Instead of just applying for a job that sounds like the one you had before or the next logical step upwards on the career ladder, take some time to find out what you actually want. Uncover your motivations, values, and strengths, what puts you off, and what total no-gos are for you. This investment in yourself will not only help you find the right job post but will also help you outperform the competition in interview rounds. The clarity you gain will make it easier for you to communicate why you are the right fit for the job.
  6. Trust your gut
    Especially in times of crisis, we tend to shoot for every possible position out there, and while I understand that there are genuine reasons to grab what you can get, I’d always advise you to trust your gut. If the vibe is off and you don’t feel good about a job, don’t take it unless you absolutely must. There is a high chance you’d be wasting valuable time trying to make things work where you don’t fit in, while the right opportunity lies right around the corner.

Don’t get me wrong, I am firmly convinced that you can have a significant impact and lots of fun in a company that is just getting started building a UX practice. I would even advise you to seek out a company like that. But you must know what jobs you are getting into to spare everyone the disappointment of mismatched expectations.

Written by

Marvin Olukayod Hassan

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