Design Recruitment Process 101 — Ever wondered what happens to your job application?

To every newbie out there clicking on that ‘Apply’ button a thousand times.

Have you ever wondered what was happening to your application? Why are companies just not calling back? The purpose of this article is to give you a basic understanding of the recruitment process and hopefully help you prepare better. So, what really happens once you click that “Apply” button?

This essay is intentionally crafted to be super basic since it is dedicated to all you freshers and graduates in the design world who are hoping to land their first jobs.

Note: This might not necessarily be what all organizations follow, but majority of them follow processes in similar lines. Having said that, there are companies that have really interesting rounds like design interviews being conducted by Product Managers or Engineering Managers inorder to understand your collaboration skills while working with cross functional teams and other factors, and there could very well be a startup where you have just two rounds of interviews too! The over all purpose of this essay is to give you a gist of what to expect.

An application is usually shortlisted from a huge pile by the Human Resources (HR) team. When we say huge pile, we are talking about hundreds of candidates applying for that one vacancy. There is a dedicated person/group from HR that works very closely with the Design Recruiter (a.k.a Design Manager) and handpicks each of them.

Since they have collaborated together over hundreds of applications, the HR knows the exact kind of candidate the Design Manager is looking to add to their team. The applications that fit this criteria are quickly forwarded for review. This is where a major chunk gets screened out.

Here’s hoping you managed to build a strong case and your application made it to the next step in the process!

A person from the HR team or the Design manager themselves reach out to the candidate and have an informal telephonic chat to understand a bit more about them and a decision is made on whether to move forward or not.

This is where you need to pay attention. Understand what the recruiting manager is looking for. Your goal at this stage should be to seek all the information possible about the organization, the team you could potentially be working with, the kind of projects they do, their values, processes etc. This is the time you ask all these questions. See if they appeal to you, then decide whether or not you prefer to take the conversation forward. Its not just about employers screening candidates, it totally fine to be the other way around too.

*Please DO NOT jump to compensation (a.k.a salary) conversations at this stage, unless asked for. That’s stupid and utterly suicidal! On the contrary, there have been instances of candidates go through the tedious rounds of interviews only to realise towards the end that the company isn’t able to afford them or can’t compensate them as per the market. So there certainly is a balance that is needed. We’ll discuss more about this in the later part of the essay.

This is where you have your design exercises, portfolio review etc based on the hiring process each organization follows. Apart from the Design Manager, your interviewing panel might also include Design Leads and Senior Designers who will be taking part and evaluating your skill-sets and sharing feedback. Once all of this is consolidated, a final decision will be made by the Design Manager on whether to hire or weed out the candidate.

Remember, no body expects you to design an entire working app with zero errors in the two hour design test. And, you don’t necessarily have to run the team through all the 10 projects from your portfolio. Focus on just two to three projects, and spend time taking them through your journey. How did you make those key design decisions, is what most reviewers are looking to understand.

This basically is an opportunity for the team to evaluate your thought process and gives them the means to understand how you approach a problem. They are keen on how you defend your decisions and whether or not you are open to feedback. So, when some one tries reasoning out, listen, reason and then defend if you have to. Besides, its perfectly alright to be wrong or to have missed something out. Just ensure you have the humility to own it.

*Remember, at this stage, its irrelevant whether or not your application was referred by an employee from within the organization. This is as flat as the playing field is going to get! And, regarding the design exercise, not every organisation necessarily believes in conducting this round. So don’t be surprised if you don’t have one!

After all this, is when the most important conversation you’ve been waiting for begins. Money. Do your homework. Understand where you stand in the market, and how much do firms of that league pay for people of your level and experience. Checkout websites like Glassdoor or talk to your seniors from college if possible. Know what you are worth. Like it? Take it. Else, negotiate. If nothing works, move on. Its as simple as that.

*However one must remember that can be hard to judge what a new company or say a startup would pay. In these circumstances, if money is important to you (there are situations where the work might be super exciting that some prefer to compromise on compensation), it’s alright to discuss about money early on before getting into long rounds of interviews. It saves time to either party involved.

Lastly, incase you decide to turn down an offer because of whatsoever reason, let the recruiting team know. They could pass on that offer to the next candidate in line.

With the industry competing for great talent, its only natural that you would have received offers from a couple of other firms who might be ready to pay you better. Which is totally alright.

But, committing to an organization and not turning up or intimating the team, speaks a lot about one’s ethics. Don’t be that jerk, yeah?

We will be exploring more areas around design recruiting like graduate hiring, FAQs around design hiring, what are design recruiters looking for in your application and various other topics. Do tune in if you think this might be of use to you.

About the Author

Kasinatha Rao is a Product Designer , focussing primarily on User Experience. He also creates documentaries and edits videos for YoursTrulyBlr.

Senior Designer at Atlassian. I write about design and the role of a designer in the tech industry.

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