We assess UX designers’ and researchers’ professional skills with a homework during our hiring process. While we set up our interviews to get a nice picture of candidates, there is more to learn by understanding how they work. I’ve written earlier why portfolios usually don’t tell the whole story about one’s process, and the choices a UXer makes while working on a task. Home assignments give us a more nuanced picture on the candidates abilities. They also let us see the seniority of a candidate more clearly, more senior people should have a clearly more sophisticated approach compared to juniors.
After evaluating over 100 such home assignment, I see some patterns to emerge on what people usually miss, and what is it important for both UX researchers and designers to look out. Since more and more companies use this type of assessment, here are my tips if you ever got a similar task during a hiring process.
Spelling, spelling, spelling
Really this is so basic, I’m almost embarrassed to mention it. But correct spelling shows that at least a minimum amount of care went into writing. And really this shows also the amount of care that would be going into any task. Almost all writing software contain spell check these days so there is really no excuse for errors.
Use the same word and language to connect to the task
Build on the text of the task you get both idea and both language wise. Use the same words. Use the same concepts. And if you get a task in a different language than your mother tongue, use that language please.
Read the whole task
Make sure you understand every word. Read it again. And again. Once you’ve finished reading make sure you understand what you’ve read. Good UXers don’t assume, they confirm. This leads to my next point:
This might be the most important one. Some things might be not that clear in the case of written words. You might make assumptions that could influence your task and make you miss important points. Just as with designing a real product, always be very clear on your assumptions, and try to validate most of them. Good UX also starts with asking questions, and most products are so complex it’s rare one can understand it without relying on the expertise of others.
Research the company and their business
If you apply to a company you should try to understand their business and review their software. You might not even like what you would be working on, so it’s good to figure that out. Understanding the context can also give you insights into your assignment — and maybe even confirm some of your assumptions.
The presentation is you
If you are asked to just send in your work and not present it, make sure it’s understandable on it’s own, and it’s authentically representing you. You’ll not be there to explain how things are when a reviewer looks at your work. Just as with a real software you won’t be there to hold the user’s hand and guide them through the process. A great presentation can also showcase your written or verbal communication skills which is plus.
The extra mile
Companies rarely look for candidates who just check all the boxes. Especially in UX they look for candidates who give better insights and wow with their designs. Add in some extra, your personal flavour, whatever it is.
Here is a final tip. Some companies might abuse home assignment and give you tasks that they latter intend to reuse in production. Never work for free. How will you know? Home assignment should be something you are able to finish over a few evenings. This should be enough to showcase your skills. If it’s longer you should be at least suspicious. On the other hand home assignments can also give you an idea how it would be working with people from the company. This goes for the how the task was given, and how is the company’s attitude handling your questions.