I find myself talking to a lot of people—including internal and external recruiters, people I know professionally, and people I know socially—about the ideal UX person. The one common response from all of them: “That’s tough. Good luck finding one.” I realized that this challenge is as much about the space I work in as my own quality standard as a manager.
Anyone who is responsible for hiring and managing a team of professionals knows the challenges of finding that perfect person. The old adage is constantly in my thoughts: “A players hire A players, while B players hire C players.” Having a team of A players challenges you to step up your own game and be that true A leader that you want to be. Unfortunately, these days, there are a lot of people looking for work—although in user experience that does not seem to be quite the case. However, the large number of people who are looking seems to make it that much more difficult to find the right person to meet your needs.
When you strive to be a great leader, you must think about the type of people you would like to lead. I look for four qualities in a UX person working in services:
- A willingness to travel up to 75% of the time
- Having a true consultative nature. This means being comfortable talking to an hourly call center employee, then walking into a meeting with the CIO right afterward without skipping a beat.
- Deep technical knowledge. In services, you are pretty useless as a UX person unless you not only know how to design a beautiful user experience, but actually know what it takes to build it.
- A solid UX background. This can come from formal training or a lot of experience in the design world.
I made a solid UX background the fourth criterion not because it is less important, but really because I expect anyone walking in the door for an interview to have this. I hire UX people after all. To be honest, all four of these qualities are absolutely critical to the success of any UX services consultant.
What UX Hiring Has Taught Me About the Value of Relationships
Finding all four of these qualities in candidates has proven to be quite the challenge in the field of user experience. We simply do not have enough UX people who possess all of these attributes. I’ve had spots on my team remain empty for long periods of time while I tried to find the right person to fill them. There is a positive outcome from this though. I have learned that it is better to keep a spot open and believe in your leadership vision, than to bow to pressure from others to fill those spots with people who do not meet your criteria.
Why is this? Because the consulting business is very relationship driven. My success in this area stems in no small part from the fact that a client can call me up and be assured that whoever I send from my team is going to do a quality job for them. The first time I fail to deliver on that promise, I will have effectively damaged a relationship and failed to radiate within that client. Deliver poorly on a first project, and any further projects the client is doing will not include you.
This experience has taught me that, as you build your UX team, you need to stay true to your vision and believe in your people—even if they don’t work for you yet.