Making Good Hiring Decisions

When I began my career as a designer, I thought about designing stuff. I worried about things like typography, transitions, and usability. Then, through several promotions and starting my own company, I began thinking less about designing stuff and more about designing teams.

In many ways, designing stuff and designing teams is similar. Both need strong compositions, both require harmony amongst the individual elements, and both require careful attention to the details. With both stuff and teams, it’s important to observe when parts are working and when parts aren’t.

While iterating on a design is easy, iterating on a team can be costly – both in terms of money and even more importantly culture. This is why it’s so important to make the right decisions in hiring.

There’s More to Diversity than Being Different

We strive to create a diverse team in background and experience, which often means hiring people without traditional UX or UI backgrounds. It also means that our hires often don’t have portfolios that show expertise in UX and UI design, which means we have to be a bit more open-minded when it comes to judging candidates.

So what do we look for? It starts with an ability to communicate. We enjoy organization, focus, and written communication, and the team suffers at the hands of somebody who has a chaotic and external process.

Because CVs, portfolios, and letters of recommendation can be misleading in terms of a persons actual ability, we decided to add a design test to our hiring process. This test looks beyond the expected design skills to better understand a person’s process, ensuring that those we hire can create and communicate with everyone else on the team.

Proof Is More Important than Promises

We tend to hire people who don’t have a lot of experience. We build on our aligned passion and any foundational understanding and then invest in training to build good habits and deep expertise. This means finding people who take pride in what they make (as much or even more than in what they say).

This means screening portfolios with an eye towards ambition and aligned passions. What does this mean tangibly? We look for an orientation towards the details, an appreciation for beauty, behavior, and technology, and an enthusiasm in talking about the work.

When hiring, it’s easy to take someone’s words as enthusiasm and their self-assessment as a promise of future quality. Don’t. If a candidate hasn’t shown a past of successes (even industry-unrelated successes), it’s probably because that candidate doesn’t have what they’re selling. And this sort of sunshine-blowing is toxic to a team of people who are excited to develop and share their passions with the world.

Attention Is a Valuable Resource

It’s easy to over-invest in problem employees at the cost of those who are committed and successful, after all, in order to be a productive contributor, an employee who’s struggling needs more attention than one who isn’t. This is the most important reason to keep hiring standards high.

When interviewing candidates, it’s important to ask these two questions: After three months with the team, will this person make my life easier or more difficult? Will the work be stronger as a result of this person being a part of the team? If the team has any doubts on either of these fronts, chances are you’ll regret your decision.

Hiring is a process, and finding the right fit for The Artificial isn’t always easy. Our application process alone, which looks for listening and writing skills, weeds out 98% of applicants. Still, we’ve had a few bad hires, so we’ll continue iterating on our process to make sure we have the strongest team possible.