I've been out looking for interaction design work. Today, I received a reply from a company to my portfolio/resume submission requesting that I complete a UI design task within 24 hours. The task in question was specific: a redesign of the company's current design.
I'd like to solicit the general wisdom of the group. Is this something most of you feel comfortable in completing? I ask for two reasons...one, the task seems a little too specific to what I'd consider paid work; second, I've spent a tremendous amount of time on my portfolio to show current and relevant skills. With no guarantee that the time spent on this task would yield any result, I'm at odds to decide.
I'd appreciate your thoughts on this.
All the best,
Bay Area, CA
My gut is that this sounds a little sketchy to me. You might want to preface the discussion by asking them what level of redesign they're looking for: a completely redesign, some wireframes or just some conceptual ideas around a redesign. Given that they're asking you for a redesign as part of a work application they should be able to give you specifics. That should help clarify their request and your decision to pursue the job. If they can't give you specifics then they may not be worth your time.
Thank you Joshua--I really appreciate the advice. In the end, I passed on doing that assignment. It was an unorthodox request and I just wasn't comfortable doing it. The company had in fact given me a very specific redesign assignment with no guarantees that it would or wouldn't be used. They in turn could have no guarantee that the task would be performed by the candidate it was sent to. It seemed to me that a better way of doing it would be Microsoft-style: have the candidate in for an interview and give them a generic test on-site.
I get really frustrated when I see these approaches from potential clients. There's never a simple solution, pass on it and you lose the gig. One of the best gigs I ever had, interviewed me this way. However after I was employed, and later looked for additional help I removed this obstacle. It reminds me of the positions that list software requirements.
Recently I've taken the approach of always telling them up front, or trying to point them to an additional design that I've done that might match what they are looking for…
I've had bad experiences with this in the past. — The first time I was asked to re-design a home page promotion for someone. I completed the work, never heard back from the shop owner, and saw the design I was not paid to do as the home page for a month. I was quite upset that I'd been taken advantage. The second time I was asked to do this, I found the person who hired me for the contract treating me awful and abusing my time by ordering work, planning as an afterthought, changing the work order after it was half done, and complaining about the time cost for the project (not expecting to be billed for massive changes midway). I was setting myself up to be kicked.
I've found it to be a lose - lose situation whether hired or not. If a business is respectable and fairly good at planning, it will offer you a short term contract from a few days to a week instead of asking for free sample work. A good product or hiring manager would not waste time, even if it is to trial a prospective employee.
My policy is no free work samples, though you are welcome to contract my time for a day to a week. Sometimes I drop my hourly by $5 for a day of "testing" if it will lead to months of work. Let people look at what you have online and offer to pull some samples from your archive to show if what is online does not satisfy the job specifics.
Your rent is not free, their products are not free, and someone other than you is also working but getting compensated. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise. That's my best advice.
Thanks Jennifer and Court for telling me about your first-hand experiences. Jennifer, you are absolutely right: a short-term contract job is the proper way to "test" an employee. Should this happen again, I'll be sure to try out your advice. On a personal level, I find it a bit exhausting that the person hoping to get hired is the one paying the price. (So cheers, Court, for removing the test at the company you came across!) Thanks everyone!
Tests like these seem aimed at understanding the candidates design process and rational, plus whether solutions are within the comfort level of the team. Seems like a good portfolio should be enough in tandem with conversations.
I took one test during second interviews. It took one hour and did not seem unreasonable. Another test was before interviews, after a phone screen. This is the sort of test that seems suspect. Makes me wonder what problem the hiring manager or team has.
Some companies want candidates to make a one hour presentation to the team on some subject related to their work or the company’s product space. Hard to know which is worst?
The question for you is do you really want to work for the company, and do you really want to work on their products. If so then do your best. If not, then why take the time unless you want practice. Maybe do a search to see what other candidates think of this task.
Not sure if this will help, but as a Creative Director I would never ask anyone to do quick, freebie design, even as a test. I should (or whomever is interviewing) ask enough of the right questions to glean what I need. Granted, the main thing I want to see is your portfolio and your work, so you obviously need good samples to show and extrapolate. I don't really care where you've gone to school or who you know. I want to see what you've managed to put "down" on screen.
Also, you (as the interviewee) should be able to explain your design; why you did what you did, what were the circumstances, what was the target objective, what was the criteria/constraints you were required to work within. Explain your design rationale. If you do it well enough I (or anyone) should be able to tell if you are the right fit.
Sounds like the consensus is right - I'd stay clear of a place that asks you to do it. I've been in that situation before, and it seems unprofessional to say the least. There's a reason why there's a No Spec movement - to prevent people from taking advantage of designers.
I know people are mostly against this and its totally understandable. I have a good friend from grad school who did this kind of assignment for a design firm. They dragged it on through many iterations and in the end said his style wasn't quite right. Turns out they actually sold the design to the client and had the nerve to put in on their public portfolio!
On the other hand, I landed a very good contract gig by doing a design exercise for them. They knew they needed UX work, but really didn't know what kind of deliverables they should be expecting. I covered my bases by drawing up a contract that said the rights to the work would stay with me unless I was hired (which I was). So I would say if this is a gig you really want, proceed but with caution.