Job searching is a painstaking process. The amount of job descriptions a candidate has to filter through to find a suitable role takes hours out of the day and only after that do the interview processes start. And it’s not just the time and effort, but the amount of self-questioning that comes up during the process that make it emotionally draining. Most people would rather take a compromise at their current company then start all over again. However, this has never been my personal way of thinking. If a company was not as advertised, I left. In one year alone I left 4 companies in row, starting the job hunt from scratch every time. Though this was tiresome, it helped me to build the interview resilience I have today.
A good amount of advices circling around in the industry about how to find a design job. Most of them, I found too general and non-specific enough to be applied to basically any career, therefore lacked any applicability to real life.
But fear no more. Here, I list here a couple of tips from the reality of job hunting in a design or tech realm from my own experience.
Set your preferred model
Remote and hybrid models (commonly 3 days office and 2 days at home) dominate the industry since the pandemic. That gives a lot of creative freedom and saves a lot of commute time for the designers. In countries with strong tech industry (US, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Australia and so on) it shouldn’t be a problem to find a place that fits your preferences. No need to compromise for an onsite-only job if you’d prefer a couple of days working from home, you’ll surely find a job that can accommodate that. Just set out your preferences before you start the application process, because they need to be clearly communicated during the screening calls. Please feel free to use this template to formulate your preferences [link here].
Constantly feed the funnel
It is true that the average response rate for job applications is about 10%. If you target well, (meaning you pick jobs that your skills are matched to), it can go up to 20%. In my experience, if it goes above 30%, you have probably under-priced yourself. It happened to me when I got back to the job market after the lockdown released, unaware that the average salary within the tech sector grew about 30%-50%. I happily adjusted my salary expectation and the response rate went back to normal.
Even though I’m not in favour of calling job searching a sales job, because sales comes with poor associations, the sales funnel model is nevertheless completely applicable. Generally speaking, from about 1000 relevant job ads, you would apply for about 300. The rest would fall out of your interest for asking too much upfront, not matching your preferences, operating in an industry that is not comfortable for you etc. From those 300 applications, 30-50 will call you in for an initial interview, which is a screening call with the recruiter (internal or external).
What the screening call is looking to find out is:
- you can speak English and can communicate clearly
- you are looking for a job (you would surprise how many applicants just want to know their price to justify their raise request for their current employer)
- you are available within reasonable timeframe
- you have a salary expectation within their budget (which they rarely share with you)
From these 30-50 screening calls, you’ll have about 10-15 progressing forward to the professional interviews, 2-3 reaching the third round and 1 will give you an offer. As you can see, you need to constantly feed the funnel with new applications until you get an offer. You can find the Best job search sites for UX/UI design jobs to feed the funnel.
Increase the response rate per stage
The numbers of responses (only the positive ones are relevant) can be pushed higher in every stage. What makes the numbers go up in the different stages:
- Application stage
A well-structured CV (feel free to use my CV sample made for design/tech jobs), a neat portfolio (check the guide on design portfolio structure) and most importantly, applying only for jobs that have high keyword overlap with your CV. After a couple of days of reading job descriptions, you’ll be the master of using keywords.
- Screening call stage
Practice some ice-breakers, because these screenings are usually audio only and are quite short (10-25min). You therefore have little space to show that you have a charming personality that everyone would love to work with – and that is the other core question of this stage apart from the logistics mentioned earlier.
- Interview stage
Be prepared with premade answers to the most common questions. A vast number of interviewers will ask variations of the same questions. Do have a written, printed, rehearsed answer for the most of them, especially for the trickier ones. Your question list will grow as you partake in more interview (feel free to use the sample list with design interview questions) and your ability to mix and match the answers will grow as well.
Don't evaluate before the follow up email
Always wait for the follow up email before evaluating your interview performance. Interviewing is a matchmaking process with a company, more specifically with a small group of people you’ll be working with. Only a few people will show their true feelings about this match. Most of them will just try to get along and keep smiling, even if they decide it's not a match on their side in ten minutes after starting the discussion. Sometimes you have a clear sense that you’re being judged (interviewer forming preconception instead of genuinely listening and connecting to the candidate), sometimes it’s much less obvious. You’ll be able to recognise this thanks to the follow up email (or the lack of it - no feedback is a clear feedback).
Look for several different job titles
Filter for at least 3-5 or even more different job titles during your job search. The meaning of UX and UI changes by company, by industry and by trends. For example, the meaning of Visual Designer has shifted from Graphic Designer to UI Designer in the last couple of years. The title of UX Designer has started to shift towards UX Researcher. In the meantime, Interaction Designer became synonymous with UI Designer, while it was closer to what is now a UX Designer. At the same time, the generalist UX/UI Designer is most commonly referred as a Product Designer. Look around on the Best job search sites for UX/UI design jobs what is the current state of the titles in your focus area.
If you want to be sure you apply for the right job, always check the task list for things that you’ve done in the past. If the job description is unfamiliar, the company likely associate the role you’re searching for with a different title. For example, if a UI Designer role requires a GitHub account and front-end coding skills, that means they are actually searching for a UI Developer (AKA Front-end Developer).
Prepare some professional summary
You’ll see in the UI/UX designer sample CV, that it starts with a short professional summary, AKA achievement summary, AKA elevator pitch, AKA highlights, AKA professional statement … and I’m sure it has a lot of other names, too. Whatever it’s called, it’s the single most impactful part of the document, offering a quick overview of a candidate’s core qualities.
The professional summary is a 2-3-sentence overview, containing:
- your years in the field (or historical passion if you're on entry level)
- honours/peeks (if any)
- the most recognisable company names (pick 1-3 that are best respected in your area and/or target industry) or your best offer that is most valuable for that position
Creating this summary is not a ‘set it and forget it’ task. Ideally, you should revise it based on the call back rate and the type of offers it attracts. Also, targeting different industries requires different summaries. In my case, for example, for those positions that required mentoring/teaching experience, I had a separate statement highlighting my psychology studies and the institutes I’ve been doing mentorship at. For positions looking for a strong professional to lead their project, I was talking about my multi-disciplinary product experience, not mentioning psychology or mentoring at all.
You certainly don’t need a new CV for every job. But it’s a good idea to divide up the parts of yourself that you need to discuss – as mentioned above, not all jobs are interested in all parts of you. In a following article, Effective job search to get your first or next UX/UI job – Step 2 – Interviewing, we will discuss in more detail the best steps for you to take when you have caught the attention of a company and need to keep them interested.