Hiring a good user experience designer can be a challenging thing if you do not know what to look for or the questions to ask. For the best UXers, it’s not the vocabulary nor the portfolio as much as it is the way they think.

The following are a series of quotes from UX professionals and experts who have hired and evaluated what it takes to recruit the best user experience designers:

“Process over Portfolio – A great (and truly accomplished) UX designer knows it’s their process that stands out. The steps they choose to take when crafting a meaningful experience for their customers will give you far more insight into the way they’ll operate within your company and the value they’ll bring to the table than a set of glossy, superficial images….”

“Interview questions should engage candidates in a discussion of their approach to their work, experience, and general problem-solving [process].”

“There are many other people that touch the product throughout the process — visual designers, developers, marketers, CEOs — and ultimately the final product might not match the UX designer’s intentions whatsoever. In that case, the picture in the portfolio wouldn’t do much to communicate the UX designer’s skills….”

“If you are truly unable to determine the breadth or depth of a candidate’s skills regarding your definition of user experience, I suggest that you review the language you’re using in your job requisition. By including keywords for the skills that you require, you can do a lot to eliminate folks who clearly don’t have what you’re looking for.”

“Intel over Instinct – The best user experience designers strive to gather the richest possible information about their target audiences in order to make the most informed design decisions. Intuition is enriched with experience, whereas instinct is innate. Neither is conscious, but instinct is an immediate reaction whereas intuition is an immediate understanding. A great user experience designer recognizes the difference.”

“Don’t just ask questions, watch behavior. Engage candidates in exercises of some kind. They don’t have to be long or difficult. Just something that lets them get out of interview mode, so you can see them work. This sounds a lot like the difference between good usability evaluation or UX research, which focus on behavior, and market research surveys, which focus on opinion.”

“Ask design questions that refer to popular or relevant trends. Try testing how well candidates are able to integrate new trends into a user experience. For instance, if you’re in the financial services industry, you can ask how they would suggest leveraging real-time communication.”

“Empathy over Ego – The best user experience designers practice UX because they love getting to know people on a very personal level. Their passion in life is connecting with other people and understanding them in ways others don’t. Sniffing out a big ego can be a bit tricky especially if you haven’t worked with many UX designers — we’re definitely a confident bunch. But there’s a thin line between self-assurance and arrogance.”

“Ask questions that focus on how empathetic a prospective candidate can be with a given user. Focus on how quickly candidates can develop empathy, and what questions they ask to clarify users’ needs.”

“I’ve found that the best way to test knowledge is by showing the prospect a set of wireframes, a prototype, or a live site and asking them for five things they’d change to improve a user experience and what techniques they’d use to support their recommendations.”

Look for…”Someone who can make the complex simple, beautiful and ever so slightly fun.” “Someone with the passion and curiosity to constantly learn more about how people interact with digital products.” “[Someone with] a desire to innovate and gather knowledge about potential users and customers, and the humility to know that their first design iterations will rarely be great.” “The willingness to collaborate with both the end user and the business client during the design process.”

“UXers should have good client facing skills, the ability to think strategically, well read in research and some cognitive psychology, and be able to facilitate cross-functional teams.”

 I hope these help spur your thinking as you look for a seasoned UX designer for your next team opening or project.

Sources include:
UX Matters
Whitney Hess
Smashing Magazine UX
Human Factors International

“Interview questions should engage candidates in a discussion of their approach to their work, experience, and general problem-solving approach.” – See more at: http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2011/11/interviewing-candidates-for-ux-jobs.php#sthash.7zvEN9IS.dpuf