Recently a few of my designer friends (the ones that wear sunglasses indoors) have been attending interviews as they look for new jobs. I’ve been stunned by the amount of times they’re asked to submit some kind of visual response to a brief as part of the application process.
There are so many reasons why I’m completely against requesting a visual as a method of employing a designer. I’ll try and explain some of those here but I also thought it was worth including some other many viewpoints that responded to this tweet that I put out yesterday…
Since when did design agencies start setting design briefs as part of the interview process??— Dave Ellis (@novolume) November 11, 2014
What about my portfolio?
I think my main issue here is that a designer’s folio has usually taken years to put together. A lot of blood, sweat and tears has gone into the creations that you see there. A good designer will take a lot of pride in discussing the creations that you see, they’ll talk about the problems that they faced, the way they dealt with them, they’ll talk about the successes, they’ll also talk about the bits they’d do differently next time. When you ask for visuals as part of an interview, you’re asking for that designer to use whatever spare time they have to create something, you’re not giving them a fair chance.
novolume</a> I guess it depends on what they have to do. Most are just a few hours work, but I've had 1 or 2 that constitute 2 full days work!</p>— Rick Turner (Orchard_Rick) November 11, 2014
It’s all gone a bit X-Factor
If you can’t successfully judge a candidate based on however many interviews is the trend these days and the portfolio of work that you’re seeing, then to me that just says that you’ve got some issue with your decision making process – maybe you’re not asking the right questions. I can’t help but feel that as soon as you set a mini-brief everything else goes out of the window and it’s all becoming a little bit X-Factor.
8 years out of the game
Although I’ve not been for a design job interview in over eight years now, I like to think I’d stand firm on this one. I’m passionate about what I do and I’ll talk all day long about the work I’ve produced but I’m not going to walk away from an interview and produce days of work in the hope that it will help swing the needle in my favour. Getting a job is a two way thing, it’s a mutual relationship and a request for a visual is entirely one way.
I think my stance if the situation ever came up for me (which I’m hoping it doesn’t) would be to question what the reason was, and what they were hoping it would show them that my existing work doesn’t?
Even though it’s been a number of years since I attended any interviews, I’ve personally always treated them (mentally) as though I’m interviewing the business. I’ll ask a lot of questions while I’m there and see if I think the business is a good fit for me, it’s incredibly important to do this. I’ve finished interviews in the past and withdrawn from the running immediately afterwards as I didn’t feel it was the right fit.
Generally there was a mixed response to my tweet, many designers thought it was unfair whereas the design agencies didn’t tend to see an issue (which is as expected).
I was really pleased to hear from Timothy J Reynolds on this one, a designer whose work I have admired for a long time now. I’m not actually sure how he spotted the conversation but I’m glad that he joined in. He’s so against it, he’s actually set up a website that ‘outs’ spec work…
novolume</a> and fwiw, now I run <a href="http://t.co/4VjEf5b6m3">http://t.co/4VjEf5b6m3</a> because I'm so anti. That + spending years in-house forced to answer spec briefs. sigh</p>— Timothy J. Reynolds (turnislefthome) November 11, 2014
A numbers game
Ultimately, I think it’s a bit of a numbers game and agencies are getting away with it because there are more designers looking for work than there are jobs available. That doesn’t mean that it’s right, but for now, it seems to be the way it is. If you want to read the full conversation and all the responses on Twitter, I’ve included a link below…