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How to get a job at inUse - part 1: What, there’s homework?

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As part of our recruitment process at inUse, we give applicants a design task to carry out at home and in their own time. Afterwards, they present their analysis and solution to us. I used to feel uncomfortable giving people homework to do. It’s a big ask. I know that you have other things in your life to spend your time on. I felt anxious that it would scare candidates away. So I tried to find an alternative, but I am now convinced that a design task is the best way to go.

I would like to explain why a design task is our preferred choice. In part 2 of this series, I will give you all the tricks in the book to ace that task.

Why we have a design task

We’ve tried other things than a design task. Back in the day, we would just interview people. But that was never enough. You might be great at design but not great at selling your skills during an interview. Or, you might be great at talking about design but can’t quite translate that talk into actual work. By comparison, I can talk about MMA fighting but would be dead in the ring after two seconds.

We have tried walking through a candidate’s portfolio with them. This is not bad, and we like to see your previous work if you have some to show. We might still do this, but it can’t be the only measure of an applicant’s ability. Projects are seldom a solo affair and it is hard for us to figure out exactly what your contribution was; you might even have trouble remembering. Portfolios tend to present something that is a bit too tidy, and we lose out on the possibility of exploring and discussing all the nitty-gritty choices that you made.

It is only when a person carries out a design task from beginning to end and presents it to us that we are really able to gauge their ability. We need to see how a person frames a problem, explores possible solutions, and carries one out, as well as how they present the result of their process. By presenting, discussing, and sometimes solving problems together, we get a feel for what it might be like to work together. The candidate gets an equal opportunity to get a feel for us.

Different personalities get an equal chance

There is one thing that I particularly like about giving people work to do in their own time. I believe that it provides different types of personalities with more equal footing. In the interview, the eloquent extrovert has an unfair advantage. Since life and design work is not an interview, it seems inappropriate to have an interview as the sole measure of a designer’s ability. By doing some work before the interview, we open up for more types of personalities. Perhaps you are a slower and more deliberate thinker and don’t excel at answering questions fired at you that you haven’t prepared for. Not only is this a fairer process, but it increases the chances of us finding different kinds of candidates.

There are a lot of companies that give people personality tests. Sometimes quite extensive tests that make significant demands on your time. Many of these tests have questionable validity and relevance. Personally, I feel that they are an insidious invasion of your privacy. Instead of tests, we prefer to have you spending time on something that you love doing: designing.

Many of the people who do the task enjoy the experience and appreciate the frank and constructive feedback that we provide. Our ambition is that the activity should feel meaningful and that you learn something along the way.

These are the main reasons that we hand out a design task. We will not stop exploring other ways of assessing the fit between a candidate and inUse. But right now, at this moment, this is the best process that we have.

In part 2 of this series, I share all the tricks in the book for how to ace our design task.