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foot in the door ux

March 2018 – Gareth Dunlop

As the CEO and Founder of Fathom, I often reflect on what impresses me in a candidate profile and in the interview process. This article finally affords me the opportunity write down what has been rattling around the back of my mind for quite some time.


Below are the top five things I’m conscious of when people get in touch with Fathom for job opportunities. Indeed, when Fathom team members read this article, they might recognise some of their own attributes woven into the narrative. I can’t promise that my views reflect those of every design agency owner, however I suspect we all face similar challenges and therefore might well value similar attributes.

Be Brave, Get Your Foot in the Door

I love when candidates proactively approach Fathom in relation to possible roles, even when we’re not advertising any vacancies. After all, agencies like us value people with initiative and bravery. Nothing says “I will be great at exploring solutions to real life problems” like a positive, proactive and energetic unsolicited email asking for a job and explaining why you want it.


Two of our current team started life at Fathom by filling in our website enquiry form and telling us that they would like to prove themselves by completing some contract work or working temporarily as an intern. When we realised that one such temporary intern was a gem, we offered a full-time role within a month. Another member of the team started doing some contract work alongside her studies and we were very pleased to offer her a full-time role when it worked out for both her and for us.


Want a job in UX? Get on the front foot, and send personal, specific emails to agencies that you’d like to work in. Be politely persistent, follow up until you get a yay or ney.

Understanding The Process

Portfolios are critical, UXswitch has written many times about this matter. I believe that your portfolio has to express awareness of the full design thinking process. That is, stakeholder engagement, workshop facilitation, affinity mapping and collaboration, sketching, user-flow, empathy mapping, desk research, competitive benchmarking, usability testing, prototyping, iteration, lo-fi and hi-fi wireframing, creative design, front-end development.


No one will expect you to have experience in every skill listed above but you’ve got to prove that you believe the process, live the process and love the process.

How Does Your Brain Work?

Only show me the shiny end product that you got right first time and I won’t believe you. If your portfolio solely comprises of annotated hi-fi wireframes and screenshots of a design placed inside a smartphone, tablet and laptop, you’re not getting a job. Because, and I hate to break it you, you’re not really a UX designer.


Employers want to see your thought process rather than just the finished designs. Your portfolio should include images of your sketches, wireframes, an ideation wall full of post-it notes and so forth.

Embracing the User

If your portfolio doesn’t have evidence of an encounter with a user you’re also not getting the job. As Jakob Nielsen reminds us, the U in UX stands for User so it is essential that you make it clear how they have influenced and co-designed your creations.  You can do this through photos of your contact with users through surveys, usability tests or surveys. Perhaps you prefer to illustrate the evolution of a prototype from sketch, to lo-fi to hi-fi wireframe, showing how the user influenced the design along the way. It doesn’t so much matter how you do it but rather that you do it.

Know the Interviewer

Candidates who demonstrate the principles of design thinking when pursuing a role are at a big advantage. It is obvious in the interview process when candidates have really thought about their audience i.e. the interviewer. I would be lying if I said my ego wasn’t massaged when candidates quote from the Fathom blog or use familiar phraseology when speaking to me.


A recent successful candidate entitled his final interview presentation “Always Learning”. An excellent title as it encapsulated both his own appetite for personal growth and also a critical element of design thinking. He knew his audience which in this case was me. Treat them as a human. Understand their motivations for hiring and the stresses of running an ambitious agency. Provide them with an experience to solve their problems.


Let me therefore conclude with a request. I would be delighted if a candidate felt motivated enough to write the reciprocal blog, perhaps entitled something along the lines of “5 Things a Design Agency can do to Secure my Talent”. After all, I’m always learning too.

Gareth Dunlop


Source link https://www.uxswitch.com/five-ways-to-ensure-you-get-that-ux-agency-job/


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