I interviewed 36 black mid and senior UX Designers and you will never guess what they told me about interviewing while black
Organizations are building an environment of User Experience Design interviewing intolerance within the black UX Design community. This is a significant issue that will lead to the lack of mid and senior-level talent to interview for jobs in small and larger organizations.
Interviews can be valuable for both the organization doing the interviewing and the person interviewing. It’s a way for both parties to learn more about each other, but it’s an even better way for both parties to gain valuable feedback about the process, their strengths, and weaknesses. The problem is organizations have been benefiting for years. The interviewee is left feeling like it was a waste of their time forcing themselves to send happy emails and thanking the interviewers for the opportunity.
Summary of Issues
I did a zoom call with 36 black UX Designers to find out if we were all experiencing the same things. As we drunk our wine and I surveyed the call, the quick answer is yes. On the call, there were over 250 years of experience between all of the designers. All of us had a minimum of 7 years of experience, with the most senior designer having more than 27 years of experience. In the past year, estimated 647 companies have reached out to the group in total, with 23 companies have reached out to all of us. Silicon Valley. had the most encompassing interviews. The companies in that area request whiteboarding, app reviews, skill checks, work history reviews, multiple one-on-one discussions, group interviews, group design sessions, one-on-one design critiques, group design critiques, personality checks, company fit assessments, and 3+ hours of your time or more per session. The interview process lasts at least three to six months, with only two out of the 36 have landed jobs.
After interviewing, none of the organizations gave feedback or suggested they could contact them for feedback. None of us sit in interviews with other black UX Designers. In other words, none of these organizations felt it was necessary or valuable to have blacks as part of the interviewing process. When asked what would you change or do differently? The typical answer was nothing. 35 out of 36 said nothing. Why? They didn’t get any feedback on strengths and weaknesses that would lead them to change their answers.
I asked what upsets you the most about the interviews?
One answer I got was, we are constantly asked how we would convince management, stakeholders, or p.o.’s of our idea or push back. It’s a similar question in every interview. I would like to ask the interviewer when have you supported a black designer who was fighting for an idea in which they had proven science and documentation from user testing in the UX community? There’s no documentation on what the correct answer is, which makes these questions stupid. Someone decided to ask this to see if they would fight for ideas, and every company does it without thinking. Is this the best way to find out if this person is a fighter? A better question is to ask me about something I wanted and how I made it happen, like the last job I wanted. That’s a story that shows fight, grit, and determination.
Reaching out to me, asking me to interview, and asking me why I am interviewing for this position upsets me. Do you want a lie or the truth? You know why. You asked, so I’m looking for you to show me why you asked me to interview and leave my good job.
I get it. They want to make sure they are not hiring a UX hobbyist or wannabe. Someone who knows the science stays up to date and who’s an entrepreneur in the space. Getting a belittling question like where would I start and expecting not to get complicated answers is silly. It’s design. There are no wrong answers, so why give me a question with millions of solutions, and you are looking for a specific answer.
The real problem is the big organizations do too much, and they have a list of organizations in which they consider to have good UX Design, and if you are coming for any of the big 10, you don’t go through the intimidating process. Most of the small organizations read some blog posts on how to hire, and they are asking questions verbatim. Most of the time, I have more experience than the person interviewing me. Has anyone interviewed at Apple?
These jobs want to see work but don’t accept personal projects as work. The work I do on my job is all under an NDA. Then you tell me to talk about them. Really, that’s not what you want; you want to see research, evolution, sexy, mouth-watering design. The best way for me to give that to you is to create the type of work I want to do and use real users. I can show you my skills and that I’m competent, but you treat it as if I’m not currently working as a UX designer with YEARS of experience. I never want to interview again.
- 19 out of 36 stated they are not interested in interviewing due to how they are treated during interviews
- 36 out of 36 feel the interview is a waste of time
- 22 out of 36 have interviewed this month or are currently interviewing
- 31 out of 36 has received an invite to interview on LinkedIn this week
- 36 out of 36 will relocate for the right job
- 36 out of 36 loves the UX Design field
- 35 out of 36 makes more than 100,000 a year
- 27 out of 36 started their design career later in age
- 32 out of 36 are commonly mistaken to be younger
- 36 out of 36 would use the feedback if given and reinterview within the next year or later
These are some solutions the group talked about:
- Interview timelines and expectations upfront.
- Being interviewed by blacks. As one participant stated, Of course, I’m not a good fit; I’m not white. You don’t know the black culture and black behavior to determine if I will fit your culture. Please show me a black person at your org who’s not code-switching.
- Interview feedback. Since you have all of this documentation around your process, we should know what to improve on. Wrong. Seven participants stated they had their first whiteboarding session at Facebook and still don’t understand if the session was successful. If you do offer feedback, state that upfront.
- Research before you reach out. The average income of the group was ~$137,000. If I’m currently making $125,000, why would you juggle a job that’s paying $85,000 in my face?
- Quantify all of our experience, not just UX experience. They don’t match relevant skills and experience. Everything is black and white. One participant is the owner of their own company that makes over $500,000 a year. Organizations are not equipped to quantify that experience, but they can quantify a Mcdonald’s management experience from 25 years ago.
- The book “the ideal team player” is a guide, not a birthright.
- Offer timelines for when we could apply again.
- It’s both of our jobs to follow up. Following up means I’m interested.
- Narrow down asking if we have any questions. Each interviewer asks this same question, and I ask them all the same questions like it was my first time thinking of them. I know you use this to measure my interest but think about how I feel asking these questions nine times.
In the end, there is a lot more information I could pull from this talk, but I think these are some of the more significant issues we all agreed on. I also think these are not black issues. They are design industry issues, and as companies rush to pull the best diverse talent, they are unaware of how these non-standard practices affect the design community. The rules on finding the best talent change per company, and that’s the real issue. Until there is some type of standardization and proper documentation around the science of design interviewing and how to synthesize the interview to learn more about you. We will never know how to answer interview questions honestly. The people who do it well treat it like a right of passage/birthright, and in that, there is bias and unfair evaluation.