UX Design Challenge v5

I am building design and docs teams right now in Prague and Bangalore as well as on-boarding a large team in Tel Aviv. Because of time zones and the poor location of California, I am forced to change my normal process.

For certain candidates, I am pointing them to this post and asking them to do a home assignment before meeting with me and the team. It’s a bit long, but I am trying to be comprehensive to help the candidate. I have never done this before, so it is an experiment. Hopefully not a terrible one.

Note: Reading time: 5-10 minutes

What do I look for in a designer?

The home assignment is a test to see what kind of person and designer you are. I generally want to work with people with the characteristics below. (Alphabetical) I look for these qualities in coworkers and designers.

Don’t you want to work with people like this? It’s a perk to work with great people, isn’t it?

Also, I value people with skills in Information Architecture, Interaction Design, communication, and graphic design as well.

Why a home assignment?

It’s so difficult to get to know someone in just 30 minutes. What are their strengths and weaknesses and how well will they be able to do the work? It’s just not possible to really know a designer’s talents without seeing them design something.

The key questions I have to hire some is:

  1. Can they execute a professional level design?
  2. How creative are they in their approach?

Additionally, because I am in California and they are in India or Prague, there is just not enough hours in the day overlapping to speak with everyone in depth. A home assignment seems to be the best solution. Lastly, I think it potentially reduces any implicit bias. It is closer to a blind evaluation.

If they pass the home assignment, there will be whiteboard exercises and zoom interviews, but it will be short and finish quickly. If they pass, then we make a great offer to start working! Ok, let’s get to it.

Job Location

I currently (Jan 2023) have positions open in Prague and Bangalore. These are not remote positions and require being in the office a few days a week. I will update this if the positions close.

You can do this assignment if you want for fun, but I can only hire people (for now) in those two cities.

Design Challenge

Design some software that is helpful to someone in the process of looking for a new job. They are talking to several companies and applying online. They are in the middle of their journey.

What kind of software?

Imagine yourself going through a day of looking for work. It might include the following areas:

Applications in LinkedIn

When you are applying in LinkedIn, imagine a chrome extension that was helpful. You could design a Chrome extension that draws info from somewhere online. Example: Glassdoor reviews

Chrome extensions are great ways to integrate with existing tools and workflow in a browser.

Warning: This design exercise does not need to be a stand alone web application. In fact, I would find that solution to be somewhat boring. Please do not just make a site with a list of companies and their status.

GMail correspondence

When you get an email from a company, you may have forgotten about the details of that application. When did you apply? What was the job? Did you take notes at the time?

Thinking about GMail, you ever notice these icons on the right side of GMail?

The icons on the right side of GMail

Try clicking the little + icon. There are like a 100 different apps in the marketplace. It’s surprising, but you can build all sorts of things in here.

Google Workspace Marketplace

You could design a new app using the Google Workspace Marketplace platform. Maybe it shows the job description on the right when you open an email from a company you applied to. Maybe it lets you take notes and reminders. The possibilities are huge.

Time Management and Calendar

In your calendar, you know when meetings are, but what if you had a cool app integrated into your calendar that helped you stay positive and avoid procrastination. You could design a time management helper inside your calendar. Maybe it reminds you to followup with people or work on your resume or home assignments.

Zoom Apps

Ever look at the Zoom apps marketplace? There are thousands of apps that do all sorts of things. It’s one of the weird secrets of the world. We all use Zoom, but we hardly use any apps.

Notice the apps icon on the right

You could design a zoom app. Maybe a note taking app right on top of the video so you maintain eye contact. There is so much it could potentially do.

Notes and Tasks

Notes and tasks are an important part of looking for work. How do you take the notes, where are they? How are they integrated into your other workflow? What about tasks? How easy is it to make a task? Can you do it from the notes?

You could design a note taking and task tool that integrates into key parts of the user journey. Maybe it integrates with existing systems?

After Job Acceptance

I have seen many people post a chart like this after they find a position.

Sankey Chart

Where does this data come from? How does it get created? You could design an analytics dashboard for understanding your job search journey.

Notice how many places a typical interview process will lead. It flows through several different platforms and technologies. You could even design a desktop app that runs in the background.

The point is to be creative. Find an interesting small place where you think you can make a difference. Make something there. Don’t just make a boring kanban board or list of companies.

Tips for Success / Requirements

Realism

Don’t use Lorem Ipsum. Don’t say Company 1, Company 2, Company 3. Make it realistic. This exercise is trying to test if you can make a professional grade design. If you worked for me, the designs would need to look realistic. Look at Asana, Trello, GSuite, etc to see what regular business apps look like. They are all free.

Sometimes people make designs that look cool but are more Dribbble style user interfaces that would never actually be built. Try and make it look like something that would really exist.

Quality

I am not interested in quantity. You do not need to make dozens of screens. I am looking for quality. Even one great interactive screen could convey your capabilities. It should be Pixel perfect and high quality, but also creative and thoughtful for real user flow. In other words, I want you to think about the use case.

Many candidates tell me they threw something together. I feel this is a waste of their time. If you are going to do something, do it well.

Figma Expertise

In this job, you will spend about 70% of your time in Figma. It’s meeting with people and designing in Figma. Therefore being a power user of Figma is important. Too many designers don’t use use components and properties in the correct manner. They use variants rather than instance swap. They don’t keep up with the latest features like autolayout. (Although, on the flip side, many designers overuse autolayout like crazy)

And for goodness sake, don’t use Groups. They are useless in Figma. Use Frames. Frames do everything and groups do nothing.

Name your layers!

This is a strong requirement. If you work on my team, there will be requirements. (Just like everywhere) You will have to use existing patterns, you will have to follow existing process. Requirements and constraints are the norm for any business work. What I want to see is if you can follow requirements.

Naming your layers has a few added benefits:

  • If you ever work with another human being on your file, they will thank you for having a clean, orderly Figma file. It’s just common courtesy to be neat in your file.
  • When you name your layers, your brain chemistry changes slightly. You aren’t adding functionality. You are reviewing it for naming. This will often allow you to see your designs with fresh eyes. Naming layers is a great way to switch gears and review your design for flaws and potential improvements.

Do not show me a file with unnamed layers. It will be rejected.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you present research, journeys, personas, mood boards, affinity diagrams, card sorting and Focus group results?
No. To be clear, presenting that stuff is not part of the job. This is a design position, not a research position.

Can it be mobile?
No, not mobile.

How big should screens be?
1333×750. This is a requirement. You can have overlays of different sizes, but the primary frame is 1333×750. I will reject sizes that are different.

How many screens does it need to have?
Just enough to demonstrate your idea. No more, no less.

Do I need to wire up the prototype in Figma?
Yes. Please show you know how to prototype.

Can I get help?
Yes, of course. Great designers collaborate. Great leaders get other people involved. If you work for me, you will collaborate all the time. So show you know how to do that.

What if I have questions?
My email will be provided to you in the application process. If you don’t ask me questions, you are wasting a huge opportunity. If you worked on my team, you would be asking questions all the time. Designers ask questions. It’s our thing!

Can I show you my idea before I even start designing?
Brilliant! It would save you time and I could help you creatively. Huzzah!

What’s the deadline?
It’s up to you. No deadline. It’s a competitive position though.

Summary

Working at SentinelOne is fun. It is important software and the PM and engineering teams rely on us to provide a strong vision and blueprint to build features. The teams are filled with energetic smart people.

I know a home assignment is asking a lot of you. Doing it without speaking with me first is a big ask. I promise you that I will review it closely and give good feedback.

Good luck!


Comments

Whatya think?