Design 'Tests'

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  • bort

    I've recently been applying for UI gigs with a handful of tech companies and most of them have requested I do a design 'test' as part of the process.

    I find this very strange as coming from the agency world design tests were regarded as rather pointless and insulting to the candidate. If a candidate has a solid portfolio and can articulate their process and ideas well, and has strong references a design test seems unnecessary. I have 10+ years experience with big digital projects so I was a little shocked when they suggested a test.

    I recently did one for a large, very well funded start up. I would normally never do work without a contract and 50% payment up from but because they're a high profile brand I figured they wouldn't screw me around. Wrong. I did the work but they proceeded with another candidate. The moment I was out of the running they stopped responding to my emails and at this point it really looks like they're trying to stiff me on payment. I'm kind of pissed at myself because my gut was saying 'hell no' when they asked me to do the test but I did it anyway.

    Are these tests becoming the norm in this industry? It's a truly discouraging trend if it is. Anyone else experienced this?

  • bort0

    I should add that the company and I had a verbal agreement re: payment for the text. At the time they were very clear with the fact that there is compensation for the test. Now I think they're just crooks.

  • zarkonite0

    Never do spec work.

    • True. But if we negotiated a fee prior to doing the work it's not entirely spec. I just blew it because I trusted them and didn't insist on a written contract..bort
    • and 1/2 payment up front.bort
    • You should read Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro... a lot of good advice in there.zarkonite
  • lvl_130

    it is very prominent here in the bay area. Nearly every place requires a "test". Google, Netflix, most UX/Design firms, etc.

    although i don't like it, they need to weed out the shit, and this is a quick way that doesn't waste any of their teams time up front.

    just because of the sheer number of people here looking to hire/looking for new work, you pretty much have to complete the project or bow out.

  • studderine0

    Stopped responding to emails? I've been there before. It's a dickless move—sometimes. I imagine some people are just too busy to respond to every email...

    I had an agency in SF ask me to complete a UX test that took 8 hours! I told them why it wouldn't really show them how I work. I proposed a quick freelance project but, of course, I never heard back.

    I guess some employers know they have you by the balls. If the design test is somewhat reasonable and doesn't take a whole day it?

    • I hope they were offering compensation for that 8 hour test. If not, F it.bort
    • They were NOT offering $$$. That's why I asked them to do a quick freelance project with me. They declined so I didn't do the test.studderine
    • It takes real balls to ask candidates to do an 8 hr test for free. Good on you for trying to find a work around.bort
  • bort1

    The thing that pisses me off about these tests is that companies are getting free ideas and work. Imagine company X asks 5 separate designers to redesign their homepage. If they're a high profile company they're likely going to attract good candidates, so they can expect some pretty solid work coming in via the 'test'. This process brings in a bunch of (likely) fresh ideas for little to no cost and the creators have no real legal recourse over how the work is used. What's to stop company X from turning around and implementing your ideas? A verbal agreement between the candidate and some HR goof or unscrupulous Product Designer? Good luck with that.

    The whole process is really fishy and lopsided.

    • Completely agree. I think the tests should be more about process and theory. If they really want to see final work then pay for it. Would they do free work?!?!studderine
    • this.Krassy
  • ronburgundy0

    Yeah I think it's a bit shady for companies to ask that you provide them with free work. I've encountered that once, but generally I've found that the test was part of the in-person interview process and was more of a whiteboard exercise that had nothing do with the product or service of that company. My guess is that it allows them to get a sense of your problem solving abilities as well as how you can articulate your ideas and defend your solutions - things that may or may not come across in your portfolio.

  • qoob2

    What I find kind of amazing is how long and convoluted the job application process is these days. When I was looking for a job a couple years ago I applied at a big Silicon Valley company. It took them three weeks after I applied to get back to me. Did a one hour phone interview. Two weeks after that, they ask me to do a design test which involves designing a touch screen application. I spend a couple days doing the test, send it to them, then two weeks later they get back to me. Test went well and they want to interview. They fly me down to CA, I do a day of interviews (interview w/five different people), and at the last interview it comes up that they want to hire me for a different location than the one I want to work at. The entire thing takes over a month and it was a waste of time for both of us.

    I feel like the people who are overpaid are the HR people. They've created this massive bureaucratic process but it's far from clear that it actually produces better results.

    • this.Krassy
    • That's a colossal waste of time for everyone involved. I believe most HR people are an impediment to the hiring process. Most are utterly out of touch and relybort
    • on black and white formula for decision making.bort
  • breadlegz0

    Never do spec work.

    No excuses.

  • see_thru0

  • Maaku0

    I fell for it and did spec work for free because I was excited about the company.

    So 4 interviews, 1 test/presentation and around 40 emails later they tell me I'm not as "senior" as they expected since they need someone that no only is a good visual designer but also a salesman to go pitch the design to CEO's, CCO's, CMO's

    Lesson learned, never again...

  • Salarrue0

    A company near my house had posted a one day team test to solve one of the company's design problems in one day and then they will hire a few...

    Is like the start-up weekends you give your ideas for free to the vultures....

  • bort0

    So it sounds like these tests are the future of design hiring. Fantastic. One more reason for me to jettison this profession.

    • Ah man, don't leave the profession because of that. You just have to find the right people to work with. There are assholes in every industry.studderine
  • Continuity0

    The thing is with these design tests, is that they're actually nothing new.

    As far back as six or seven years ago, Fantasy Interactive were doing this with a stock sort of 'How would you design the next site' thing. I always thought they'd been trying to get Apple as a client, and trying to get ideas from candidates (withouth necessarily having to hire them, of course).

    Avoid these things like the plague; no reputable agency of any sort should be doing this.

    • its not agencies that are doing this though... mostly startups and tech companies.Al_dizzle
    • My experiences were restricted to tech companies exclusively. The only time I've heard of agencies doing this is for production positions.bort