Hire an Amazing UX Designer in 10 Steps

If you’re looking to hire a UX designer who knocks it out of the park every time, you might find it’s a tough position to fill. Around the world, UX designers are in high demand. In an Adobe study, almost 3 quarters of managers and department heads working in UX design said they plan to double the number of UX designers in their organization in the next five years. 

With well over a million UX designers in the world, there are plenty of talented professionals looking for their next opportunity and that’s good news for anyone looking to hire a UX designer. Of course, some designers are better than others and the best UX designers are not easy to find.

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Finding The Best UX Designers

If you’ve ever worked with a sub-par designer, you know that finding the best UX designers takes a bit of work. 

Why is it important to hire the right UX designer?

Though it might be tempting to just pick someone and get your design moving along, it’s vital that you take the time to find the right person for the job. It might not seem like it at first, but UX designer is one of the most important roles. Amazing design can make a project take off while a bad design can make it crumble. What’s more, any UX designer you hire needs to be either under the direction of a design leader or be a design leader themselves.

Here is the step-by-step guide on how to hire a UX designer, from an expert UX designer and digital business owner with over 20 years of experience.

Determine Your UX Hiring Process

Oftentimes department heads, funded SaaS leaders, or other non-designers are responsible for UX hiring. This can work out well, but only if you have a lot of luck or a solid vetting and hiring process specifically structured for UX designers.

There are a lot of things to consider before ever putting together a job description for a UX designer. First, you’ll need to sort out precisely what your business needs, then you’ll need to detail what you are looking for in an ideal candidate. But first…

1. The Most Important Factor In Finding a Great UX Designer

The number one thing you can do to ensure you’re hiring the right person is to have an experienced UX designer vet potential candidates. It’s one of those “takes one to know one” situations.

For other positions, you might be able to review a candidate’s work history or experience to get a clear picture of their skills, but for UX design, you really need another professional UX designer to help review portfolios. He or she will quickly see things, both good and bad, that the layperson or even another kind of designer would miss.

Alright, now that that’s out of the way, let’s sort out what your project needs.

If there’s one place to start it’s defining your needs and resources. Sorting out exactly what you’re looking for will help you determine where to start your search and what benefits you are able to offer your applicants that other employers may not.

2. What Kind of Designer Are You Looking For?

Design comes in many different forms and it’s important to know the difference so that you can specify exactly what kind of designer you want. Here are some of the design roles that are often lumped in with UX design.

  • UX (User Experience) Designer 
  • UI (User Interface) Designer 
  • Product Designer

UX Design vs. Product Design – While UX designers focus on the hands-on design of a product, product designers are involved in the more holistic design process of a product.

UX Design vs. UI Design – UI design focuses on all the elements that enable someone to interact with a product or service. UX design is more focused on what the individual interacting with that product or service takes away from the entire experience.

3. What Kind of Project Do You Need a Designer For?

Different designers focus on different project types so you will want to be sure to find someone with experience in the area you are looking for.

  1. Mobile
  2. Desktop
  3. Software (not browser-based)

Pro Tip: Some designers have experience with multiple project types. When you are hiring a UX designer, be sure to take into consideration what the designer’s role was on the projects they have been a part of to get a good feel for what their real-world experience is. 

For example, you might find a UX designer who has worked on both mobile and non-browser-based software teams, or you might find a designer who has led a project that had both a mobile and desktop version.

4. What Industry Are Do You Need UX Help In?

You don’t absolutely have to hire a UX designer with experience in your industry, but it generally makes things move faster and smoother if you find someone with at least some industry knowledge.

Some industries are more complex than others and if you are in one of the more complicated industries like these, you will be better off hiring a designer with industry knowledge. 

  • Healthcare
  • Accounting
  • Insurance

Imagine hiring one of the top UX designers for an extensive hospital system redesign who previously worked on fantasy football apps and gaming systems. It would take a lot of time and effort from your team to get that person up to speed no matter how good their design skills are.

How to find a UX designer in a very niche industry

If you are in a very niche industry, you may find that your ideal candidate pool is pretty small. In those cases, you may want to try headhunting to find the right person, though you will likely pay a premium for that perfect person.

5. What is Your Project Length and Deadline?

Any applicant will want to know a project’s expected start and end dates. This is crucial for temporary positions such as a freelance UX designer for an MVP for a SaaS startup. If you don’t have exact dates pinned down, a rough timeline is better than nothing, but make sure to let your applicants know that timelines may change as the project progresses.

Even if you are looking for a full-time UX designer to join your team for an ongoing project it is still important to define the timelines your team works on. That will help applicants envision what working with your team will be like and when they might take their vacation time.

6. What Kind of Leadership Experience Does Your UX Designer Need?

Will your newly hired UX designer be in a leadership role? Will he or she be part of an established design team? These are crucial questions to think about before starting your search. A lack of organization, professionalism, or accountability can cause a project to flop.

Experience in design is one thing, experience in leading the design of a project is another. Some UX designers get hired and do great work straight out of school, but it takes a different set of skills to be an effective leader. 

Before posting your job listing, consider what your management structure will look like with your new hire in it and exactly what their role and responsibilities will include.

Hiring a UX Design Manager

If you want to hire a UX design leader, you’ll need to vet their design skills as well as their leadership abilities. Here are a few questions to ask when searching for qualified applicants.

  1. Has this person effectively led a design team in the past?
  2. How many design team members has this person been responsible for?
  3. What tools and processes does this person use to manage the work of multiple designers?

Pro tip: If you have another team member in this role currently who is moving to another department, he or she is a crucial resource for integrating the new design lead into the team smoothly.

Hiring a UX Design Team Member

If you are adding resources to your existing design team, you are likely adding a design team member. Whether you are hiring a junior UX designer or an expert, you’ll want to ask a few questions.

  1. Who will your new designer report to?
  2. Will you have another designer who is established on your team checking your new hire’s work?
  3. What processes and systems do you have in place that your new hire will need to be familiar with in order to be an effective member of your design team?

It’s common for hiring managers to underestimate the importance of leadership skills in design work, but it’s so crucial. Without a solid leader, UX design work can easily take two or three times longer than expected, or simple but important details can be missed causing major issues down the road.

Pro Tip: If you are hiring your first designer (often the case in a SaaS startup) you may not have someone on your team with design management experience to lead him or her. If this is your situation, you can hire an experienced UX design leader as a consultant or contractor to manage your design workflow.

7. Where Can Your UX Designer Be Located?

You might jump to saying they need to be in a specific location, or that it doesn’t matter where they are. But to decide what locations are appropriate for your new UX design hire, you’ll need to consider a few things.

  • Do you meet every day?
  • Does your new UX designer need to meet with regional customers?
  • What languages do they need to speak?
  • Are cultural differences a potential issue?

Your answers to these questions will help you determine what time zones, countries, and cultures you will want to search for your new hire in. Try to be as broad as reasonably possible. For example, there is always a chance you will find someone who is a time zone farther than you would normally hire, but who is willing to meet in the evening for the weekly team meeting

8. What is your Budget for Hiring a UX Designer?

Determining how much money you have to spend on UX design resources will help you determine where to start your search and what you might want to look for to make the most of your UX design resources. 

The best way to determine your budget is to assess the design work your project needs and determine a range of how much it will cost to meet those needs. You can use different payment models depending on what variables you have to work with. 

UX Design Payment Models 

There are three main payment models used for UX design work

  1. Hourly – In this model, you pay for time. It can be used for full-time or freelance UX designers.
  2. Salary – This model offers stability in a long-term position and is a good option for full-time employees 
  3. Flat Rate – In this model, you pay a specific price for UX work on a project. This is an option for short-term or temporary work.

You can enlist the help of an experienced UX designer to pin down your numbers based on your payment model. He or she can give a range of hours you can expect for design work on your project, tell you what a reasonable salary would be for the skill level you need, or give you an estimate of what a flat rate cost might be for the work.

Pro Tip: Experienced UX designers work much faster than junior designers. That means the total cost for a junior vs. expert designer on an hourly payment model may wind up being the same.

Getting The Most For Your Money

Though it’s always advisable to start by looking at your needs and work backward to determine how much it will cost to meet them, the fact of the matter is that sometimes you have a strict budget you have to work within. 

When you hire a UX designer, you generally pay more for more experience. However, there are some ways you can find great designers on a budget, such as hiring overseas or hiring a student you can train up.

Pro Tip: UX designer salaries vary wildly across the world. On average a UX designer in San Fransisco will cost 4 times as much as one based out of Budapest.

Here’s a breakdown of UX design salary by city, courtesy of Hanno

As with most jobs, the cost of living where a UX designer is located will be a major factor in how much they charge. If you are looking for a designer and you’re on a budget, consider outsourcing the work. If you have to stay within your own country, try searching for designers in smaller towns rather than big cities.

9. Do You Need a Full-Time, Part-Time, or Freelance UX Designer?

You can’t hire a UX designer until you decide what kind of work you need. Most options out there fall into one of three buckets.

Full-Time UX Designer

A good option if you need someone fully integrated into your team for a long-term position. Full-time Employees (FTEs) tend to cost the most. They are usually stateside, receive a salary, work 40 hours per week, and may receive benefits such as insurance and 401ks. 

If you are looking for a UX designer to join a product team, you will almost always want to opt to hire a full-time person for the position. 

Part-Time UX Designer

A part-time UX designer is similar to a full-time designer in that they both are employees of the company. Part-time designers may be paid a salary for a set number of hours (usually 20-30 hours per week) or they may be paid hourly based on the time they spend on a project. 

Part-time designers are generally integrated into the business as are full-time employees, however, they may hold other jobs in their extra time, depending of course on the employment contract. 

Freelance UX Designers

Freelance UX designers are often referred to as contractors or sub-contractors. They can be individuals (self-employed), or design agencies. Freelance UX work is a good option for small or temporary projects which are not expected to be expanded or updated as they are not likely to be available whenever the need arises in the future. 

Freelancers most often work on hourly or flat fee payment models and they may work may number of hours per week depending on the work agreement you set up with them.

10. Where to Find UX Designers

Where you should look for UX designers depends a lot on the picture of what you’re looking for, which should be pretty clear by now. Though you may find a good fit in any of these places, some are better suited to different skill levels or project types.

Job Boards

This is the option that most traditional hiring managers think of first when searching for a top designer. It’s important to note that job board postings are generally only seen by people actively looking for a job on the site you’re posting on, which means your qualified candidate pool is likely to be small. 

Because design work is in high demand, UX designers looking for work on job boards tend to get multiple offers, so even if you find a great fit, he or she is almost certainly deciding between working with you and another business.

Though there are countless job boards out there, here are a few that tend to have top UX design talent.

Social Channels

There are social channels for every profession and UX design is no exception. Channels and groups can be a great place to find designers who are engaged with the design community. 

Pro Tip: Hanging out in the online space where UX designers will give you insight into what designers are currently talking about and wanting in a job as well as give you an opportunity to hear people’s questions and maybe catch a glimpse of their communication styles.

Here are a few social channels you can look for UX designers on.

  • Facebook UX boards
  • Private Slack channels
  • Discord groups

Recent UX Design School Graduates

If you are looking for fresh UX talent, art schools and universities can be a great place to start your search. Recent graduates typically are a good fit for positions that are managed or at least mentored by a more experienced designer. It’s rare to find a recent graduate who has years of leadership experience, but many graduates have a lot of potential. 

Pro Tip: If you have the time and resources to train someone up for a long-term position, a design school grad can be a good option. Just make sure you have a contract in place so they don’t get headhunted after you train them up.

Here are some good options for hiring UX designers from art schools and universities.

Design Galleries

If there’s one tip for how to hire a UX designer, it’s always put portfolios above resumes. Design galleries are a great place to browse the work of thousands of designers in one place. 

Though not everyone you find on design galleries is actively looking for work, many are open to work if the right opportunity comes along, especially if they are currently working on a temporary project or freelancing.

Pro Tip: It’s crucial that you have an experienced designer review the portfolios of your potential candidates. A design may look nice to the average person, but a pro designer will spot style inconsistencies, misalignments, or an overall clunky user experience in a matter of seconds.

Here are some of the design galleries to check out.

UX Design Associations

Another good place to find solid talent is to contact one of the many UX design associations. Once you have all of the specifics of what you’re looking for, they may be able to make some recommendations or point you in the right direction.

Here are some design associations to try.

Headhunting

Headhunting is a form of recruiting that involves identifying and approaching suitable people employed elsewhere to fill an open position.

If you are looking for someone with very specific experience to fill a UX design role, or you are in a very niche industry, headhunting may be one of the only reasonable options for finding the perfect candidate.

Pro Tip: The cost of headhunting isn’t cheap. You’ll typically pay between 20-25% of the position salary, sometimes up to 40% or more. So, if you’re on a tight budget, this may not be the best fit.

Here are some platforms headhunters often use to find the right person for a UX design position.

  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • BBDO:  A global advertising and marketing agency
  • JWT: J Walter Thompson
  • Moxie
  • Large local or regional marketing companies
  • Large corporations’ design or product departments
  • International companies

It Doesn’t Take a Rocket Scientist to Hire a UX Designer

Ok, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist, but it does take a good deal of preparation and design knowledge to hire a UX designer who is going to be a good fit for your project. The most important things to remember are

  1. It takes a UX designer to find a assess a UX designer’s skills
  2. Industry knowledge matters
  3. Nail down your project needs first
  4. Always consider your design leadership structure 
  5. Job boards are not always the best place to find top UX designers

If you’re running into some bumps in the road or knowledge gaps when trying to hire a UX designer, it’s always best to reach out to someone who can help. 

If you need a hand finding an amazing designer, we’ve got your back. 

Help me find a great UX designer