Community - Work-Life

What Designers Want

Companies need to recast both image and hiring processes in order to attract high-quality design talent

Given that everyone seems to be looking for senior design talent, it is ironic that most hiring processes feels broken. At The Hard Copy, we get a stream of requests for recommendations and connections to designers. We thought the best way to address this problem was to hear first-hand from the designers themselves. We interviewed a bunch of well-regarded designers, all with 6 years + experience, and created an actionable list for you. 

Craft Your Organisational Presence

“Good managers and collaborative work environments get talked about far and wide in the industry” 
Preethi Shreeya, Associate Interaction Designer, Zeta,  

A 2019 Mercer report says “Job seekers care as much about the way the company conducts business, as they do about the business it is in.” This is especially true of quality creative folk who are very sensitive to company reputation. Keep these factors in mind as you seek to grow your organisational presence.

1. Stop being blinded by your own biases 

The design ecosystem in the country is indisputably fragmented. Each city is a silo, and there are silos within each city. If you really want to open up your design talent funnel, you need to step back and draw up a plan that realistically thinks about where your desired talent could be right now. What kind of companies are they working at? Where does their world intersect with yours? Think different geographical locations, different peer groups, even different channels of communication.  

We’re always taken aback by how companies say they are looking for diversity of talent, but then only end up addressing cohorts they are familiar with. 

2. Do some research 

We were amazed at the strong and uniform perceptions designers had about different companies. Even if they have never interacted with the company, they have formed a perception of it. When was the last time you checked what the design community thought of you? 

3. Be part of the community 

“A big green flag  is when the designers at the company are active online, share their work and opinions, have side projects etc. Good signal that they are into their craft!” Abhinav Chhikara, Head of Design, Unacademy

The majority of designers we interviewed said that ‘team’ was the most important factor in their decision to accept an offer or not. This implies that you need to create opportunities for your team to interact with the wider design community. Instead of sporadic attempts spurred by hiring demands, you need to do this in a sustained manner. 

  • Host and attend workshops and meet-ups. Be seen at events.  
  • Instead of spreading yourself too thin, focus on one strong initiative. Create a contest or challenge that becomes a brand and your IP. Think of how hackathons have worked for coding. 
  • Showcase people at different levels of seniority 
  • Institutionalise community interaction as part of your processes and KRAs for your teams 
  • Create an annual calendar and stick to the plan, no matter how busy things get at work 

4. Take them to your leader 

“My first priority is people I can learn from.” Aditya Venkatesan, UX Lead, Lollypop UX/UI Studio

Your design leader / leaders are all-important. Designers at all levels are looking for mentorship and inspiration. This demands that your design leader is not just known to be good at her craft but also seen as someone with vision and influence. This requires a concerted effort to make your design leader visible and amplify their views.  Again, the point to recognize here is that this is too important to be left to serendipity. You need a plan and we recommend putting one in place for design leaders and one level below them. 

5. Catch ‘em young  

Take the long view on your design talent funnel. Most design students have little or no awareness of the industry outside. Company-university interactions tend to be transactional and limited to internship opportunities or placement day. We recommend that you find opportunities to get much more visible through the year.  

6. Put your best foot forward 

Your website isn’t just for potential clients and investors. Every designer we interviewed said the same thing – they always look at the company website, blogs and social media channels. Everyone shares case studies, can you do it with extra flair?  

Create a Thoughtful Hiring Process  

From job descriptions to interviewing and acceptance or rejection, every step is a brand communication channel and needs to be configured carefully.

1. Communicate your culture 

“Designers want to go to a place where they can make mistakes and learn from them”  Noopur Varma, Product Designer, Go-jek 

This can be harder than you think, because companies often tend to communicate at a high level, without focusing on the parts that really matter to designers. A good example is encouraging risk taking and destigmatising failure. Both came across as very important when we spoke to designers, yet we haven’t seen too many job descriptions that call this out.

2. Offer what designers see as value  

Beyond the facts of role and experience, etc, your job descriptions need to be engaging and signal your brand and proposition clearly. Free lunches are all very well, but what else can you offer that indicates you are a great environment for design talent? A clear mentorship program? Time and support for self-initiated projects?  Think about how Google’s 20% rule became a huge differentiator for them. 

3. Don’t leave impressions to chance 

“I treat the interview process as a reflection of the org. Are they using a generic job description? Are they able to communicate well during the process?”  Kenneth D’Souza, Product Designer, Go-jek

All too often one misstep creates poor impressions in the community. The best way to avoid that is to set up protocols and monitor them. What’s the maximum acceptable time to respond to an applicant? How can you ensure that there is no ghosting? Has that rejection mail been carefully aligned with your brand or have you left it to your recruiter’s mood? 

4. Include non-design stakeholders in the interview process 

“A huge red flag to me is the absence of non-designers in interviews and overall hiring process”Mannu Amrit, Senior Designer, Atlassian

Designers want to work for a company where design is valued. Including senior non-design stakeholders in the interview is a great way to signal this 

Get to work and good luck with hiring!

Leave a Comment

All comments are moderated according to our comment policy. Your email address will NOT be published. All fields are required.

The Hard Copy is a resource for building and growing modern brands. Sign up to get case studies and advice in your inbox every week.

Related Articles