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Design a UX resume that will get you hired

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Design a UX resume that will get you hired

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In this talk I illustrate with examples common pitfalls in UX resumes and give you insight into what the UX hiring manager is looking for. I show you how to make your resume truly stand out—not by expounding on your design philosophy or visualizing your career as an infographic—but by listing concrete accomplishments that demonstrate your business value.

In this talk I illustrate with examples common pitfalls in UX resumes and give you insight into what the UX hiring manager is looking for. I show you how to make your resume truly stand out—not by expounding on your design philosophy or visualizing your career as an infographic—but by listing concrete accomplishments that demonstrate your business value.


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Design a UX resume that will get you hired

  1. 1. Design a UX resume that will get you hired Kim Bieler • UserFocus 2014
  2. 2. Yawn. OMGWTF!
  3. 3. Hard truth #1 UX resumes are just as bad as everyone else’s
  4. 4. Who is reading my resume? What are their goals? What’s an effective deliverable?
  5. 5. Our process 1. Resume 2. Phone screen 3. Interview
  6. 6. Our process Do you seem qualified to do our job? Can you talk to your experience? Whack job or reasonable human being? 1. Resume 2. Phone screen 3. Interview PROVE IT!
  7. 7. Design a UX resume that will get you hired will get you to the next stage of the process
  8. 8. Hard truth #2 All your resume has to do is get me to call you
  9. 9. 85% rejection rate Rejection
  10. 10. Reasons to reject • Typos • Inconsistent typesetting • Sloppy design • Lousy portfolio • Poorly designed portfolio website • Too many pages • Poor grammar • Bad writing • Same bullets for every job • Objective doesn’t match job description • Cover letter is for a different job • No job descriptions at all • Job hopping • Out of state address • Career stalled or regressing
  11. 11. Hard truth #3 The hiring manager is looking for reasons to reject you
  12. 12. Reasons to reject • Typos • Inconsistent typesetting • Sloppy resume design • Lousy portfolio • Poorly designed portfolio website • Too many pages • Poor grammar • Bad writing • Same bullets for every job • Objective doesn’t match job description • Cover letter is for a different job • No job descriptions at all • Job hopping • Out of state address • Career stalled or regressing Sloppy Poor communicator Not interested in the work we do Risky Poor design skills
  13. 13. Top performers take responsibility self-directed strive to be better emotionally mature build trust integrity & ethics
  14. 14. Bad hires expensive less productive more work to manage drag on team hard to get rid of
  15. 15. Hard truth #4 It’s better to reject than to hire poorly
  16. 16. How will this candidate perform on the job?
  17. 17. Behavioral interview questions: Past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior
  18. 18. Yeah, but can you do the job?
  19. 19. NO NO NO
  20. 20. OMG, NO!
  21. 21. Hard truth #5 The more you try to be creative, the more chances you have to get it wrong
  22. 22. Hard truth #6 Only the first page counts
  23. 23. Ahem.
  24. 24. What does it take? Phone screen
  25. 25. Hard truth #7 Wireframes are not an accomplishment
  26. 26. Accomplishments: What you did and how well you did it
  27. 27. Designed wireframes
  28. 28. Designed wireframes Designed wireframes that met with stakeholder approval
  29. 29. Designed wireframes Designed wireframes that met with stakeholder approval Designed wireframes that won approval from a difficult stakeholder
  30. 30. Designed wireframes Designed wireframes that met with stakeholder approval Designed wireframes that won approval from a difficult stakeholder Won over a difficult stakeholder by designing detailed wireframes for every screen and state
  31. 31. so-whats The 5 whys technique
  32. 32. Benefits to the company: 1. Increase revenue 2. Decrease costs
  33. 33. Increase revenue Designed a mobile booking app that brought in $1.2 million in new sales. Created a clickable prototype that helped us win a $60,000 project.
  34. 34. Increase revenue • Increase subscriptions, membership, users • Faster task completion • Increase conversions • Repeat business • More/better referrals • Easier cross-sell / up-sell • Improve Net Promoter Score • Faster sales cycle • Increase downloads • Faster to market • Good press, glowing reviews, industry awards
  35. 35. What you did + how well you did it Led a workshop for government employees that received an A+ satisfaction rating. Increased conversions by shrinking the checkout process to a single page.
  36. 36. Decrease costs Spent $380 to create an on-site test facility, saving us $17,000 a year. Proposed a new site architecture that eliminated 18 resource-intensive screens.
  37. 37. Decrease costs • On time, on budget, within scope • Fewer iterations • Process improvements • Templates, pattern reuse • Fewer bugs and escalations • Use open-source tools • Fewer screens to design and write • Bring work in-house • Reduce support calls • Improve data entry accuracy • Better communication
  38. 38. What you did + how well you did it Identified several easy-to-fix usability issues by conducting a quick heuristic review. Created personas that helped UX and developers focus on user goals.
  39. 39. Some closing thoughts…
  40. 40. Better presentation means you’re more likely to be evaluated on your true skills and merits and find a job where you’re valued and challenged.
  41. 41. Let’s raise the bar
  42. 42. Thank you! Kim Bieler • @feadog

Hinweis der Redaktion

  • The first thing you learn as a hiring manager is UX resumes are surprisingly awful. Grammatical errors, sloppy formatting, and just plain bad writing are common—even among candidates who claim to have “excellent written communication skills” and “attention to detail.” 
  • Even the resumes that don’t have obvious errors seem to cluster around two extremes: Generic and yawn-inducing, or so desperate to make an impression they’re embarrassing. Like this “graph” of the candidate’s personal characteristics.
  • Surpsingly, UX resumes are just as bad as everyone else’s resumes. In some respects, they’worse.
  • You would think a profession that claims to know how to design for the user would do a better job of it. That we’d have a better understanding of who is reading our resumes, what their goals are, and how to design an effective deliverable for them. 

    Let’s look at who’s reading your resume and what their goals are.
  • In our hiring process, first I look at resumes, then I do a phone screen, then I bring you in for an interview and a whiteboard exercise.  
  • The resume helps me figure out if you seem like you can do our job.

    The phone screen is to verify that you’ve got appropriate experience that you can speak to effectively—and that you’re not a total whack job.

    And the interview is where you prove it.
  • So, really, the title of this talk is a lie. All the resume has to do is get you to the next stage of the hiring process, whatever that is.
  • That’s right, all it has to do is get me to call you.
  • Which ought to be simple. Except 85-90% of the resumes I receive get rejected before the phone screen. And that’s pretty standard ratio, based on other managers I’ve talked to.

    What’s going on here? Probably half of the rejects are because the candidate isn’t really a UX designer—they’re visual designers or developers or instructional desigers.

    The other half are UX designers who have convinced me that it would be a waste of time to call them.
  • Even if you have a qualified UX resume, there are PLENTY of ways to convince me not to call you.

    Looking at this list, you might be thinking I’m a total hard ass who’ll reject you for any little old thing.
  • In fact, that’s true: The hiring manager IS looking for reasons to reject you.

    Reading resumes is a process of deduction: As soon as I start reading a resume, I’m mentally deducting points for anything I don’t like. Too many deductions, and you’re out.
  • A few grammatical errors may not seem like a big deal, but when I see these kind of problem, this is what I’m thinking.

    To understand this point of view, you need to appreciate what’s a stake: As a manager, hiring is my most important responsibility. The quality of the employees will make or break the company. The best hires are what we call "top performers."

  • Top performers not only produce great work, they naturally take responsibility and ownership and go the extra mile. They are self-directed—they figure out what works needs to get done and just go do it—and therefore require little tasking or management. They are never satisfied with their work; they’re always striving to be better and they push the whole team to be better. They’re emotionally mature. They make smart decisions. They build trust with others. They have high integrity and ethics.
  • On the flip side, the worst thing I can do as a manager is hire poorly.
    Bad hires are expensive. They’re less productive and the quality of their work is lower. They're much more work to manage. They tend to drag the team down or create poor morale. Once they’re on board, they're hard to get rid of. 
    Just to be clear—most of the time, a bad hire is not because the person is lazy or incompetent, but because the situation is a bad fit. It’s easy to make mistakes during this hiring process and hire someone who’s not right for the job, or the job’s not right for them.

    Everything I see in your resume I am weighing against the possibility of making a mistake. The more red flags I see, the more questions I have—the more risky you look. This isn’t everyone gets a trophy day. I can’t afford to give you the benefit of the doubt.
  • In short, it’s better to reject a candidate than to hire poorly.

  • I want to minimize my risk, so when I’m evaluating candidates, I’m looking for evidence of those top performer behaviors. At every step of the way, I’m trying to figure out, how will this candidate perform on the job?

  • This is why you’ll often get what they call “behavioral" questions in the interview. You can recognize behavioral questions, because they usually start with, “Tell me about a time when you… had to go the extra mile to make the deadline.” 
    The thinking behind these type of questions is, past behavior is the most reliable predictor of future behavior. If you were willing to pull an all-nighter at your last job, you’ll probably be willing to do that for my job. If you were successful at launching a website at your last job, you’ll probably be able to help us launch a website.

    If you’re a top performer, I should see evidence of that in your resume. 
  • This ought to be pretty straightforward, but apparently many designers think that the best way to get me to call them is to write a paragraph about their personal philosophy of design.

    Or help me get to know them with a plucky, heart-felt “who I am” section.

    Or to prove they’re hip to the latest trends by making a super-cool infographic out of subjective, qualitative data… to two decimal places of accuracy.
  • The problem is that none of this tell me if you can do our job. In fact, a lot of the time this stuff actually works against you because it’s either poorly written or poorly conceived, or both.
    At a basic level it doesn’t matter what you believe or what kind of person you are. What matters is how effective you are on the job. Yes, of course, your beliefs and personality can make you more effective. But if that’s all you’ve got in your resume, you’re asking the hiring manager to take a huge leap of faith.
  • So...Instead of explaining your design philosophy, explain how you apply those design principles in your work and how they make your work better.
    Instead of writing about your personality, give examples of how effectively you communicate, persuade, and lead. 
    Instead of telling me all the things that you want, why don’t you think about what I want and tell me how hiring you will get me that.
  • But I am glad you created this infographic out of your skill set, since now I know not to hire you for any actual data visualization work. Or, in this case, user research.
    The mind-boggling thing about these infographics is that, to make it looks like a real graph, people always throw in a few things they’re not good at. This is very helpful to the hiring manager as it makes it much easier for me to reject you.

    Who would put stuff they’re not good at in their resume?. It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what the resume is for.
  • When I see this stuff in resumes, I feel like designers are desperately trying to communicate their inner, authentic selves—but it’s completely backfiring. For example, if I ask you about your design approach in the interview, would you say: “good design requires a fine balance of user empathy, aesthetics, keen business acumen, and deep understanding of your users”? Of course not. You’d sound like a pretentiousjerk. Which is exactly how it comes across in the resume—stilted and unnatural. 

    Most of us simply aren’t good enough writers to pull this kind of thing off effectively. Stick to your strengths.
  • I’ll say it again: the more you try to be creative, the more chances you have to get it wrong. 

    I’m not saying you won’t get hired if you put that stuff in your resume. I’m saying it’s risky because you don’t know if the hiring manager is someone who thinks your infographic is really nifty!, or someone like me, who’s going to eviscerate it. 
    The exception to this would be if you can tell from the job description that the hiring manager is looking for evidence of your individuality in the resume. Or you feel like the job is so competitive that it's worth taking a huge risk to stand out. If that’s the case, by all means, go for it.
    However, don’t then take that wacky resume and blanket the job market with it. 
    Really, you should be tailoring your resume for every job you apply to. Since you’re probably not going to do that, it's much safer to stick to the facts. Don’t try to guess at what the hiring manager will find cute or amusing. You’ll get a much better sense of that during the phone screen or interview. 
  • Now that you know what the hiring manager is looking for, let’s see if a typical resume tells me what I need to know.

    The first thing on this resume is asummary paragraph. I don’t know how these things have crept into resumes lately. The resume is already a summary of your qualifications, it hardly needs another summary on top of the summary. 
    I think they’re supposed to personalize the resume and help me get to know the candidate—which always strikes me as kind of premature. It’s like being on a awkward blind date—we hardly know each other and this candidate is already talking about his passion. 
    In general, summary statements are where I see a lot of bad grammar and overblown prose. They’re often written in a high-toned manner that is especially difficult to pull off if English is not your first language.

  • Next, is his objective. By now, you probably know better than to put one of these in your resume. The problem is, objective statements always say the same thing: "I want a job.” I know you want a job or you wouldn’t be sending me your resume. I’m not wild about the two different fonts, either, or his use of “pluridisciplinary” which seems like a strange word choice.
    So far, none of this is telling me why this candidate would be a good hire.

  • Next, he has an “Areas of Expertise” section. These are also getting to be very common in UX resumes—a sort of grab-bag area that lists skills, techniques, software packages, and design approach bullets. To some extent this helps me, because if I don’t see some key terms like user experience design or wireframing, that’s probably a bad sign.
    Just a quick reminder: “expertise” means you’re an expert. And that means a list like this should probably be short. Not to mention that if you say you’re an expert in information architecture, you’d better be prepared to answer some expert-level questions in the interview.
  • Let’s look at some of his bullets: “Put the user at the center of all stages of production” and “Use agile inspired processes” — I don’t know what this means by these phrases. It sounds like he’s paraphrasing something he’s heard about but doesn’t really understand.
    I see this kind of buzzword salad a lot. He’s trying to say something, but he doesn’t have the vocabulary or the concepts to express it in a concrete way. This kind of vague generalizing means that the candidate either doesn’t have any experience, or he has some experience but he doesn’t understand it well enough to say something specific.
    Even when these expertise sections are better written, the problem is they don’t have any context. 
    Anybody can say they have expertise in project management—I need to know how many years you’ve done project management, how recently, what kind of projects you managed, what your management responsibilities were, what you did, and what kind of outcomes you got. 
    That’s the kind of information that helps me decide how you are going to perform on the job.
  • Halfway down the page, we finally get to his job experience. But again, I’m missing all the context. First, there’s no description of what kind of company he’s the owner and manager of. That seems relevant, don’t you think?
    “Bringing new ideas to exploit the capabilities of mobile and internet technologies”—that’s great, if this were a marketing brochure. What I’d like to see is an actual example of a project where he came up with a new idea to exploit mobile technology.

    This is where I gave up. Three quarters of a page in, and I haven’t seen anything that convinces me this candidate can do our job or even understand what our job is. Based on his resume, I am convinced it would be a waste of time to call him because I don’t believe he’d be any more articulate or specific in person.
    At this point, I wouldn’t be looking at the second page at all. Most of the time I don’t get to the second page because I’ve already made up my mind on the first page. I don’t usually look past the two most recent jobs in any case.
  • Realistically, only the first page counts. Or, put another way, you had better make your case on the first page, because the hiring manager might not get to the second.

    I’ve gotten UX resumes that are 8 pages and longer. How is that a good user experience?
  • Look how much space he wasted telling me about his design philosophy, his passion, his so-called areas of expertise. I’d half made up my mind before I ever got to his job experience. And he might very well have relevant experience, but I can’t tell, and I’m not about to waste more time calling him to find out when I’ve got 20 other resumes to look at.
    More is not better. I don’t need to know every detail of every three-month consulting gig you’ve had for the past fifteen years, or every paper you’ve ever published, or every piece of software you’ve touched, or every UX technique you’ve tried. I just need to know enough to feel confident that it won’t be a waste of time to call you. 
  • Also, I’m always amazed how many candidates call themselves detail-oriented, and yet their resumes are full of formatting inconsistencies and typos. Being detail-oriented MEANS caring about this kind of thing. Don’t make this claim unless you can back it up. This is another example of where something the candidate stuck in there as an afterthough, now counts against him.
  • I’ve talked a lot about how resumes get rejected. What does it take to NOT be rejected? What does it take to make it to the phone screen?

    Basically, your resume just has to not have a lot of red flags (which is a pretty low bar). Depending on how many applicants I get, I do phone screens for the top 10 or 15%. These are not necessarily candidates I am excited about. In fact, I very rarely see resumes that make me feel like I need to interview the candidate right away — maybe one resume in a hundred. 
    Because I can’t usually tell a whole lot from the resume, I end up doing more phone screens than is efficient. Basically, I have to phone screen to get the information that ought to be in the resume.
    So what’s missing from these resumes that would make me excited?
    You’ve probably heard somewhere that for each job on your resume, you need to describe your responsibilities, then list some key accomplishments.
  • Here’s the problem: Wireframes are not an accomplishment.
    Most UX resumes contain no actual accomplishments, they only list responsibilities. Responsibilities are what you get hired to do. Responsibilities are what someone who got fired from your position could honestly put on their resume. 
    If all you put on your resume is responsibilities, then even if you’re a top performer, you look exactly the same on paper as that slacker on the other side of the cube who comes in late every day and does the bare minimum.
    What makes you different from that chump? Accomplishments. You’re accomplishing stuff, and he isn’t. If responsibilities are the must-haves, accomplishments are the delighters.
  • An accomplishment is what YOU did and how well you did it. Where “how well” means how it benefited the company. 
  • Let’s look at an example: “Designed wireframes" is not an accomplishment. 
  • “Designed wireframes that met with stakeholder approval,” is an accomplishment. Why, because it describes the outcome.
  • “Designed wireframes that won approval from a difficult stakeholder” is an even better accomplishment because it suggests that you overcame a challenge.
  • “Won over a difficult stakeholder by designing detailed wireframes for every screen and state,” is a delighter.
    Look at what’s happening in that last accomplishment:

    - First and foremost, you’re giving me a sense of how you’re going to perform on the job. If you can do that for your current company, you can probably do that for ours.
    - You’re telling me how you overcame difficulties. I don’t care how you do when everything is perfect, I want to know how you do when things are tough—because that’s most of the time.
    - There’s clearly a story behind this accomplishment. And you can bet I’m going to ask about it in the interview: “Tell me about that difficult stakeholder. What was so difficult about them? How did you decide that detailed wireframes were the answer?"
    - Since you know I’m going to ask that, you can have a smart, succinct answer prepared, and ace the interview.
  • You already know how to write responsibilities, but how do you write accomplishments?
    First, start with some success you’ve had over the past year, that you feel proud of or that someone praised you for. 
    Maybe you've heard of the “5 whys” technique of problem definition? It’s where you start with the problem statement, then keep asking why until you get to the root problem—the real problem, if you will.
    When you’re writing accomplishments, I want you to use the “5 so whats” technique.  Here’s how it works: Write down what you think you accomplished, then ask yourself, “so what”? Keep rewriting it until you have something that’s specific, strong, and compelling.

    I know you can do wireframes. I want to know how well you communicate your ideas when you’ve got deadlines, constraints, roadblocks. I want to know how you handle difficult decisions and difficult people. I want to know what you did that nobody asked you to do, that made a difference to the project. I want to know how you changed things, turned things around, and made something better.
    I don’t expect your resume to tell me all that in detail, but I want to see hints. 
  • When you’re trying to capture how well you did something, remember that what matters is how it benefitted the company. 

    Benefits to the company are simple because there are only two measures that matter: increasing revenue or decreasing costs. 
  • Increasing revenue means literally bringing in more money. So if your work directly contributes to new sales or contracts, those are powerful accomplishments—particularly if you can attach a number to them.
  • Even if your work doesn’t directly contribute to the top line, there are plenty of indirect ways to increase revenue:

    - Did the client see an increase in subscriptions or members after you launched the new website?
    - Did the changes you made to the shopping cart increase conversions?
    - Is the new version of the product you worked on selling faster?
    - Did your work win the company good press reviews?
  • Here are a couple of examples that don’t rely on numbers.
  • Decreasing costs means saving the company money, time, or resources. If you are literally saving the company money, that’s awesome.
  • However, it’s more likely you’re saving the company time or resources, for example:
    - Do you always deliver your work on time?
    - Is your pattern library speeding up the design process?
    - Did your new IA eliminate dozens of screens of content?
    - Did you start writing a weekly status report that your clients love?
  • Here are a couple more examples that don’t rely on numbers.

    This is what you get when you keep asking so what? Instead of just saying you did a heuristic review or user personas, you’ve figure out why they were effective. Furthermore, accomplishments written this way will be meaningful to ANYONE reading your resume (recruiters, HR, managers), even they know nothing about UX.

    Think about how much better you’re going to perform in an interview if you’ve taken the time to analyze and articulate your business value. Nobody in UX does this, so you’re automatically going to look like a rock star compared to the next candidate.
  • I mentioned that bad hiring is the worst thing I can do. But almost as bad is rejecting somebody who might have been a great hire. That’s bad for both of us.

    If you’re really a top performer, but I can’t tell because your resume is so generic or lacking in accomplishments, that’s a missed opportunity. I might have to hire someone less skilled, and you might have to take another job that’s not such a good fit.
    Likewise, if you do get an interview based on that bad resume, and you can’t talk about your value and accomplishments in the interview, but you get hired anyway—what does that say about the hiring manager? 

    Wouldn’t you rather work for someone with high standards, who can tell the difference? You might end up taking a job at a place where they don’t value or want what you have to offer.
  • I believe that better presentation means you’re more likely to be evaluated on your true skills and merits, and find a job where you’re valued and challenged. 
  • So let’s raise the bar in hiring. Let’s write better resumes, do better interviews, and understand our value and accomplishments. Let’s reclaim the resume and really make it work for us
  • Thank you guys very much.