You Fell in Love with UX, but Who’s Hiring?

Aspiring UX Designers might be just as successful and fulfilled in a modern People Ops role.

Aspiring UX Designers interviewing with us at Viget often tell a compelling story. It features empathy, insight, compassion, and determination. When describing how they got into UX, they emphasize their love of and curiosity about people. They highlight their own intuition, explaining that they discovered they were doing UX before they knew it had a name. Their passion has always been to help others, and they realize that the prospect of improving everyday online experiences fulfills their sense of purpose. They highlight how much they’ve enjoyed learning core UX Design processes – research, discovery, design, testing, iterating – and applying them in new contexts. They are resolved to bring all this together and become a UX Designer. It’s an inspiring journey to behold.

Unfortunately, however, the job market for junior UX Designers seems to be saturated or close to it. Applicants express frustration at the age-old dilemma of how to break into the field when so many positions require experience, but getting a first job feels impossible. Even among experienced UX Designers, it can be challenging to create a portfolio that truly showcases your talent. For juniors without much work to show, the challenge is even more daunting. I’m sympathetic to these frustrations!

Our industry is currently experiencing the “Great Resignation,” with 30-40% of tech workers planning to change jobs in 2021. Facilitating all those transitions as smoothly as possible – both the exits and the arrivals – takes talent. On top of that, there’s more emphasis than ever on mental health in the workplace, requiring additional time and talent. In addition, HR teams are being held accountable for commitments to increasing diversity and inclusion (again, it takes talent!). The 2021 trends in HR point to significant changes to what HR teams are expected to do – tldr; it is more, not less. Not surprisingly, these factors culminate in there being a lot of HR hiring right now, especially for Recruiters.

I’d like to suggest that many aspiring UX Designers would make great Recruiters. And they might love the career. Here’s why:

  • Process Design - one core problem a Recruiter is trying to solve is how to accurately evaluate a candidate’s skills. Thinking like a Designer to create a reliable assessment process is a rewarding part of the job.

  • People - Recruiters need to be able to connect with people; not just ones they like, but all kinds of people across disciplines, tenure, locations, etc. An innate curiosity about people and instincts for how they think and behave will help you build rapport with applicants.

  • Empathy - Seeing a situation from a candidate’s perspective will give you an advantage when it comes to designing an enjoyable candidate experience.

  • Process - A Recruiter who is process-oriented, capable of balancing efficiency and effectiveness while juggling a lot of disparate tasks, will thrive. A consistent, equitable process is essential to building a great team.

  • Intuition - Just like there’s more than one way to design a product onboarding flow, sometimes there are multiple candidates who meet the qualifications. Good decisions may hinge on good instincts.

  • Big picture - A great Recruiter needs to think about things like overall retention rates (and by different demographic groups); company growth into new business areas; industry evolutions that create demand for new skills; and shifts in society that create demand for new benefits. Looking up out of the weeds to see the big picture is a key skill for both career paths.

  • Clear communication - Every piece of content is a chance to build trust with prospective applicants, just as the smallest interactions and copy choices build trust with users. Whether you’re creating a job description, a careers page, an employment branding strategy, or responding to a candidate’s email, your communication should showcase your company’s culture.

We’re on a roll, so here are a few more ways folks trained in UX Design can bring value as Recruiters:

  • User research - A UXer is trained to conduct interviews with business goals, user needs, and pain points in mind. That skill is a big advantage in recruiting when you’ll need to conduct interviews that unveil useful information and predict compatibility.

  • Competitive research - Similarly, Recruiters often do research to understand where prospective candidates are coming from, what might attract them to a new position, and how to make a potential job change compelling. Those competitive analysis research skills will definitely come in handy.

  • Visual Thinking - Were you enamored with UX in part because of an affection for visual communication? Great. The ability to use visual tools to bring order to complicated information like the candidate experience process, evaluation process flows, or application timelines and dependencies, will benefit a Recruiter, hiring managers, and candidates. 

  • Data - A lot of data comes into play when evaluating a large volume of candidates. UX’ers often love using spreadsheets (or even better, Airtable!) to make sense of data, see patterns, unearth insights, and build consensus. Recruiters love that, too!

  • Collaboration - Recruiters collaborate with hiring managers, company leaders, and larger People Operations teams. Cross-disciplinary collaborations skills are crucial.

At some companies, being a Recruiter is about being fast, aggressive, and ruled by quotas. My advice: don’t work at those places. More and more companies, especially those doing “knowledge work,” understand that a shallow approach to hiring that prioritizes speed will not result in great hires, long tenures, or strong company cultures. There is a growing trend to reject traditional HR and move towards a people-first, data-informed, business-critical approach: “People Operations.” And within People Operations teams, Recruiters are increasingly seen to be:

  • Essential to the organization’s success. At a company of Viget's size, recruiting is arguably the most important activity we do: not only are we hiring the people who deliver the work, we're ensuring everyone has top-notch coworkers they trust. It's recruiting and retention rolled together. 

  • Ambassadors of the company’s brand, culture, and values.

  • A first line of offense to show a commitment to equity and inclusion.

  • Versatile people who help keep the company engaged and informed, and are able to flex into areas like learning, development, employee experience, DEI, and wellness.

  • A ‘secret weapon’ to gaining a competitive edge over peer companies (because nothing matters more to a company than its people!)

There are a lot of different kinds of talent teams, many specializations within recruiting, and big differences between working in-house versus at an agency. My perspective is informed by being part of a small People Operations team within a privately-owned, small company where every employee is valued. I’d love to see aspiring UX Designers look into recruiting roles. There’s an opportunity to bring smart process, insightful problem solving, and practical yet genuine empathy into People Operations and, as a result, have a substantial impact on the success of a business. We need more systems-thinkers and strong communicators working in this space. Just like UX touts, we need People Ops to be people-centered.

Lastly, I think entering the tech industry as a Recruiter can be an avenue into other more niche roles within People Operations, including People Analytics, Employee Engagement, or coaching and development. Behavioral psychology, artificial intelligence, and all kinds of cutting-edge software solutions are also booming areas of the field. You may not land too far from UX Design after all.

If you’re intrigued, you might start by reading about the open Recruiter position at Viget.

Emily Bloom

Emily is Viget's people director, hailing from our Durham, NC, office. She specializes in heart-to-hearts and asking questions that don’t have concrete answers.

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