13 April 2007

How do you interview for challenge and innovation?

Market demand for designers and managers that understand experience, interaction and usability is at an all time high. Fortune 500 companies in even desirable locations are having difficulty hiring talent. UI designers on average demand a 10-25% premium over visual designers. Over and over at SxSW I heard people say the “if you are a UI or Ux designer, and not passionate about what you are doing, there is no reason to stay.” But conversely it is hard to leave, and hard to know where to go.

Corporate managers and recruiters are not stupid, just ill-informed. Do not let the fact that they do not know what skills to ask for, and how to determine if you have them, fool you. They get it,they know what you want. You want to be paid, well, and most likely you are looking for a challenge. You want to be passionate about your work. They will work hard to promise all of this and more.

The reality is that very few companies really do innovative work. And unless you are a well-published or noted superstar, it will be a while before you are assigned such a project. Few companies are leaders and so most are followers. The standard follower strategy is to capitalize on the leaders R&D efforts and reduce the cost of keeping pace. The theoretical intent is to garner resources for a time when you can afford R&D and leapfrog the leaders. More likely, that optimized margin will instead go to the executives and shareholders – because that is where the power is. Pardon my cynicism... but that really is where it will go.

So how do you know from within the job interview if you will be challenged? I am not sure you can. Knowing a trusted insider can help. But it is fairly likely that within a few months you will be looking again, maybe moving. Can you say contractor?