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Running a designer trial

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For the last two weeks we’ve been running a paid trial for the position of Designer at pebble.code with Mark Durrant . Here’s an outline of how we ran the trial.

Two weeks

We had a tough time recruiting a junior-mid level designer. Typically portfolio’s were non-existent and finding a designer who spoke the language of web apps was difficult. We were looking for a designer with HTML/CSS skills too which make it even more difficult. We then found Mark Durrant, a talented young designer from Swindon. We were impressed enough by interviews and his work to offer him a two week paid trial. Here’s one example from his portfolio:

We decided that running a two week trial was a good amount of time to really test Mark’s capabilities and to run him through all of the skills that we were looking for. As a web application business we were primarily looking for someone to create UIs for our web apps, but also to have an overall design eye and potentially to take ownership of the UX and Creative side of things.

Identity design

The first task we gave Mark was to look at the identity design for pebble.code. Prior to Mark arriving we had worked hard as a business to provide a tight creative brief for the work and within an hour and half of arriving Mark was straight into it. As much as testing his creative skill we wanted to test his ability to present designs, receive feedback and to iterate designs.

By 3pm on Tuesday Mark had produced three concepts and presented them strongly too.

We were immediately impressed. Feedback came for Mark in all forms. Sketches on paper, verbal feedback and emails. We were looking for how Mark would manage this feedback and it quickly became obvious he was skilled at pushing back where he needed to but was able to respond quickly to feedback.

Mark was able to iterate the designs towards a workable identity and produced an accompanying website design by the end of the week. We are likely to use the branding and website that he produced so within the first week he had exceeded our expectations.

Bread and butter

The first week had been a gentle introduction testing skills that we hoped would be within Mark’s comfort zone. For the second week we wanted to focus more on the day to day task that Mark would be expected to perform.

On the Monday we set Mark the task of redesigning a complex form from one of our production web apps. Mark responded by thinking through the grouping of form elements but without really changing the layout of the page or focussing on the user experience. At last something he wasn’t good at!

Tuesday saw Mark redesigning Tricklr, one of our web apps. Tricklr is still in production but allows users to trickle out tweets over time. Mark did a great job here, really enhancing the existing design and proving his iconography on the homepage.

On Wednesday we moved Mark onto some UX work, asking him to close Creative Suite. We asked him to consider ideapi, one of our web products and the user journeys involved in creating an idea. This was not a task we were expecting him to perform well in but again he had thoroughly exceeded our expectations.

We were impressed with how he went right back to basics, assessing the process of how an idea is created on paper. He spoke the language of UX very well and produced some good wireframes exploring a response to the problem.

After some feedback Mark continued to work on this on Thursday and delivered some impressive wireframes that gave us complete confidence he could deliver this type of work to our clients.

A strong trial

This was the first time we’ve undertaken this type of trial. We felt that for the level we were looking for Mark had performed very well on all of the tasks. There were certainly areas he can improve on but we were not looking for the finished article.

As a business we felt completely confident in making Mark an offer and I think the experience was a good one for Mark too. He was able to be exposed to all of the skills that he’ll be using in the role within a safe sandbox. Hopefully he’ll blog here about his experience of the trial too.

Based on the trial we have made Mark an offer and we are happy to say he has accepted!

Have an update or suggestion for this article? You can edit it here and send me a pull request.


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