5 Steps to an Uber user experience job description
I’ve seen plenty of consulting and full-time positions in the past few years for User Experience experts. However, I’ve never seen two job descriptions for user experience that are the same. And unfortunately I’ve seen plenty of job descriptions that actually include conflicting information, or have confusing descriptions for what user experience practitioners actually do.
There’s good reason for this.
It’s fashionable for companies to use the term “user experience,” but nobody has a clear, simple and standardized definition of what it actually is.
User Experience is not a common or well understood job, such as Accountants or Bookkeepers, that have well defined and broadly known duties. Worse, many of the Associations that a typical user experience professional may belong to, that hiring managers may refer to for job information, have overlapping or confusing descriptions for the practice.
The reality is UX is a bucket for all types of job duties, everything from information architecture to usability testing to visual design can be defined as “user experience.” But each of those is actually quite different skill sets that may or may not be suitable for a particular UX role.
So if you are interested in hiring a user experience expert, but don’t know exactly how to write the job description, here’s 5 steps that can help you:
#1 – Determine your firm’s user experience goals
Instead of trying to determine what skills (IA, usability testing, research, etc.) the position should have, start by determining what goals this position must accomplish. The goals should directly align to the business’ success metrics, and if possible should be quantifiable based on goals typically tracked by the business.
For example: An eCommerce company that sells products online to new and existing customers might have the following goal:
“The user experience leader’s goal will be to help increase eCommerce sales by 5% annually through optimization of the UX for new web site visitors and existing customers.”
#2 – Define the user experience expert’s place in the firm
Often, job descriptions I’ve seen typically do not specify clearly where in the organization the user experience expert will operate. They fail to communicate where his or her boundaries are.
Yet this is important information because it can help prospective candidates mentally map the position to their prior experiences and skills, to see if they qualify for the position. And more importantly, it can help the hiring manager clearly identify if the prospect has the requisite past experience in this type of function. If there are no boundaries, and the user experience expert has the ability to interact with all divisions that should be made known as well.
For example: A medical devices firm with products for physicians might have the following boundaries:
“The user experience expert will report to the SVP of research and development, and will interact with R&D, manufacturing, operations and product managers to conduct user research, testing and optimization of new and existing devices.”
#3 – Identify expertise and skill sets the user experience expert should possess
If the company’s focus and goals are about improving the UI and visual aspects of the UX, then expertise and skills that map to visual design user experience practitioners should be used. If however the company is more focused on user interaction and functions of applications, then potentially UI or coding skill sets may be necessary.
A hiring manager should carefully research what they think they may need, based on the goals and boundaries, but be open-minded to differences in expertise and skill sets among candidates.
For example: A company seeking user experience improvements of internally and externally focused applications may identify the following skill sets:
“The user experience expert will utilize wireframes, html-mockups and simple prototypes to test and recommend improvements to internally and externally focused applications.”
#4 – Indicate desired management level / expertise
Many larger sized firms already have user experience groups, but many mid and small sized firms do not. It’s important to indicate whether this role is entrepreneurial, i.e., a single user experience position that must do the work plus manage processes and vendors, or is managerial, thus responsible for managing the work of an already existing user experience team. If the company desires to grow a UX team, then this too should be noted, and experiences at building staff and processes should be mentioned in the job description.
For example: A firm looking for a “sole proprietor” hands-on UX expert without an already existing staff may indicate:
“The user experience candidate will act as the single practitioner for all UX work for the firm, and will perform all activities as well manage 3rd party vendors in conducting UX research and optimization.”
#5 Explain any development process experience needed
Some firms use Agile or SCRUM methods to develop applications, and if so this must be noted. The methods used for ‘traditional’ user research, such as with contextual inquiry, field research or 1-on-1 usability testing sessions may not work as well in Agile environments where iterations come in weekly batches. Methods of user research used may need more speedy yet less deep methodologies of research, and expertise in conducting same.
For example: A firm that uses Agile methods to develop mobile apps may require:
“The user experience candidate will operate in an Agile development environment and will be expected to deliver UX feedback on a weekly basis.”
Conclusion – How to write a user experience job description
There are plenty of other, more traditional aspects of a job description that should be included for user experience practitioners. These include, but are not limited to any need to interact with other virtual team members spread in geographically diverse areas, any need to interact and deliver analysis to senior executives, and education requirements or specific software usage requirements.
Coupled with the 5 tips above, a user experience job description can be written in such a way that both the hiring manager and the candidates will have a clear understanding of the duties and requirements for the job.
Sources for more user experience job description information:
- UPA, What Are 5 Things You Wish Recruiters Knew About User Experience?
- Kenneth M. Berger, User Experience Job Resources
- WikiPedia.org, User Experience Design
- Mashable.com, 10 Most Common Misconceptions About User Experience Design
- About.com, How To Develop A Job Description