How To Hire a Product Designer

Any business is, first and foremost, based on people. Having the right people on board is a key factor for success. Recruiting a new employee or a freelancer is always difficult and crucial.

Hiring a product designer is no different than any other profession. However, there are some unique aspects that need to be considered when hiring a product designer (as an employee or a freelancer). In this article, I list ten product designer characteristics and skills and explain how to approach each of them in the recruiting process.

Preliminary to the recruiting process, you have to define the product designer’s job and your expectations, and to prioritize the value of each of the below list aspects accordingly.

Recognize the designer’s style based on his portfolio and see if it matches your expectations. Designers can adapt different styles, but it’s always better to have a good style matching.

If the product designer’s job requires technical aspects, you have to make sure the designer has the needed skills and experience. The best way to evaluate a product designer’s technical abilities is by asking her a few technical questions as part of the job interview.

Product design projects are always time sensitive. Product designers should know how to work and deliver in short timetables. The problem is: you do not see the duration of the work in a portfolio. Ask the product designer how long it took him to make the products he presents on the portfolio and what his part was of the work. You can also give him a design task as a test to see how he works, and how fast.

You do not want uncreative product designers working for you. You can evaluate the designer’s creativity by the portfolio, and by simply asking her to show/describe the most innovative products or ideas (or anything else) she did. It’s easy to recognize innovation when you see it.

Communication skills might seem like a non-issue. After all, we all know how to speak and write. Communication, however, is one of the most important conditions for a successful product design process. The ability to (verbally and textually) define, explain, pitch, ask, and answer sharply can save a lot of time and potential misunderstandings. Check the product designer’s writing and speaking skills as well as reading and listening abilities.

CAD programs act as the pencil of product designers today. Designers should be CAD masters to efficiently deliver. Don’t hire designers who lack experience with the relevant CAD program. You can test this ability with a simple CAD test—ask the designer to build something challenging and check the outcome, the process, and the duration.

Hand sketching is a very important skill for product designers for two main reasons. First as a visual thinking tool, and second as a very fast (much faster than CAD) visual communication tool. Ask your prospect designer to show his hand sketches and ask how long it took him to sketch it.

Sometimes an ego can stand between failure and success. Egos are an inherent part of the design profession; all designers have some sort of ego. However, when the designer’s ego is overinflated, it can immobilize the product design process and soured the atmosphere. Try to figure out where your designer’s ego is in advance.

A product design process requires systematic work. Systematic means planned, organized, and formulated as opposed to intuitive and random. Learn how systematic your new product designer is.

A designer without passion is like an athlete without energy. Don’t hire a designer if you can’t feel his or her enthusiasm and excitement.

Note about portfolio reviewing
The portfolio is the product designer’s shopwindow. Here are five recommended questions to ask a candidate product designer when reviewing his or her portfolio:
1. What was your part in any of the works?
2. How long (gross and net) did you work on each work?
3. What do/don’t you like in each of the works and why?
4. What was the main challenge in each of the works & how did you handle it?
5. Who was the manager or client? And ask to talk with them.

On my next post I’ll discuss the substantial relationships between product design, sourcing and manufacturing. Be notified about this upcoming post.

  • adhitya

    Another great insight… I’ll be waiting for your next post!

    • Yariv Sade

      Thanks :)