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Recruiting UX Ain’t Easy – A Headhunter’s Tale

UX is booming, and many organizations are looking for a few good UXers.

Knowing your stuff isn’t necessarily enough to land your dream job. Those in charge of hiring UX professionals are concerned with a number of other factors; don’t let it catch you off guard.

Note from the Editor: Though we recently discussed the ins and outs of UX job hunting, it’s not everyday we get to hear things from the perspective of the recruiters. Here, Ad Carpenter of the recruiting agency iDream Talent tells it like it is.

Hunting for UX talent is nothing short of finding a needle in a haystack. For the past three weeks, the iDream Talent team hunted high and low for talented User Experience professionals (e.g. UX practitioners, researchers) that fit the personality profile and technical expertise sought after by our clients. New to the industry, we operated by utilizing many of the same resources available to any company looking to hire UXers: LinkedIn, Facebook, personal networks, referrals, job boards and postings, alumni networks, career service centers. We had trouble finding what we were hunting for. A lot of trouble.

Why was it tougher—scratch that, toughest—to find a UXer compared to other positions we recruit for (specialized dentists, web designers, etc.)? When we do find candidates, many never respond. Others make outrageous demands for what they think they deserve in their next position, without any knowledge of the marketplace or the supply and demand of talent. But of all the scenarios we encountered, two things became painfully apparent: job boards aren’t working and UXers are bad at marketing themselves.

Bold statements? Definitely. Is there truth to them both? Absolutely.

The Times, They Are A-Changin’

Job boards are no longer working. In the words of a former professor of mine that headed Signals Intelligence at the National Security Agency, job boards are a perfect example of the increasing problem of “signals versus noise.” In the Information Age, we are suffering more and more from too much information (indigestion) versus too little (undernourished). With job boards placing your resume into a large and ever-increasing database, it is harder for recruiters and hiring managers to find the “signals” (the right candidate) among all the noise (the thousands of applications we’re not looking for). Want to stand out? Job Boards are probably not your best bet.

Second, recruiters and businesses are shifting their paradigm from an “either/or” type of recruiting to an “and.” In the past, whether head hunters and recruiters were searching for physicians or web designers, an individual with expertise and experience trumped personality and the importance of culture almost every time. Thanks to Jim Collins (and his book, Good to Great) and several other authors and researchers, businesses now understand that the personality and the so-called culture-adding ability of an individual significantly impact profitability, productivity, and sustainability, among other healthy characteristics of a successful organization. We’ve hence moved from recruiting expertise or personality to demanding expertise and personality.

For UXers, this means that it’s not enough to cite the laundry list of programs you know or the several projects you’ve successfully completed in your field. We want to know more: who are you? How do you influence others? What makes you come alive? Do you have a pulse and personality?

Believe it or not, more and more of our clients now require that a candidate pass the “Vacation Test” before we submit them as a viable choice. If they are not someone you’d like to spend a few days on vacation socializing with, then you do not pass Go, regardless of your expertise and experience.

Differentiate Yourself

With that said, we’re left with the natural question that UXers must face: how do I market myself better and get great career opportunities?

Keep your options open. Take an active approach to your professional development by constantly looking for new opportunities. Individuals that actively form relationships with recruiters will be at an advantage to their peers. Recruiters, while seldom UX experts, hold a unique 10,000-foot view of the industry, of changing business needs, and of how your job may change in the upcoming months and years. Maintaining contact with them and asking what you can do to remain competitive will put you far above the crowd. Consider it an extra resource and take advantage of it—it’s free!

But maybe keep your porcelain rabbit collection on the hush-hush.

Show some personality. Are you a little weird and nerdy? Have a secret hobby like collecting Star Wars figurines? Take time to feel out the recruiter and when appropriate, use humor and your humanity to engage the recruiter and hiring manager. Take time to uncover their interests and tie in your own. Rather than word-vomit the list of applications, programs, and knowledge you’ve ascertained, add some flavor to the conversation by reminding us that you, too, are human. Lists are forgotten, but stories and details tend to stick.

And that’s how I see it…

In short, UXers face a great opportunity to differentiate themselves from their peers when it comes to career development, advancement and landing that dream job. While the first inclination may be to hit up the job boards and list your expertise, personality, relationships with recruiters, and leveraging your networks will remain critically important. If you’re top UX talent with a great personality, recruiters are hunting for you.

About the Author

Addison Carpenter

Addison James Carpenter is originally from Portage, Michigan. After graduating from Georgetown University with a degree in foreign service, Addison joined a talent-assessment consultancy and built their sports division from the ground up. With success serving several clients, industries and sports teams, he decided to amplify his impact by founding iDream Talent LLC. With iDream's focus on helping talented individuals transition into their dream jobs, the young firm continues to produce a large impact.


  • Michael Reply

    It seems to me this article draws the wrong conclusion from UXers not responding to recruiters. More likely it’s that they already have jobs they are happy with — plenty of people are on Linked In who are not actively looking for jobs, for example. Really I think the issue here is with the recruiters — if you want a UX professional to leave a job they are happy with to go to your company, you need to be providing a lot more information up front. Give a sense of pay scale, benefits, vacation, work environment, etc. I can tell you that I get lots of headhunter requests and they almost never offer any of that information, so why should I even consider your company if I’m not actively looking already and you are not providing me any information to entice me? It seems odd to conclude that recruiters having a tough time getting responses is somehow the fault of the potential employees?

    • Ad Carpenter Reply

      Michael, I appreciate the feedback. I think part of the problem also arises from recruiters that are trying to build their pipeline and those that actually have opportunities to recruit for. When sending messages it’s also hard to know what’s most important to each UXer (e.g. pay, location, role, etc.). With that said, what suggestions do you have for us recruiters when messaging candidates? What is the most important factor influencing your decision to make a change? Thanks for any help!

    • Avery Reply

      Agreed! I don’t think this article properly explained the difficulties a Recruiter faces. I think you are right though, I have worked with agencies in the past that refuse to pass on any information. I work for a digital and print creative staffing Agency – I have never with held any information upon a conversation over the phone or in person with a Talent. Either way, I am hiring a UX designer and it has proven to be difficult when it comes to the right “fit” If you or anyone you know lives in Toronto msg me !

      I am hiring a UX Designer with a flare for Design in the Toronto Market! Great Opportunity with a leading Global Marketing solutions Company! 85k-95k! Perks! Benefits! Great Casual work environment! Company recently rated in the top 100 Companies to work for in 2011! Direct Message me for more details :)

  • Chris Avore Reply

    Thanks for the article, Addison. It definitely goes to show the somewhat ironic, symbiotic relationship UX has with recruiters. For example:

    *For UXers, this means that it’s not enough to cite the laundry list of programs you know or the several projects you’ve successfully completed in your field. We want to know more: who are you? How do you influence others? What makes you come alive? Do you have a pulse and personality?*

    These are questions we, as UXers, scoff at when we’re shoved a job description listing software titles stuffed in our inboxes. How can this job influence the project’s bottom line? What makes the job come alive? What is the culture or the DNA of the company? I never see that when I’m told the recruiter has an “urgent requirement for HTML UX developer with Expert GoLive” skills (I only wish I made that up).

    *Believe it or not, more and more of our clients now require that a candidate pass the “Vacation Test” before we submit them as a viable choice. If they are not someone you’d like to spend a few days on vacation socializing with, then you do not pass Go, regardless of your expertise and experience.*

    Is your 3 month contract somewhere someone wants to spend, well, 3 months? Regardless of pay and project work, we’re seeing if the culture respects and appreciates UX work, whether design sits at the big table or the kids table, and if the hiring manager needs wireframe monkeys locked away from end-users or real UXers.

    Other similarities abound in your article and I’d love to prattle on about this space, but I’ve got a user interview in 20 minutes.

    • Ad Carpenter Reply

      Chris, thanks for the comments.

      Location – working remote versus being in an office with other UXers. We’ve seen clients that are against employees working remote and those that are in favor of it. It’s interesting to see the spectrum and it appears companies from opposite ends of the spectrum can still achieve success. I wonder how that preference/debate will change as our ability to connect with others virtually improves over time.

      Also, one thing I did not mention that probably should be said, is that given the high demand for UXers they should shop around before signing with a company. Make sure the company offers the type of culture you’re looking for in addition to meeting your fit factors: location, pay, etc.

      Good luck at the UX interview – hope it went well! -ad

    • Ad Carpenter Reply

      Also, if recruiters aren’t caring about the “other stuff” (cultural fit, personality, etc.)…I’d be careful of who you ask to recruit for your company! No one likes pulling into the office and hear someone’s negativity / woes all day.

  • Rush Reply

    +1 “Others make outrageous demands for what they think they deserve in their next position, without any knowledge of the marketplace or the supply and demand of talent.”

  • Sean Pook Reply

    Perhaps the author’s client would have had better luck using a recruiter that specialises in User Experience, or only recruits in that space like we do, rather than someone who recruits dentists. UX is not a recruitment market you can jump into via a job board. I never use job boards for User Experience candidates, because they rarely use them either. It takes time, patience, respecting your candidates, networking, and hard work I’m afraid.

    Chris is right when he says if a technology becomes the focus of the job, you lose the focus of the UX candidate.

    • Ad Carpenter Reply

      Recruiting, like psychology, has many disciplines and schools of thought. With the world being flat, competition at an all-time high, and companies looking for different “ex factors”… our industry will continue to change.

    • Nick Reply

      If you’re having difficulty finding any UX talent, try locating experienced, high-quality UX talent. We have it in spades – managers, senior developers, programmers, design & QA engineers – all follow best practices in software design and development with a strong orientation in UI/UX/Design QA.

    • Bart Reply

      I think this is a very weird statement “I never use job boards for User Experience candidates, because they rarely use them either”. Why would UX people not use job boards? Have you tried niche job boards? Obviously a UX job on won’t work…

  • Alex Debkalyuk Reply

    I guess it’s a good advice to everyone in the IT, both developers and designers.

    Working in the recruitment biz myself, I agree that having a profile that stands out and tells a bit more than just technologies, companies titles and numbers is important.

    Companies seek individuals able to work and grow within a TEAM. Lone wolves have less chances.

    • Ad Carpenter Reply

      Thanks Alex. Let us know if we can every help you or your friends.

  • Gabby Hon Reply

    Bless your heart, Addison — it’s clear you’re indeed quite new to the world of UX recruiting.

    I’ve been freelancing for the past 3 years and I’ve lost count of the ridiculous, demeaning and outright ignorant third-party recruiters I’ve spoken with. Easily 98% of the third party outfits recruiting for UX do so because they smell money in the water, not because they have the first clue about what UX is or what a UX professional does. And these companies have extremely rapid turnover, so the days of cultivating a relationship with one recruiter are long gone, if, indeed, they ever really existed.

    If these companies did know anything, we UXers wouldn’t be faced with emails and ads that are, in fact, ill thought out laundry lists of skills and software, often completely unrelated to the core UX skillsets. Worse, we’re seeing more companies tag unrelated jobs with “UX” (e.g., UX Copywriter, UX Engineer, etc.) simply because it’s currently hot.

    Educate you about what UX is and what UX professionals are looking for — are you kidding me? I dare say we’re exhausted from doing that already, largely to no avail.

    Addison, you would win far more allies if you would take the time to educate yourself and your team about UX. There’s a wealth of information out there for anyone with 15 spare minutes and Google. It is, after all, your job to understand the space and the players if you wish to be a successful recruiter.

    We, your hiring target, certainly already do.

    • Kristina Bjoran Reply

      I think companies are going to have a difficult time defining what kind of UXer they’re looking for when it seems that the UX community has enough trouble defining what they do. Of the best UX professionals I know–who self-identify as UX professionals–one is basically a front end developer, one an interaction designer/IA, and the other a straight-up researcher. The fault, I would argue, does not simply or uniquely lie with the organizations looking for someone who’s concerned with user experience. Lou Rosenfeld tackles this well:

    • Thomas Reply


      What difference does the title make? The burden isn’t on us to label our profession and make sure that everyone else who wants to throw their hat into the ring uses the right labels. There’s too many hacks out there in any profession that dilute ‘brand’, so to speak.

      I could forward you several dozen ‘cold call’ emails from people calling themselves recruiters who clearly didn’t read my LinkedIn profile or look at my portfolio site. I don’t blame the good recruiters out there for these hacks that have a program that looks for key words.

      If a company has a need to staff a clearly defined set of responsibilities and if I have a clearly defined set of skills that’s all that matters in the end.

    • Kristina Bjoran Reply


      In a perfect world where people actually listen to and understand their new-hires, title doesn’t matter. In that world, the hiring folks (I’m thinking especially of non-Web shop startups) know exactly what they’re looking for. But this doesn’t happen every time. In that sense, I think titles are important, if only to open the lines of communication. The so-called “UX professional” is pretty heavily diluted, and both sides a a little bit to blame. And both should shoulder that burden.

      And yes, a company should hire based on those clearly defined skill sets. But titles are the way they look for those skill sets. It may be a stupid, oversimplified system, but it’s the system that’s in place.

      (And I agree with you about the crappy recruiters. Some of them are clearly either not good at their jobs or simply not interested in what they’re doing).

  • Joshua Garity Reply

    This is a great article Ad. Very well composed.

    However, I disagree with UXers being bad at marketing themselves. Granted, this is probably a very general, blanked statement of the industry, but what sets me apart from others is my branding.

    I am an international speaker on Design Psychology, and Behavior Influence for interactive projects. Pulling in specifics from psychology make it much easier to comprehend for non-UXers and businesses alike.

    It showcases how important the industry is, and more importantly, what separates me from others.

  • Ad Carpenter Reply

    Gabby, thank you for your comments. We have taken a great deal of time to educate ourselves, and we ask several questions regarding others perceptions of “what they do” just like when I receive a “marketing candidate.” Part of asking that question is to identify if they are indeed passionate about what they do every day. Someone that loves recruiting never gets bored of the question, “So why are you a recruiter? How’d you get into it?” Just like a great doctor never tires of individuals asking why he went into medicine. If UX is your passion, I’d suspect you’d love to talk about it. Working with several different departments, individuals and clients that have peripheral knowledge of UX makes your ability to effectively communicate your job a MUST. Solidified further, consider a recent nuclear engineer we spoke with. Had he not taken the time to explain what “he did”…we may have assumed, and stereotyped him as every other nuclear scientist (per your Google-it recommendation), not realizing his specialty goes deep! I do apologize for the frustration recruiters have caused you, however, and I agree that if money is what someone is after…it’s easy to “feel that” in a conversation, email, etc.

    • Chris Reply

      ” If UX is your passion, I’d suspect you’d love to talk about it.”

      Doubtful, Addison. Gabby’s spot on, if you get hammered by donk recruiters day in day out, multiple times a day, the honus is on the recruiter to differentiate himself. Otherwise all I hear is “are you available for an urgent…” and then I hear the Charlie Brown teacher voice.

      Today I had 5 recruiters reach out. No way am I taking the time to “educate” them on what they’re doing to earn a buck.

      You’ve hit a sensitive nerve, I think, coming from a largely tarnished, spoiled element of our industry, to write on a blog catering to UXers, about how we can help your colleagues.

      Obviously I can understand you may do things differently, but you also have to understand there’s really damaging behavior going on by your ilk in the time it takes to even write a comment.

  • Ad Carpenter Reply

    Josh, well done on separating yourself from others. You’ll never have trouble finding a job with the unique ability to differentiate yourself. Let us know if we can ever help!

  • Ad Carpenter Reply

    Awesome article Kristina! I’ve forwarded on to our team and several clients – great read. Thanks!

  • Michael Wilson Reply

    This is an interesting discussion and the comments here show how important the issue is to UXers.

    I think the two main points here are that there are a HUGE number of recruiters out there who don’t know a thing about the industry they are recruiting for. I have lost count of the amount of times I have been asked about a ‘UX’ job only to find it is more like a front-end dev or a designer.

    The other problem is the amount of different terms used for the same job role within companies. In my previous job my job title was UI designer, which involved me undertaking user research, user testing and prototyping.

    In my current role, I am once again a UI designer but I now do no research and I’m basically a designer.

    So, when I see a job ad for a UI designer I have no idea if that is going to suit me or not because it never means the same thing. I have seen my skills called IA, UX designer, UX architect and soooo many more things.

  • Ad Carpenter Reply

    Chris, I appreciate the comments and I think you make a valid point. I stand corrected, and would say in response that hopefully there are still recruiters out there concerned about more than getting a buck and recycling resumes. The responses on this blog have definitely taught me, and encourage me, to make sure our team is putting the interests of the individuals first, and being ultimately careful to not be classified as “another spammer.” I appreciate the feedback!

  • allison burgueno Reply

    Michigan…hmmm…not really my market. I think that may be part of your disadvantage. Come to California and you’ll find it may be different for you.
    I’d have to agree with Gabby on many points. My experience has been multiple calls from people who have no idea what they are looking for in a UX Professional. I’ve been in this field for 15 years, worked at the top consultancies and now own my own. I get all kinds of calls, some completely valid, others where I want to reach through the phone and slap the recruiter. Poor things – very mis-informed. I do not agree that UX Professionals are poor at self-marketing.
    I also do not agree with the statement of “outrageous demands for what they think they deserve in their next position, without any knowledge of the marketplace or the supply and demand of talent.”
    The demand is high, experienced professionals are doing more than usability testing and making wireframes, we’re strategists that just might help you convert your revenue from $10m to $100m by helping you understand how your brand relates to your customers and how to emulate their desires through your various digital and non-digital channels! A tall order indeed.

  • Tom Reply

    As someone that has been a UX Recruiter, I can tell you first hand that many recruiters need a crash course in UX. Although many of the assertions made of some of the UX practitioners/candidates may be true of certain individual, you may need to ask why that is their behavior.

    Tips for recruiters wanting to work in UX:
    1. Meet the client in person and get a sense of the team, the environment and how the work gets done. Ask to see the desks, ask to see the deliverables, interview the other team members. If the client is not willing to share this, they are not serious about finding the right person.
    2. Ask directly: “Why would someone want to work here?”. If you get a lame answer from the hiring manager, tell them that it is a competitive market and UX pros are in high demand and the more info you provide, the more likely you will get a better fit. If you are uncomfortable asking this as a recruiter, please stop recruiting UX.
    3. Educate yourself as a recruiter of the different roles: User Research, IA and so on.
    4. Educate yourself on UX process and workflow.
    5. Forget about searching applications (Axure, Visio, etc.) as keywords. Get intimately detailed information on the type of deliverables the UX talent needs to produce. If you don’t know the difference between wire frame and a high fidelity comp, you need to learn or stop recruiting UX.
    6.Talk to the UX candidate in relationship to their role in the process and don’t be an amateur and try to compare your checklist to tasks that they would perform on the position. Too many UX pros get hit up by unprepared recruiters trying to satisfy a wish list.
    7. Are you trying to get to know the candidate, or are you grilling them to fill one position? If you are… stop! Someone that may not be a fit for company X, might be ideal for company Y. If you were a douchebag, you just lost that candidate forever.
    8. Are you partnering with the UX Candidate? Top professionals demand to have a n advocate, not a job filler. If you don’t know the difference, again, stop recruiting UX.
    9. Are you a recruiter trying to fill a UX position through a Vendor Management System (VMS)? Do us all a favor and stop that. No one talented is going through a middleman to be submitted to a database where price is the biggest contributing factor.
    10. Forget everything you were taught about filling other roles and get real. Ask questions, shut up & listen. If you don’t understand the roles, the technology, the process and only can really on a checklist and script, you are doomed.

  • Lucas W Reply

    “Others make outrageous demands for what they think they deserve in their next position, without any knowledge of the marketplace or the supply and demand of talent.”

    I have to ask if it is the ones you are targeting making the outrageous demands, or are the benefits simply not realistic for their talent?

    • Ad Carpenter Reply

      Lucas, great question. Maybe at times both. iDream only works with clients that are “different” and we have turned many businesses away that are “too corporate,” if you will. But I”d be the first to say I’m sure we have our faults in aligning talents with compensation, etc. On another note, however, I have spoken with several candidates that produce mediocre work, yet demand outrageous salaries just because they are UXers. The “label” doesn’t make you great, regardless of the industry-demands, your work has to be great, too. There are many out there claiming your profession and not doing it justice. And then there are “the greats” that leave us in awe at what they can do…

  • Andy Brown Reply

    As a hiring manager the title of this post and the reason for writing it resonate strongly with me. I won’t speak to the merits of the reasons given for why UX is a difficult position to fill because based on the comments that seems to be a bit touchy.

    I tried the route of posting the job myself and using social networks to look for the right mix of skills for my UX opening in Michigan. I turned up exactly zero good candidates. Since I still have to do my day job and don’t have the time nor the resource to list everywhere and scour the depths of the internet I decided to turn my search over to local recruiters since, you know, that’s in their wheelhouse. They have had the same challenge. I get a mix of people who have done all front end dev and no design, or all design (and lots of mediocre at that) and no front end dev. Unfortunately because of budget constraints I only get to hire one person. All of the people I’ve come across that I covet aren’t interested in making a long term commitment to a single organization. Freelancing seems to me the modus operandi for the skill combination that I’m looking for. While I can respect that I need someone who wants to join my team and take ownership of building a product that we can all be proud of calling our own. It’s not even that the really talented folks are hearing my pitch and letting me make them an offer, they just aren’t interested in “being tied down”.

    I’m open to suggestions on how I can fill this position which IS a full-time gig for the foreseeable future.

    • Ad Carpenter Reply

      Andy, great point on the freelancing. Committing to a company culture and long-term growth is not “vogue” at the moment in the UX industry. However, since the publication of this article I’ve had several UXers reach out that are in fact looking for what we both seem to be offering. Would be happy to send some Michiganders your way. Let me know how I can help.

  • Katie Reply

    I think there are many components when recruiting for UX. There are many multi-faceted talented people, and sometimes a blind conversation can connect the dots between talent and alternative job opportunities. The bottom line is, recruiters are recruiters; they do not possess the UX skills to fill a job order. This infographics may outline types of jobs, but it is not uncommon to find overlapping.

  • Gabby Reply


    You’ve got to be willing to compromise. Right now, in UX, it’s an employee’s market: there are too many jobs and not enough UX professionals (or at least, none with enough experience and/or the right combination of skills). Geographically, you’re particularly challenged, as we tend to be clustered in big cities.

    In order to convince someone to make a move to your company, you’ll most likely need to offer: a promotion (no one is going to make a lateral move in this market unless they are utterly miserable or insane), a significant raise and, probably, relocation expenses. That’s just for starters. If you aren’t willing to shell out at least — at least — $100k for salary, then you aren’t ready to hire and you don’t understand what you’re asking for in terms of talent.

    No one wants to be tied down because, again, the people who have the kind of experience you seem to be looking for have been doing this long enough that they’ve seen the dotcom boom and bust and have lived through a couple of layoffs. Company loyalty is dead. No one wants stock options. All of these things have been proven worthless, over and over again.

    If you’re honestly committed to getting your product built, then you have to compromise. Talk to freelancers. Be open to telecommuting. Stop looking for One UXer to Rule Them All and consider assembling 2-3 people with complementary but not overlapping skills.

    • Ad Carpenter Reply

      Gabby, I agree with you that it’s an employees market. However, I disagree that you can’t find a great UX/UI-er for $100k or less. While this is an employees market, if the demands of UXers are too high, it forces many companies to outsource to places like India, etc. And I’ve spoken with phenomenal UX/UIers in India that knock it out of the park with their work and are a heck of a lot less. If that’s the case why don’t we just go offshore? We want someone to join the team, add to the culture and be part of something great! There has to be a balance. Location is a tough-one though, and you are correct on that!

    • Mike Reply

      Outsourcing is cheap for a reason. And it’s even worse for a field such as UX where there are a lot of constant communication involved. I’ve been in the UX industry for 4 years and it’s tough just to work with an American in another state let alone a foreigner in another country. The time difference will stall projects midday if questions/uncertainties arise. Cultural difference will prevent proper understanding of American user’s perceptions/patterns (assuming that’s the main market). Distance will create a social disconnect between him/her and the local team, which is crucial when one of the biggest part of UX design is communication/persuasion. When I look at my past projects’ outcome, I can easily see the difference between when I was able to communicate in person to my team and created a great product, and when I communicated through email/moc with many misunderstandings/errors and created a subpar product and unhappy team.

      If there are too much difficulty in finding the talent, perhaps it’s because companies still don’t understand the clear value of the UX field, thus undervaluing the worth of the professionals in the field. Soon, supply/demand effect will occur and companies will finally realize they need to offer more than same salary and vague/minimal company description to attract UX professionals. I’ve seen so many job postings where it’s all about we want this, we want that, and nothing about their work environment, their culture, benefits, etc. In an employee market as you noted, companies need to have a mindset of an interviewee as much as the candidates.

  • Brian D Reply

    If the market is tight and candidates are that hard to find, why wouldn’t a company presented with a “this AND that” prospect be willing to move forward? What kind of outrageous demands from candidates are employers turning down? That doesn’t make sense.

  • Andy Reply

    Great article Ad. I appreciate you being daring enough to broach the subject as it’s something that definitely could use some more discussion in this budding field. As you can see, by virtue of the type of personality this fields attracts, the UX crowd tends to be a bit opinionated. :)

    • Ad Carpenter Reply

      Haha, thanks Andy! Helps me to stay “humble and educated” so I appreciate them all. Let us know if we can ever help!

  • Gabby Reply

    If you’re finding “great” UX people for under $100k with more than 5 years experience, there are two possibilities: 1) They don’t know their worth; 2) They’re being ripped off.

    And with all due respect, Addison, you’re a recruiter: by your own admission, you don’t have the background or expertise to judge any of the work that you’re seeing. Unless, like so many other recruiters and too many hiring managers, you’re judging it based on how ‘pretty’ it is.

    The offshore argument is completely absurd. At best, they’re wireframe-making automatons, churning out documentation based on detailed instructions from agencies.

    You’ve made it abundantly clear that you have, at best, a millimeter deep understanding of the hiring space you purport to work in.

  • Dane Reply

    Hi, this question is not connected with the topic (sorry for that). Could you please tell me what font are you using for the titles as I felt in love with it!

    Best regards, Dane

  • Jon Pielak Reply

    So I’m a UX professional, and now am Director of a global agency. I’ll say this:

    The American economy is in the final throes of switching from a more industrialized (OEM and engineer-led) economy to a social one (community and user led)

    This conversation is a by-product of this transition. UX pros are the new engineers. Unfortunately most employers, and obviously recruiters, don’t grasp this. People who architect and code are naturally viewed as taking this torch. But dev roles can be offshored to India – UX can’t. There’s a reason for this.

    This is why UX pros work from home, are in huge demand, and can reach for the sky. That’s the good ones.

    Unfortunately they aren’t grooming other UX pros, collaborating and growing the field as quickly as we need it to. They are artisans – who crave autonomy.

    Recruiters – you need to connect UX pros with companies that will let them flourish. In order to do this, you’ll need to understand what makes them tick. Most companies do NOT understand the dynamic, and you fail immediately by passing along the job description.

    I believe for a recruiter to be successful with UX, he should be spending more time recruiting the companies he represents, not the talent. There are a lot of unique companies doing very exploratory things out there – why the hell are you trying to recruit a UX Director for a Sharepoint Extranet?

    I’m in Michigan btw. There’s a lot of great creative talent here. Very little of the talent pool here though understands the science of UX/IA/HMI. A lot of them, if they land a job, want to improve their craft. It’s hard for them to find that at GM or Amway. Give them something that helps them progress.

  • Sean Pook Reply

    Hi guys,

    I’ve read though the numerous comments and have a tip. If you are sure you need a UX recruit then:

    1) Take some time to identify who are the dedicated UX recruiters out there
    2) Dont turn to a local agency because they are local. I am based in London, but I recently helped a client fill a role in Phoenix, AZ. IC Creative works internationally, I’m sure you can find a non local UX recruiter that can cover your area. If not, give us a shout :-)
    3) If you use non-UX recruiters, be prepared to receive resumes/CVs for graphic designers, web developers, etc. Recruiters are programmed to say yes to clients. When a client asks me for a front end developer, I say no. Because I do UX design only. If you dont ask the right recruiters to help you, then you need to be prepared for the garbage that you’ll be sent.

    If anyone needs a referral to a reputable UX recruiter, let me know.


    Sean Pook

  • O. K. H. Reply

    I’m a UX designer, currently in the market for a new job right now, and my biggest issue is that I’m having a difficult time getting my portfolio to tell my whole story.

    I have a creative background and a passion for mobile, but haven’t worked on many mobile projects, so therefore it’s difficult to “prove” my mobile UX skills.

    I write a blog to try and showcase some of that knowledge, but I’m unsure if that’s enough as far as making myself visible. It’s also difficult because I am job hunting on the quiet, so I can’t be too loud on my social profiles.


  • Russ Reply

    *And I’ve spoken with phenomenal UX/UIers in India that knock it out of the park with their work and are a heck of a lot less. If that’s the case why don’t we just go offshore?*


    Are you sure they are UXers? I mean, are they facilitating workshops with clients? Doing any sort of field research? Are they talking to users? Are they performing usability testing? Are they…

    Well, you don’t say. And that’s okay; as someone mentioned, we sometimes have a hard time defining what we to do others (but if you look around in other fields you will see that those types of debates are not uncommon).

    And you answered your own question:

    * If that’s the case why don’t we just go offshore?*

    If that’s the case, then why did you write this article (and gain a lot of free education from the UX community, by the way–a lot of people have been more than a little generous here)?

  • Ian Reply

    Russ – I couldn’t agree more.

    If India is so cheap and has such a fantastic standard of work, then, well, go recruit there instead.

    I doubt they’ll work out so cheap when they’re paying for regular flights to spend time getting to know your users and stakeholders.. unless of course they don’t do things like that, in which case I’d love to know your definition of ‘phenomenal’.

    It’s simple supply and demand, it’s a new field with tremendous demand but due to its age, a lack of experienced practitioners. That means that, for the next year or two, the few experienced practitioners that are around can afford to be picky.

    Personally my biggest issue is the way that this effect has been artificially exaggerated by awful, misleading job titles such as ‘user experience architect’, ‘user experience consultant’ and so on.. compounded by recruiters who don’t know any better than to encourage their use. Even ‘user experience’ is at best incorrect and meaningless and at worst misleading.

    To my mind the best thing that recruiters can do is actually learn more about the field, what things like ‘information architect’ ‘user researcher’ ‘interaction designer’ -actually- mean.. that way they’ll be able to talk accurately to both employers and candidates about exactly what it is that each side wants.

  • Ian Reply

    Simple – either up your budget or lower your ambitions.

    If you forget about getting someone to take ownership and go for someone of lower grade then you’ll be able to find someone. The issue is looking for someone who is experienced and still a jack of all trades. Jack of all trades is uncommon amongst more experienced people, due to the tendency to specialist.

    Alternatively if I were you personally the approach I’d take would be to accept that you’re going to need to hire two people. It’ll be cheaper than finding a rare expensive expert of two completely different disciplines, and you’ll have the chance of getting someone who’s on the up who will want to stick around to get a significant product launch under their belt as a decent launchpad for the next stage in their career.

    • Ian Reply

      ‘Reply’ didn’t work for some reason.. the above comment is in reply to Andy Brown

  • Carl Reply

    I love this discussion. I’ve dealt with recruiting companies on my job search, and I’ve dealt with them when I’ve tried to hire UX talent. Recruiters don’t really understand UX, they don’t understand what motivates UX pros, and they don’t understand what companies are looking for when they ask for a “UX person,” as in “Yeah, we need a UX person who can design really usable web sites and knows OO and codes in Java.” OK, you aren’t looking for a UX person, you’re looking for a developer and you think you can get the design skills for free.

    My last conversation with a recruiter went like this: “When are you available?” Two weeks. “What’s your rate?” It depends on the job description. What is the company looking for? “We’ll be in touch.” I’ve gotten calls from the same company for “immediate openings” and I just hang up on them now. If I ever talk to a recruiter who actually understands UX I would work with them exclusively.

  • Scentsy Reply

    It’s difficult to find experienced people on this subject, however, you sound
    like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  • karl smith Reply

    The problem is that UX has become a dream of a person a catch all (ux design, ux developer, ux strategy, ux consultant) for a consultant, designer, producer and a developers. While people with years of experience (and higher rates) can do this newer people have not developed the mindsets and learned the skills to do so. Their work is full of errors (leading to legal action) because recruiters and clients are easily conned by pretty pictures of things that can’t be built, with accessibility and usability errors, based on a topic based audience with no client or user context. As long as people seek the mythical cheap UX multi-tasker, real innovators, conceptual designers and UCD solution creators based on client and user context will continue to drift into management roles and be the people able to spot the poor quality consultancy and client side. As to rates the best day rate I have had in UX is £1800, the lowest in the last 5 years is £750, the thing is I’m also an enterprise architect so when I work on UX I change the technology stack, I’m an advanced SQL programmer so I adjust the table structures to provide the right data views for the best experience. Maybe your looking for UI designers and using UX as a term by mistake, in UX everything that affects the experience is up for change including service design of product and support.

  • K Reply

    “Maintaining contact with them and asking what you can do to remain competitive will put you far above the crowd. Consider it an extra resource and take advantage of it—it’s free!”

    I’ve made many, many attempts to ask recruiters for feedback or pointers on how I present myself as a designer, and have never had a single word of response about it!

  • AwesomelyOZ Reply

    Great article! I’m trying to change career paths into UX and I’m trying to soak up all the information that I can. If the job boards aren’t working, what does work?

    Have a great one Addison! -Iva

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