Making the most of design assignments in recruitment

Nowadays, design roles vary and often require a versatile range of skills. When it comes to recruitment, we often rely on design assignments to avoid ambiguity and bias and find shared criteria that make the whole process more fair.

One of the obvious reasons behind using assignments is the need to have a uniform foundation and evaluation framework created specifically for the role. A design assignment is different from a portfolio project. Assignments are often based on projects we did in the past and reflect the challenges faced by our designers. It’s an opportunity to solve a concrete scoped design problem and showcase your skills. It also allows us to see how you rationalize the outputs of your work and to get more visibility into your design process. 

After screening hundreds of assignments and running interviews, we’ve noticed some patterns in the profiles that stand out. Below are our thoughts on how to showcase your skills in the best possible light when completing a design assignment.

1) Pay attention to details

First and foremost, careful and thorough reading of the assignment is a cornerstone for understanding the problem correctly. Certain details mentioned in the assignment instructions are used during screening sessions as evaluation criteria. 

2) Outline your thought process 

While the final result matters, demonstrating an ability to think and outlining your thought process is an essential part of the outcome as a whole. In all the assignments we would like to understand why certain decisions were made and what were the insights and key findings. Regardless of the role, demonstrating your process and reasoning is of critical importance. 

3) Demonstrate relevant skills

Demonstrating the skills needed for the role you are applying for is among the main goals of completing the assignment. It’s not uncommon to be passionate about multiple design areas. If that’s the case, putting more emphasis on the core skills and showing presence of others can be a good way to approach it. Although we value your breadth of design skills, the depth is also important to us. 

4) Use real data

We are strong believers in the use of real data in any design work we do. It’s strongly advised not to use Lorem ipsum and similar text and image placeholders as content is often a strong driver behind certain design decisions. 

Unknowns and uncertainties are common and in such situations speculative content is appreciated – and ignoring it altogether by using placeholders rubs us the wrong way. Designs that use realistic content solve real problems and in the longer run are more robust and free from assumptions. 

5) Balance time and effort 

In the most outstanding assignments we receive, we see the ability to get the most out of the 2-4 hours that are normally recommended to be spent. We strongly advise against using more time than the maximum outlined in the assignment. The key to balancing time and effort within the advised time frame is an ability to prioritize your work and focus on the most relevant tasks first. It is also a good skill to master for an everyday consultant’s work. 

6) Make sure your work is self explanatory 

One of the things we’ve noticed that makes a presentation even better is making it concise and self-explanatory. In other words, since you are not present when we read through assignments to provide comments, make sure your solution is understandable without you presenting it. 

It’s also a good idea to read through the result and especially look for any spelling errors that might have crept into your story. A misspelling in your narration is not a reason for rejection. However, assignments that underwent a process of fixing minor flaws usually are a pleasure to read and generally score the best. 

7) If you get invited to an interview, focus on the presentation  

The importance of a well-crafted pre-assignment doesn’t end at the evaluation phase. 

If you’re invited to the interview round, you will be asked to present your solution and walk us through the process. Communicating effectively with an audience, whether it’s your teammates or clients, is a regular part of our routine. That’s why we pay close attention to it during recruitment. 

Some time normally passes between the completion of an assignment, applying for the position and the interview round itself. Naturally, a few details will be forgotten during that time, which means reviewing the work before the interview helps you to have a seamless narration that mentions all the relevant aspects of your work. 

Also, make sure that the technical setup is in place and won’t interfere with your presentation. We usually give you full freedom to decide a presentation format that supports your solution best. 

Final thoughts 

Design assignments are an important part of the interview process and we’re aiming to make them less stressful for all the parties involved. From our side, we use design assignments to eliminate ambiguity and bias as well as to form a better understanding of the role. It’s also a valuable tool for us to provide feedback and turn it into a learning experience both for a candidate and ourselves.

We hope that our post shed some light on why we use design assignments in recruitment and what are the best ways to approach it. 

Hopefully, it also sparked your interest in applying to Reaktor. We can’t wait to see your application and design assignment in our inbox soon. Our search for new aspiring designers is on, and we’ll accept applications until January 23, 2022. Check out the details and apply.