Where to Find The Best Design Talent
The design recruitment market is really hot at the moment. Largely because founders and leadership teams are beginning to understand the importance of a well designed and well conceived product. As such I’m constantly being asked by leadership teams to help them find early design hires.
Unfortunately there’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem when it comes to hiring your first designers. This is because designers want to work for companies that really care about design, and the best way to tell if a company cares is through a well designed product and a well established team.
Founders also struggle to understand what motivates designers, which is why there are so many uninspiring job ads out there. Not being part of the design community also makes it hard to know where good designers hang out and where you should advertise your roles. As such I recently asked my followers where they go to look for new roles, and I thought it would be helpful to summarize the results here.
The Designers Own Network
One of the most popular answers for how designers find new jobs was through their existing networks. This effectively means keeping an eye out for opportunities on social media and the various Slack channels they are members of. It also means tapping up friends who may either be recruiting directly or know people who are.
This is one of the reasons why hiring your first (or even second or third) designer is so hard, because unless you're a designer yourself, you won’t be tapped into most designers networks, and will be missing out on some of the best talent.
One of the reasons VCs like to invest in founders with prior tech experience is for this very reason. So they can tap into their own networks, and the networks of the designers and developers around them. As such it’s not surprising that a lot of early stage hires come for the places they’re worked before. Just be aware that recruiting exclusively from your existing network can also bake biases into your candidate pipeline (see below).
While it helps to have an existing network of designers to draw from, many people find themselves needing to build a network from scratch. A simple way of doing this would be to attend design conferences and meet-ups, follow prominent designers on Twitter and join Slack communities like Design X. The more designers you meet, the easier it’ll be to find the right one for your team.
Of course building your own network of designers takes time and effort, so most people end up skipping this step and relying on job sites instead.
The Most Popular Job Sites for Designers
When talking to designers, LinkedIn was still by far the most popular place to look for roles; In part because you could set up specific filters and get sent possible matches once a week. Another popular site, especially amongst US folks was the AngelList talent site, while The Dots cropped up a few times amongst my UK friends. For design leaders, Booooom was understandably popular, while Remote Design Jobs got a few mentions for obvious reasons.
I was expecting more designers to mention community sites like Behance, Dribbbble, Coroflot and Creative Pool. However I got the sense that people thought the quality of the roles wasn’t that good, and most of the roles were cross posted on LinkedIn anyway. Instead community sites like Creative Morning and Design X felt a little more genuine and personable.
Improving Candidate Diversity
One thing that happens with unfortunate regularity is that companies post job ads only to find that the vast majority of respondents are young white males. This partly comes down to the founders existing networks, partly down to unintentional bias baked into “work hard, play hard, we only hire rockstars and ninjas” type job ads, and partly down to where these jobs ads are posted. So if you care about diversity you’ll attempt to address all these issues.
Thankfully there are an increasing number of job boards dedicated to promoting people from underrepresented backgrounds, so I highly recommend checking out places like AdasList, a11lyjobs, Diversify Tech, Women Who Design. It’s also worth getting to know communities like Blacks Who Design, LatinX Who Design, Ladies Get Paid, and Ladies that UX to name a few.
If you are going to engage with some of these communities, my advice would be not to wait until you have a recruiting gap to fill, as it can come across as incredibly self-interested. Instead I strongly advise companies to offer up space, speaking opportunities, and sponsorship to community groups because it’s the right thing to do, and any recruiting benefit is just a nice added extra.
The Rest of the Rest
While I’ve not used any of these other resources myself before, they all get at least a couple of mentions in the thread, so I thought I’d share them here in case they were helpful.
The main takeaway from this article is that if you wish to hire designers, you need to be part of the design community because this is how a lot of designers discover roles. If you’re limiting yourself to posting on a handful of job sites, you’ll almost certainly be missing out on a lot of talent. It’s also worth noting that if you’re going to rely on job ads, those ads need to be well written. Something I’ll be writing more about in the future.