Julian Jensen

UX Job Search

Applying design-thinking to my job hunt.

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The Challenge

I tasked myself with a three-month project to land a job in UX design in San Francisco. I pushed myself be the most transparent job seeker by publishing all of my application materials and designs as case study. 

What is this?

The most important project after graduating General Assembly's UX 13-Week Bootcamp was my job search. So I turned to the UX process to iterate and refine my job hunt materials as a two-week design sprint. I've decided to publish my entire process, feedback, and design changes, because I'm yet to find a designer who's done this before.

I'm also no stranger to taking risks with my job hunt, based on my past Do Not Hire Me project.

 

Research

 
 

Strategy

I used a two-pronged approach to influence the strategy behind my job hunt: 1) reviewing presentations, handouts, and other materials from the GA Bootcamp Immersive course, and 2) my past experience job hunting from the Do Not Hire Me project. 

I used my course materials to create a 2-week design sprint schedule: mapping out the time required to create a portfolio and resume—and then test and iterate them on them multiple times. I used my personal experience to influence my design choices and how to execute this plan. I made sure my job hunt would reflect a brand message of my individuality, passion for design, and pragmatic point of view.

Learned At Bootcamp

  • Background on Tech industry
  • How to job hunt in SF
  • Personal brand creation
  • UX best practices
  • Strategy for emailing strangers
  • LinkedIn boolean searches
  • How to use social media
  • Emphasis on coffee meetings
  • What types of companies are out there
  • Job hunt is serious, the job not so much
  • Work hard at your job hunt

Personal Experience

  • Aware of my own background
  • Differentiate myself, in refined, mature ways
  • Job Hunt Best Practices
  • Got over my insecurities about contacting strangers
  • Actually using social media
  • Already had dozens of coffee meetings
  • What types of companies I don't want to work at
  • A job is just a job
  • Be nice to everyone
 

 

Competitive Analysis

To get a deeper understanding of the other designers I would be competing against, I reviewed dozens of portfolios from GA alumni and successful executive-level designers. I made note of what portfolios and resumes stood out and inspired me. I also asked my career coaches at GA to point me in the direction of successful portfolios that stood out in their minds and asked "why do you like this portfolio or resume?" Asking open-ended questions allowed me to learn more information about what working professionals would want to see reflected in the portfolio and resume of an entry-level candidate.

The most common pattern I found in this qualitative research was to make my portfolio 2/3 visual, and 1/3 copywriting. Regarding resumes, I found that successful designers applied a minimalistic approach to their designs. No strange layouts, just the right amount of information that told a story but didn't overwhelm the reader. With this new knowledge, I decided to interview recruiters and working designers for their input for my job hunt.

User Interviews

After conducting my own research, I set up short meetings with other designers and recruiters in San Francisco to give me their input regarding a job hunt for a career change into UX design. To get a deeper understanding of what hiring managers would like to see in a UX ob candidate, I interviewed multiple recruiters and HR managers regarding their experience with hiring career-switchers, working with designers, and places were candidates mess up most frequently during their job hunt.

After interviewing a dozen individuals, I found three common insights:

  1. Referrals mean everything. Applying to jobs cold is not worth your time.
  2. Use your social network for those referrals. Ask everyone you know.
  3. Don't be afraid to ask recruiters or strangers for a 15-minute coffee meeting, because 1 in 10 of people will get back to you.

Red Routes & User Flow

I synthesized my interview data into a lengthly user flow, pointing out "red routes" (the ways in which users would take to accomplish the primary task of asking me for an interview). I found three red routes that users would take:

  1. Being referred through a connection to look at my portfolio, then contacting me directly.
  2. Finding me via social media or 3rd party website, looking at my portfolio, then contacting me directly.
  3. Me reaching out to a recruiter directly, sending a cover letter, asking them to look at my work.

 

Conclusion

It became apparent that my portfolio would need to be the centerpiece on which my value proposition as a job candidate would be reflected. It had to accomplish the following goals:

  • Showcase my design process and work ethic
  • Embody my personality through visual design choices
  • Reflect my desire to get hired, without appearing desperate
  • Be the platform that takes users from being curious to a genuine need to get in touch with me
Negative Emotional Associations

Negative Emotional Associations

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Design Process

 
 

Portfolio Design (1.0)

After a thorough breakdown of our new user flow, we created two iterations of a low-fidelity paper prototype. During our initial testing we received important feedback, including:

  • Users didn't expect to see welcome screen with a sign up button, so we removed it and focused on the initial on-boarding experience.
  • Users wanted to read more information about the services offered (ie. oil changes, tire rotations). So we added descriptions in our second iteration.
  • Users expected to see their order confirmation details before entering payment information. So we planned to add that functionality in the digital prototype.
 

User Feedback

 
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New Iteration (2.0)

We designed a medium-fidelity digital prototype in Sketch & InVision. We then tested it with new users to inform specific design changes to our affordances, layout, and other design elements for our high-fidelity prototype. During our testing, we received the following feedback:

We tested our app with more users—refining very specific design elements along the way. In addition, we applied a flat design language to our user interface to standardize our affordances and layout. Once user testers felt comfortable with our new prototype, we paused our design process and prepared for our final client presentation.

Resume Design Sprint

After a thorough breakdown of our new user flow, we created two iterations of a low-fidelity paper prototype. During our initial testing we received important feedback, including:

  • Users didn't expect to see welcome screen with a sign up button, so we removed it and focused on the initial on-boarding experience.
  • Users wanted to read more information about the services offered (ie. oil changes, tire rotations). So we added descriptions in our second iteration.
  • Users expected to see their order confirmation details before entering payment information. So we planned to add that functionality in the digital prototype.
Discussing Design Elements (Katie Hughes & Iva Kim)

Discussing Design Elements (Katie Hughes & Iva Kim)

User Feedback

 
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Conclusion

 
 

Next Steps 

Iterate portfolio layout for readability

Seek user feedback from other designers

Begin work on future case studies

Continue working on Daily UI

 

I was hired as a Senior User Experience Designer at Asurion.

 

 

What I Learned

 

Devoting time to creating well-curated, well-designed, and clear portfolio should be the #1 priority for new UX designers. When I was talking with recruiters, professional designers, and new accountancies, it's paramount that you can refer them to a strong portfolio.


Clarity and length go hand in hand for portfolio case studies. Case studies need to be easy to read and full of detail, to showcase to readers how important and thorough I was with my work. The dedication to detail I put in my case studies is to the top compliment I recieve about my portfolio.

Get feedback early and often. The feedback I received was critical in breaking my assumptions about what recruiters and hiring managers wanted to see. My resume had nearly 10 iterations and is a powerful example of how tiny changes to a word document can make a big impact on getting hired.


Think like a Director of Design. Entering this job market requires poise, determination, and focus. Breathing, working to craft a strong portfolio, and working hard one day at a time will pay off. Designers, regardless of industry, never come into a project "guns blazing" — they take a breath first.

 
 
 

More Case Studies

 
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"Coast" is a new service in the Bay Area that provides car maintenance at your place of work. We improved their user flow for faster sign up and scheduling.

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