Why we still give job interview assignments for UX/UI roles

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“I think my experience speaks for itself, don’t waste my time or use my ideas for your projects.” I’ve stumbled upon similar sentences online a lot lately. Usually in LinkedIn articles and posts titled “Top red flags on interviews”, “Toxic employers”, or something along those lines.

This kind of attitude can be a red flag for employers. Before getting upset, let me try to explain why.

So, you think you are a senior? Maybe we don’t.

At the moment, IT is still one of the hottest areas to work in. It is not easy to find new employees and demand for designers and developers is high in spite of the recent layoffs.

I’ve been working as a designer for over 15 years and conducted a lot of interviews with prospective candidates. I saw plenty of situations where people had described themselves as seniors, but were not actually.


Sometimes it's because they had only three years of experience in the same company and were considered a senior. I think there is a lot more to becoming a senior then working for a few years in the same company.

By working in the same organization, you’ve had the time to learn all the procedures, processes, and ways of doing things in that particular company. That made you a senior there.

A senior is considered as someone who will come to a new job, go through the onboarding process, and start working on projects without requiring any major additional help.

However, when you have experience of working in only one company - a startup or a big corporation with strictly defined procedures, for example - it’s uncertain how you’ll adapt in a new one and handle different processes. You might need more help; there might be things you haven’t done before or something that’s completely different.

I’m not advocating for changing positions every couple of months, but going through a couple of different jobs helps you learn a lot. Starting work somewhere new becomes easier.

Don’t get me wrong, you can definitely be a senior designer if you have worked for a lot of years in the same place. I just want to make it clearer why we would have benefits from giving you an assignment and that there could be some possible challenges from your experience so far.

A simple task for the experienced

For the same reasons, we at Undabot give a simple assignment to our candidates during the hiring process.

I must point out that our assignment is really simple. We have a made-up brief with a few things to do. The tasks don’t have to be fully or perfectly done, and they aren’t time-consuming.  There’s no gain from this to us, except a chance to hire someone really good.

Here’s what we can learn about candidates from the assignment:

  • how the candidates think, 
  • the way they set up a project, 
  • how they understand briefs, 
  • the way they present their solution, and
  • how they react when challenged.

If you are a senior designer, it shouldn’t take up too much time. The time for the assignment is not limited so the candidate can say when they will send the solution. For mid or junior designers, it can be a bit more challenging, but we don’t expect the same result as we would from senior designers.

I’ve actually done the same assignment when I was joining Undabot and it wasn’t time-consuming or complicated.

Still not convinced?

I’ve met different candidates and initially, I was really surprised how some people were completely different from how they presented themselves on paper.  

Here are a few examples from my experience: 

  • Some candidates worked on projects only in teams and the assignment showed more clearly how they think and how they would set up a project.
  • A few candidates completely missed the point of the brief and went in the wrong direction.
  • Some had problems presenting their work which is a vital part of our job. 
  • A few have only done UI previously and the assignment showed they were really struggling with UX in spite of them being seniors and stating that they know UX.
  • Some candidates became bad-tempered when their ideas were challenged - mind you, they were just asked about the reason behind their UX or UI decision, not criticized or put down for their work. 

The good, the bad, and the ridiculous

I do agree that there are a lot of reasons not to do job interview assignments. I’ve personally had “the opportunity” to do some ridiculous ones.

For example, one brief said, “feel free to use a technology that doesn’t exist yet”. Well, thanks, I’ll go and work for Google if I discover one.

Another one had a timeframe of 48 hours and you had to let them know the minute you started and send the solution before the time was up, and it wasn’t a simple assignment!  It involved tasks that are usually done in weeks or even months. Feeling stressed already? Oh, and they sent the assignment before the first interview!

On the other hand, I’ve had some great experiences. One said they would pay for the assignment I was doing and they really did! Also, I was the one to name the price.

Do you have more examples like these or even a more ridiculous one? Please share. This way we can try to eradicate them or just have a good laugh or cry.

Below are some of the reasons why assignments get a bad rep:

  • You have to do an assignment before the first interview. For me this is the worst one, you can get rejected before even getting the chance to present yourself or your work or see if the company would be a good fit for you.
  • You have to do something that usually takes much longer to do. This causes unnecessary pressure and stress.
  • The assignments are time-consuming without guarantee of you landing the job.
  • You don’t get enough information about the assignment.
  • The company can use your ideas later on or give you an actual problem they have to solve for their product or service.

Assignments as an opportunity

In light of all this, my advice would be to do the assignment, but only if you judge it to be worth investing your free time. Try not to be all like, “I’m a senior and I won’t do it”. Such attitude is a red flag and may come across as arrogance. You can offer to showcase some other project or if you have a similar one you’ve done.

You can give reasons why you shouldn’t do the assignment, but the sole fact that you are a senior is not enough. I do agree you should refuse if it is really time-consuming, ridiculous, or seems like something they need for an actual project.

On the bright side, whether you land the job or not, you can always include the assignment in your portfolio. You can create a complete case study from it or display it on, for example, Behance. Look at it as an exercise or a test of your skills.

Also, be honest with yourself. Because if you don’t feel like doing it, then you might not actually be interested in that position. When it came to the companies that I really liked, I had no problem doing the assignment and being a step closer to working there.

Sometimes I would also notice things I should improve in my process or areas where I’m not completely comfortable. I would use these insights to improve my skill and knowledge.

I strongly disagree that interview assignments are a sign of “a toxic employer” or similar. There are a lot of advantages to giving assignments and they’re a great way to check if someone is a good candidate for the position. What we should all try to improve is the quality and type of the assignment, avoid the inappropriate choices mentioned in this blog post and try to get the most out of it for both sides involved.

On the other hand, I really don’t like the psychological testing, which is a norm for a lot of companies. I think they are a complete waste of time, but that is a whole other topic. 

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