I’m Andrey Odokienko, design lead at Cloud (ex. SberCloud).
I want to talk about how I adapted the practice of foreign companies and accelerated the process of hiring designers.
The Whiteboard Challenge completely replaced the test task when hiring for product teams, and the time for testing skills was reduced by 8 times.
What is Whiteboard Challenge
Have you heard about the fear of a white sheet? This is the stupor that occurs in a person at the sight of a blank sheet of paper or an empty file in the editor. It’s not the blank slate itself that scares you, but the need to do something from scratch when you don’t even know what to do. And the Whiteboard Challenge is about overcoming such a stupor – a person receives an incomprehensible task, steps up and looks for a solution in stages.
In the context of design, the tasks in the whiteboard are to “pull out” information about the problem from the interlocutor, generate ideas and hypotheses, develop them and offer a working solution (and all this in the allotted time).
This practice can often be found in large foreign companies a la Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc.
Why is a whiteboard better than a test one?
I myself am not a supporter of test tasks, because they are often divorced from reality and usually not paid. In the summer, when I assembled a team in the Cloud, I still gave an applied task, because it helped to close several needs:
Weed out those who are weakly motivated
Give the designer the context of the product and convey its complexity
For me, as a team leader, to understand how flexible a person thinks, and how easy it will be for us to work together
At the same time, Middle Product Designer could complete the task in 8 hours – this is 2-3 free evenings (but I designated the period as a week, because many have personal matters, work, etc.). The test task was not paid and acted as a barrier for many designers, so I began to look for an alternative.
It was at this moment that I remembered about foreign companies and their approach to hiring designers. I have not come across this on the Russian market and thought: “Why not introduce this into your team?”. And it worked out.
Whiteboard Challenge allows you to test the designer’s skills 8 times faster than the test one (in 1 hour). And in the process of the challenge, it turns out to understand how easy it is to work with a person in the same team.
The advantages of this approach:
The applicant has a high involvement in the task
The result can be obtained very quickly
The “comfort” of joint work is checked
Whiteboard-a has a minus – it will not suit designers with poor communication skills, weak argumentation, and insufficient experience in interviewing. If you want to use the WB as a method of evaluating a designer’s skills, offer a pass only to someone who seemed confident enough in the interview.
Task example for whiteboard-a
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How to prepare and conduct a whiteboard?
To effectively conduct a WB, you must first understand the topic yourself and come up with some kind of solution. After that, you can collect artifacts that will be needed during the conversation with the designer:
Takeoff parts – sometimes it is difficult for people to start, because they have a “white sheet” in front of them
Goals – what we want to achieve as a result of the designed solution
Persons (segments) — a portrait of the target audience to narrow the funnel of decisions
Problems – can be both for users (audience) and for business, if the task implies it
Success Metrics – help to measure the effectiveness of decisions
Context – JTBD approach – in what situation does motivation arise and what is the expected result
We agree on a time with the designer in advance, and at the beginning of our meeting, I give a link to the Figma file in which we will work. The template has hints for movement – semantic blocks – I will share the file with them at the end of the article. If the designer goes in the wrong direction, you can always bring him back with the help of leading questions.
The ideal process for me looks like this:
Dive into the task and describe the process – 5 minutes
I tell what will happen in the next hour, and how the board is arranged. I give the context of the task
Analysis phase – 25 minutes
The designer asks “the right questions for himself” and seeks answers from the interviewer in order to form a complete picture of the product and the task.
Stage of generation of ideas and hypotheses – 25 minutes
The designer generates ideas, evaluates them and works out a solution (lo-fi or hi-fi) to at least one of the ideas
Reflection – 5 minutes
Together we look at the initial task, and at the result that we managed to achieve
What role did the introduction of the whiteboard play?
Almost 5 months have passed since the implementation of the practice. During this time, we managed to create and describe 4 tasks with the leads and hold more than 15 meetings with applicants.
All Cloud Product Design Leads Have Replaced Test Tasks with Whiteboards
70% of participants in WB received an offer
90% of participants gave positive feedback about WB
Effective task completion time reduced from 8 hours to 1 hour
The total time for the task was reduced from 7 days to 3 days (taking into account the research about the whiteboard, because this is a new practice for the designer)
The Whiteboard Challenge is a good way to test a designer’s skills if:
Are you looking for an alternative test task
You independently figured out the task in such a way as to answer questions that a designer may have
You want to test the thinking of a person “under stress”
You hire a person in your team – so you will be sure that the designer suits you. If you want to hire a designer to someone else, then the challenge is best done by someone who will work with him.
I share a selection of useful links that helped me understand the topic and improve the hiring process:
I AM posted his template in Figma Community – I run challenges on it. Enjoy!
PS: if the article comes in, I will write the next one about how to prepare and pass the challenge as a designer.