Tom Chi  

Brainteaser

April 23rd, 2004 by Tom Chi :: see related comic

Recently, the interaction design mailing list I’m on has been flooded with a long debate on the HCI interview process and the place of portfolios within it. How valuable is a portfolio for judging interaction design skills? What are the legal dimensions of showing proprietary work? — and how can an interviewer be sure of what work that was done by the candidate vs. his/her team?Throughout the industry, HCI recruiting approaches are varied. Some companies like to front-load the process. Perhaps most famous example of this is the Cooper Interactive Design Test, which is essentially a take-home exam in IxD. Other companies use the opposite tact — they don’t ask candidates to prepare much, but grill them with design problems and brainteasers on their interview day. The philosophy here is that the ability to think on your feet is more important than ability to prepare a beautiful portfolio.

The two questions which underlie the entire debate are: 1) What skills and qualities does it take to be successful as an HCI person? and 2) What sorts of materials or questions can adequately demonstrate that a candidate has those skills? In typical 3am style, I will open it up to the readers to discuss.

2 Responses to “Brainteaser”
Solo wrote:

What an interesting scenario! I don’t have the answer but will be very interested to see where this thread goes!

I am a Documentation Manager for a software house. A lot of my time is spent highlighting usability issues and proposing alternate solutions. I work on the assumption that if I find it difficult to document the software then perhaps something is wrong with the software! The theory being that perfect software would be so intuitive it would not need much in the way of supporting user documentation.

Many of my solutions are implimented because they ultimately make the product easier to use.

I use my skills as a technical writer to evaluate and understand my target audience and to translate the techie speak into user speak.

But does this qualify me as a HCI expert?

I an beginning to think it does.

My experience is based upon lots of self study and practical experiences of what works and what does not. But how do I get this experience across to prospective employers? I don’t have any formal qualifications in HCI but I have a lot of proven examples of where my HCI suggestions have made a product easier to explain and easier to use.

So if a prospective employer was evaluating me for a HCI role, what would they be looking for?

Perhaps the answers will come from this discussion thread!

Hania Kutcher wrote:

How valuable is a portfolio for judging interaction design skills?
>>> Very. When employers have called me back, they always mention my portfolio first.

What are the legal dimensions of showing proprietary work?
>>> Don’t show it or password protect it. Besides, it won’t be proprietary forever. Nondisclosure contracts, etc. expire.

and how can an interviewer be sure of what work that was done by the candidate vs. his/her team?
>>> Ask! Then ask his/her references, which should include team members.


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OK/Cancel is a comic strip collaboration co-written and co-illustrated by Kevin Cheng and Tom Chi. Our subject matter focuses on interfaces, good and bad and the people behind the industry of building interfaces - usability specialists, interaction designers, human-computer interaction (HCI) experts, industrial designers, etc. (Who Links Here) ?