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UX career outlook

Getting the job and finding your path

August 28, 2017

By Lisa Dare

Want to know what UX employers are really looking for? I interviewed experienced UX recruiters in Seattle and Atlanta to get a coast-to-coast perspective on what hiring managers say about candidates, how to construct a portfolio that will land you the interview, and the outlook and career path for UX professionals. 

Career outlook

“Experienced UX designers, interaction designers and UX researchers are always in high demand,” says TEKsystems Digital recruiter Justin Atkins.

“Companies of all types and sizes are embarking on digital transformation journeys and looking to improve the customer experience, making UX and design-centric roles some of the top jobs in the U.S.,” says Recruiting Manager Jess Walther. “The long-term outlook for UX roles is excellent.”

Career paths for UX designers include creative director, UX manager or director, or even the growing role of vice president of UX. 

The career blunder experienced UX pros make

“The No. 1 mistake I see with senior UX professional is not keeping their portfolio up to date,” says Atkins. If you’ve been getting your jobs through people you know and not keeping your portfolio current, you may be at risk when trying for a position where you don’t have a connection.”

“Your portfolio is your resume,” says Vicky Tran, a Seattle-based design recruiter. “What hiring managers look for is very different. An established company might look for a simple, uncluttered aesthetic, while an e-commerce organization tends to want very creative designs.” Tran helps her job seekers understand the type of aesthetic a company prefers so they can highlight that type of work in their portfolio submission. “If you’re not working with a recruiter who knows the hiring manager well, try going on LinkedIn and looking at the portfolios of people on their team.”

Atkins adds, “Just make sure it’s a recent portfolio.”

[Search UX jobs]

What employers want to see in portfolios

“All managers have a common theme: They want to see your whole process from start to finish,” says Atkins.

UX portfolios should include:

  1. The initial problem or opportunity
  2. The questions that had to be answered
  3. The resolution
  4. The finished product
  5. Data supporting its success

Each project should also include the team structure and your role, any personas that were created and mockups. “Thoughtful storytelling that shows a clear thought process for decision making can help employers get a sense of how well you’d fit in their team,” says Atkins.

He adds, “In my opinion, your portfolio should only showcase the top 10 percent or your most recent work.”

Unicorn syndrome

Ever wonder what a hiring manager is thinking when you read a job that ask for a UX designer who writes copy, develops applications, designs interfaces, speaks seven languages and also does physical therapy on the side?

Employers often are hoping to find candidates who offer a hybrid skillset of UX design with visual design or front end development—the so-called “unicorn.”

“We try to educate them that it’s not realistic,” says Tran. “You shouldn’t let a job description with a lot of requirements scare you off. Often, the manager doesn’t even know what they’re looking for until they see a portfolio they love or meet someone with the right personality.” She also advises job seekers to look past the title and read the job ad closely to see what the role really is.

“When a job description asks for development skills, it often really means development knowledge,” says Walther. Your resume can meet this requirement by saying something like, “Has working knowledge of HTML, CSS, JavaScript or other relevant frameworks, and an understanding of how to communicate their usage to development teams.”

Atkins thinks employers look more for cultural fit than specific hard skills. “Most employers really want to hire someone with a great personality, who is highly collaborative and can talk to everyone from the CEO to the janitor.” He adds that some employers offer a more heads-down culture that might better suit someone who doesn’t enjoy a lot of interaction.

Interested in speaking to a TEKsytems Digital recruiter about your UX career? We’d love to hear from you! (And we publicly post fewer than half our open positions). Call the location nearest you or sign up for an account

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