The job market is full of challenges. Each career has it's requirements and the design field is no exception. We need to keep not just a resume, but also a well maintained portfolio to reflect out level of experience, and focus. Very few fields ask what we seem to be encountering more often out in the hiring process: a design test.
If you haven't encountered this yet, a designed test is usually a way for the employer to measure your skill level and if you have an understanding of design fundamentals with an eye for detail and consistency. Perhaps they're laos in the lokout for other attirbutes particular to that role.
The reaction to design tests boil down to two: for and against, and the reasons behind it are plenty to support each one. So I want to break down those reasons but also make a case later on as to why I support design tests but with certain conditions and how it can help both applicant and employer find a good fit.
I also want to note that there are people and organizations out there that can take advantage of designers doing tests like this so in another article I will be posting red flags and potential tells to make sure you the designer stay aware of those looking to take advabatge of you.
So lets start with an example:
there are several factors to consider. We have to look at what it means for both the applicant AND the employer and what each values and looks for. As well as what to watch out for. So hopefully I get to break this down:
So, from the prospective employee side yes you should value your time, and if a company asks you to spend your time designing something that might take longer than two hours at the very beginning of your interview, then please pass it up. And be very, very vigilant that they're not taking advantage of you either by using your work later on.
Now, let's say it's down to you and one other designer and they want to run a test that might take about as much then you should invest the time because you're giving a demonstration of your approach and thinking process.
As it was mentioned above it should not hurt you to ask to be compensated if you feel that your time will be consumed by this to gamble at the opportunity.
As a Jr. Designer though I highly doubt that the work they're asking of you should take that long so if the problem is that you are slow on the process, then you have to look for ways to operate faster, skipping testing that can be done quicker by other applicants can hinder your opportunities.
Depending on the sector (in-house, agency, freelance) you will be coming across varied volume of work with overlapping deadlines and same day turn arounds. You will need to organize and think quickly and efficiently to keep up and before you know it, what took you 5 hours then took you one.
Now, you also have to look at it from the employer's side. Sure we can make the argument that our portfolio speaks for our work, but we also have to speak for the ideation, the rationale, problem solving, and process.
This is where you will be finding yourself later on in your career, it will be more of a discussion and testing in many ways not just a design, so all of this can help you get ready for it.
Many years ago my former art director sought to hire a new designer, she had come across one guy who according to her had an immaculate portfolio, and she wanted to offer him the role on the spot and forgo the test that I was given. (My test was designing a small table sign, small but it was testing for specific things)
The marketing VP insisted on testing the applicant much to director's temper about it, his test was putting together an email, where we handed him all copy and assets and examples of previous work to see what he would come up with. We generally gave three to four days, he waited until day four to ask for an extension, so he came in a week later and submitted his work and to our surprise it bombed.
He had no concept of hierarchy, no sense of layout or alignment, it was just splashed there. Turns out he always had someone there to help him heavily refine his work, and he worked with a team. So his stuff wasn't his own.
More recently, my agency brought on a designer who was pushed to us through our recruitment agency. The guy had no concept of design at all, turns out he was a photographer who knew how to use photoshop and misrepresented himself to both parties.
So for an employer, testing can become a necessity because the portfolio is not telling of the whole story. In some cases due to urgency or lack on understanding you might not get one. Small companies won't know what to look for so they'll take you as is, but seasoned people with other designers in their company keep in mind the need to understand who they're getting.
Maybe they accept someone who has some fault but they see that their head is in the right place and will want to teach them, or keep looking for someone else with more relevant experience they don't have to onboard as long.
You're just starting so feel things out but definitely invest in yourself to have the skills to work on things on a timeline that will tell you whether something will take too much of your time and if the investment is worth it or not.