Hiring managers and recruiters, I do not envy you. These are tough times to find quality UX practitioners, at a rate that your bottom line can manage and in the right city if your company doesn’t allow remote work. However, there is a swath of the creatively-minded, UX-practicing workforce that I believe you are overlooking when looking to fill your open job requisitions – The UX generalists.
These are the folks who have a variety of titles on their resume, such as visual designer, content developer, and producer or project manager – you look at their resume quickly and dismiss it as you’re looking for the words 'experience designer' and those aren’t listed as a title - next! Now wait a minute – un-crumple that resume you just threw in the trash, smooth it out again and look a little closer at what this person is telling you about themselves and how they can contribute to your team. Look for a t-shaped skill set – a clear mastery of one skill and the ability to work competently in at least two other related areas. Look for any managerial and/or communication highlights on the resume – these are signs of a good listener and that’s perhaps the number one most important skill in any UX-related role. But why is hiring a UX generalist a good idea?
A generalist will find holes and gaps that others may not see or be able to see.
They may even be able to 'fix' or fill in those holes and gaps themselves without involving a different, siloed department. This particular fresh set of eyes – a bonus and training opportunity with any new hire to the team – has a somewhat broader knowledge base to pull from when coming to the table with unique ideas and solutions for your business cases.
Cross-functional teams run more smoothly.
When a team is working on a new product or iterating on an existing one, there often comes a point where team members may hit a mental wall as far as their ability to think or understand outside their own specialized skill set. However, when a team has a generalist on the team that can 'translate' between development and product or interaction design and development, for example, everyone benefits from a deeper understanding of the process and different moving parts.
Last-minute (and planned) coverage.
Even on very large UX teams it can be a nightmare if it’s Code Freeze Day, your content developer calls in sick, and QA has caught a glaring spelling error right on the home screen that needs to be fixed today. Hopefully you have another content developer on your team that knows the project and can step in and make the fix, but what if you don’t? What if that’s your only 'content person'? A UX Generalist will hopefully, if not have the skills needed to work with your particular CMS, be able to figure it out quickly and certainly before tomorrow when it will be too late. Things like new parent and sick leaves are also suddenly no longer the major planning and coverage disasters they once were.
Lastly, if you are looking to hire a single UX practitioner, for budgetary or space reasons, and this person is going to be your UX department, then you will definitely want to look for a generalist – someone who is already quite capable of wearing several different hats. A person who lists only a singular UX discipline on their resume cannot be assumed to be competent in all areas of user experience, and you may find yourself in over your head when they come to you with questions about brand standards or managing a vendor relationship, for example.
Good luck with the process – my last bit of advice is for you to take the time to understand the differences between the skill sets that each of these titles generally possess; your conversations with candidates will be far more valuable for both of you.