Some Thoughts On Hiring

Some Thoughts On Hiring

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I was approached by Howard Myint, our Lead Copy Writer within the design team to share some thoughts on hiring designers for the internal Hulu Product Design Book he was working on at the time.

Excerpt from the book:
We work really collaboratively in Product Design. So we look at each new hire carefully and with great optimism — we’re adding a new ingredient to the mix, in the hopes that our overall design culture remains strong, but also continues to evolve into something that makes us and the work better. This is a chat with Rory Hart, the Personalization Product Design Manager who has recently gone through successful hiring rounds.

I wanted to bring in people who literally were here to grow into the role, who I could promote in the future and just have a whole different take on the Personalization space.

Is it that, at a more junior level, they’re less set in their ways? 

Absolutely. I think that’s a piece of it. But just seeing someone grow in a space like Hulu — there are so many devices, so many teams. It’s a huge opportunity— especially for someone in their early 20s? That’s incredible. 

There’s enough leadership to help mentor designers who are maybe new to the space, or recently graduated. The team is really collaborative. It’s a place where you’ll learn very quickly, in terms of meetings, cadences, critiques, bi-weeklies, relationships with Dev and Tech. You’re gonna be exposed to a lot of things very quickly. 

What do you look for? 

I do like to look for people who have a breadth of skills. Many different areas, not just necessarily design. People who are good at presentation. People who can sell ideas. Get people excited. People who are excited about the space and designing. That’s a big one. 

I go more for the soft skills and personal skills over execution because that can be taught. You can’t teach personality. Or maybe you can, but it’s harder than having people who are natural speakers and confident in their ability. Having a natural sense of curiosity is huge. 

Another piece of it is culture fit. That was a big part of it — making sure the designer aligns with company values. We have interviewers take a specific value and apply it towards their questions. [That way] we get a holistic view [of the candidate] and we see if they satisfy what we’re looking for. Somebody who is not only good at presenting their work, but able to execute and work with Tech and Dev is something I really push for. 

Before they even come in, you’re obviously looking at portfolios. What are the top 3 things you are looking for? 

Ideas. I’m looking at their previous work and the types of projects and challenges that they’ve run into. Being able to see the story of how they got from A to B, or how they got to the final design. The issue I see with portfolios these days is that they look the same. It’s all copy and paste. Screenshots of process is not something I find valuable. What I value is “how did you apply that process?” What were the challenges and problems that you ran into? I see a lot of “happy path” portfolios. 

What’s that?

It’s “I did some discovery work, and then we went into ideation phase, and then we did sketches, and then we did wireframes… and you get to the end.”  Just give me some real world… and depending on the role—if you’re starting out—I could let that slide a little bit, because sometimes you don’t get a break right away. But people who have already got real world experiences and don’t have their updated work on their portfolio, that can be a bit of an issue and that can have a detriment to moving forward when I’m looking at hundreds of portfolios. The things I’m looking for are: 

  • Good story

  • Evidence that you actually did the work you’re presenting

  • What was your involvement? (regardless of how big or small it was) 

  • What were the challenges?

  • What did you learn?

Can we talk about the failure portfolio? 

Oh, the crash-and-burn portfolio! I’m looking forward to the day I see the crash-and-burn. It’s one of those things where, that to me, feels like the ultimate portfolio. Where you have the story around all the challenges and problems that you ran into. Obviously, knowing that you came out with a launched feature or product! 

There’s no perfect experience of building a product—so really digging into all the failures, all the things that went wrong. How did you overcome those hurdles? If you can somehow articulate that in a way that is fun and interesting to read? And you overcame it and I see that? That’s a win for us. I’m so sick of seeing the same portfolio about how everything is so perfect. It would be great. I would be so happy. Or even if something did completely fail and that was the end result. Then… great! You might have saved the company millions of dollars. Or maybe you launched the thing and there was a huge learning piece you missed. That you should have probably thought of. But you didn’t then, but you won’t make that mistake again. The ultimate lesson learned - yeah we screwed up, but…it’s something different. It’s honesty, right? That’s transparency, it’s honest, it’s learnings. You talk to any entrepreneur about failure and they embrace it. I want to see the embrace-failure portfolio. 

How does one come to your attention? 

It’s the presentation of the portfolio too—the attention to detail. Some people have a lot of great work, but they don’t put enough effort into the presentation of it all. I’m not saying it has to be full visual design, custom thing. It needs to be clean, it needs to be easy to read. Very well structured. No typos. I’ve seen so many typos in these portfolios. You probably have hundreds of recruiters looking at your work. Yes, it’s only a small thing, but get a copywriter to look at your portfolio. The small things matter. 

You’ve hired a few people recently. What was the thing that helped them really stand out? 

I think it was how excited they were at the opportunity of working for Hulu. It was the additional research they had done prior to coming into the interview. Knowing our values. They knew things I wouldn’t have expected them to know, but because they’d done that research, it shows me that they were being proactive about wanting to know what Hulu is and why they want to work here. 

Again, with associate level stuff—I’m not looking for someone who knows all the skills and tools - you can learn that—it’s more about, can you see them becoming a leader and excelling in the specific role you’re looking for? Again, the communication piece is huge. And that willingness to collaborate. Those are the types of things I’m looking for. 

For the mid-level, I’m looking for more of the execution piece. Do you have prototyping skills? Do you have the problem solving skills? Or even just the collaboration with Dev and Tech and understanding the challenges that we face. Can you speak the language of Dev? I’m not saying it’s a have-to, but it’s a bonus. These were some of the considerations of why we chose who we chose. We created a checklist of basically who we’re looking for. Going through that list, if I was able to check off 95% of the boxes, I knew we had that right person. 

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