Chapter 6. Recruiting and Hiring

A DESIGN ORGANIZATION NEEDS DESIGNERS, and it may surprise design leaders just how much effort they must expend recruiting and hiring. It’s not simply a matter of taking the time to hire top talent. Since the late 1990s, there has been a shortage of designers to meet demand. Even after the dot-com bust in 2001, there were always more positions open than designers to fill them. As we write this in 2016, the demand for designers is greater than ever, and that demand is only increasing. Given this competitive marketplace for talent, standard practices must be augmented with approaches tailored to the design profession.

Establishing Headcount

The process begins with opening positions to fill. Identifying those positions is part of annual planning, with mid-year adjustments as needed. The Head of Design works with their boss, their product, engineering, and marketing peers, as well as colleagues in Finance and Human Resources to establish headcount.

Calculating how many people the design organization will need is a bit of a black art, learned through experience and adjustments. Many companies use a “design to developer ratio.” The logic of the ratio is to maintain balance within product development. Too many developers and the designers are either spread too thin, or some initiatives don’t have design support. With too many designers, they get too far out in front of development, won’t see the results of their work implemented any time soon, and spin their ...

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