It’s better to reject than hire poorly

In the security industry, we talk about “fail open” and “fail closed.” Fail open means when you have uncertainty, you err on the side of letting things proceed—on the assumption that the risk is low. Fail closed means when there’s uncertainty, you shut down the process rather than risk a bad outcome—even if it means losing a possible benefit.

One of the reasons managers reject so many candidates is because the worst mistake a manager can make is to hire poorly—a fail closed situation.

If you’ve ever had to manage a difficult employee, then you know how stressful, frustrating, and overwhelming it can be. Managers who’ve been there are justifiably gun-shy—most of us would rather reject a candidate than risk making a painful mistake.

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5 reasons why infographics are a bad idea

Many, many sources on the web encourage you to turn your resume into an infographic, so you’ll “stand out.” Here are 5 thoughts on why infographics are a terrible idea that make you stand out for all the wrong reasons.

1. A graph is a visualization of data. Your job history contains precious little data that can be visualized. Attempting to turn qualitative data into a graph only proves that you don’t know anything about data visualization.

Below is an example where the candidate has tried to put her personality traits into a graph. This fails as a graph because:

  • The data is completely subjective and unsuitable for graphing.
  • The pairs of words should presumably represent opposites, but they don’t (“steady” v. “sensitive”?).
  • A good graph should tell a story—but there’s no story here. The candidate is not even willing to commit to the qualities she herself chose for the graph, with the exception of “efficient.”
  • I can think of much more efficient ways to say “I’m efficient.”
  • The candidate’s personality traits, especially as presented here, have absolutely nothing to do with her ability to be effective on the job.


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Why managers are looking for top performers

My CTO used to tell us that in hiring you need to be selfish. What he meant by that was, “be picky and hold out for what you really want.”

What hiring managers really want are top performers—not just because they do the best work, but for the selfish reason that they make our lives easier. How do they do that exactly?

» Top performers make the hiring manager look good

Nothing makes you look like a genius more than hiring a top performer.

  • The ability to find and hire top talent is extremely valuable to the company.
  • When top performers work for you, their successes are your successes and their good ideas are your good ideas.
  • Top performers push the whole team to be better because they are never satisfied with their own work.
  • All of the above make your boss look good, and that’s good for you.

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Wireframes are not an accomplishment

Standard advice for writing about job history in your resume is to briefly describe your responsibilities, then list some key accomplishment bullets. The problem I see over and over with UX resumes is that they contain ONLY responsibilities and NO accomplishments.

Responsibilities are what you get hired to do. Responsibilities are what someone who got fired from your position could honestly put on their resume. If all you talk about in your resume is responsibilities, then you look exactly the same on paper as that loser in the next cube who always comes in late and does the bare minimum.

Your accomplishments are what make you better than him. You’re accomplishing things, and he isn’t.

Think of responsibilities as the “must-haves” and accomplishments as the “delighters.” (If you’re not familiar with these terms, I encourage you to read up on the Kano two-way model—there is no more useful model in design, in my opinion.) An easy way to distinguish must-haves from delighters:

  • Must-haves are the tasks that you will get fired for if you don’t do them
  • Delighters are the things that nobody asked you to do and/or that required you to go above and beyond—that produced a good outcome for the project or the company

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Cut to the chase: one page is best

Most hiring managers will make a decision about your resume within a few seconds. In other words, if you don’t hook them on the first page, you’re done. So why would you submit more than one page?

» Nothing says bad UX like a long resume

Long resumes are self-indulgent and lazy. A long resume say it’s all about you, you, you. A long resume implies that everything in your career is so meaningful and important, you couldn’t possible cut or edit any of it. It demonstrates you don’t care about my time, and you don’t know what I’m looking for. It tells me you don’t know much about effective business writing.

» Put your best material up front

Since you know most hiring managers aren’t going to get to the second page, it pays to put your best material up front. Your best material is your most recent and significant accomplishments. If you can’t fit everything onto a single page, make sure at the very least that your two most recent jobs are on the first page.

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In this blog, I demystify the UX hiring process and give you insights into what the hiring manager is looking for and why.

My goal is to help UX job seekers present themselves more effectively so they get the jobs they want.

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