A Guide to Design Challenge Interviews

This guide highlights how founders can effectively leverage a paid, take-home Design Challenge as an interviewing tool to assess a design candidate's ability to work through a small, isolated product problem from ideation to execution.

Design Challenges as an Interview Tool

Take-home design challenges are highly debated in the design community as an interviewing tool. We've come up with an iterated version of take-home design challenges that we feel is equitable and fair to both sides.

In this guide, we'll leverage an async, paid Design Challenge as an interviewing tool in order to draw out some of the insights that we highlighted in our Founder's Guide to the Design Hiring Processes. This approach will help us evaluate a candidate's approach to solving an isolated product problem from scratch and put their skills to test.

How to create a Design Challenge Interview

Some key points to keep in mind to add a Design Challenge as part of the interview process — we strongly recommend that you incorporate all the elements below, else it can be heavily looked down on by design candidates which will result in churned candidates from your hiring funnel:

  1. Paid: We strongly recommend paying candidates for 4 hours of their time spent on the challenge (ranging from $70-$125/hr depending on the seniority of candidates you're interviewing). Free take-home challenges are a red flag in the design community, especially for senior roles and if the challenge is relevant + helps solve a problem for your product. We’ve seen this paid approach help keep top design talent interested because they feel their time is valued.
  2. Async: Let candidates complete this assignment on their own time. This can help them accommodate for it outside of their current jobs and personal responsibilities.
  3. Scoped problem: Since this is a paid challenge, you can select a problem that's related to your product or company.
  4. Flexible deadline: Give the candidates a range to get back to you with their response to the challenge within a few days to a week. When they return the work, ask them to let you know how long they spent on completing the assignment.

Preparing the challenge

To prepare a design challenge — pick a small-sized problem, feature or user need in your product that your team is currently working on (or has recently completed). Present it as a design challenge to be solved along with some simple context (e.g. user problems, sentiment, feedback, etc.). If you need a template for the challenge, drop us a note and we'd be happy to share a Notion template for you!

Once they send you the returned challenge, schedule a 45-min panel for the candidate to present the deliverable — invite 1-2 team members with deep knowledge of the product problem provided in the challenge (e.g. 1 engineer, 1 PM).

Panel Call Structure

  1. 10 mins: The candidate will present
  2. 30 mins: Q&A about the presentation and digging deeper into the thinking and assumptions
  3. 5 mins: Questions from the candidate

What you're looking for in the interview

The goal of the design challenge is to simulate the work that a candidate might do on the job and give both sides an understanding of whether there’s a mutual fit. What we’re looking for is not the ideal solution to solve the problem presented — but to gauge the quality of the thought process and their ability to break down a complex challenge into digestible pieces.

Next Steps after a Design Challenge

A Design Challenge interview step will give you all the signals you need to make a hiring decision. We also recommend reading into some of the other approaches we recommend, such as a Portfolio Review or a Design Critique.

At DesignBake, we work closely with founders to not only help them find design candidates, but to also evaluate and offer a designer's perspective on the candidates quality and calibre of work. We review hundreds of portfolios every week, and if you ever need more input on a candidate that you're unsure about, feel free to drop us a note.