You’re reading an excerpt of Land Your Dream Design Job, a book by Dan Shilov. Filled with hard-won, personal insights, it is a comprehensive guide to landing a product design role in a startup, agency, or tech company, and covers the entire design interview process from beginning to end, for experienced and aspriring designers. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.
Working with Recruiters
Recruiters come in all shapes and sizes. To simplify things, I’m going to focus on in-house and recruiting agency recruiters. This model is not unlike that for designers. In-house recruiters have a deep understanding of the company and are sometimes embedded on the teams they’re hiring for (design or engineering, for example). Agency recruiters work with multiple companies and bring the advantage of breadth—potentially placing you in a company that’s a great fit for your (and their) needs.
In-house recruiters are usually your first point of contact when it comes to getting the lowdown on the company, the team, and the job itself. A good recruiter will do their best to answer your questions and make sure you’re left with a good impression (even if you might not be the right fit just now). Use them as a resource to understand the role.
important Recruiters can be your best ally. Treat them well. Focus on high-quality recruiters—equip them to succeed and they’ll in turn help you.
Even if the role or you aren’t a good fit, it’s not a bad idea to still connect and stay in touch periodically. Sometimes things change internally and a position that was open is no longer there. But this doesn’t mean that another opportunity might not come up soon after.
storyWhen one of the companies I joined was struggling, a recruiter who I connected with previously recommended me for a design role at a new company that she just joined. Be sure to keep those lines of communication open.
With an agency recruiter, you can potentially have a lot more flexibility since they work with multiple companies. You may also develop a strong relationship with them over time. The best agency recruiters also act as mediators. They work above and beyond to not just find a good match but to give feedback to the company and you (the candidate) on what each of you thought about the other.
For example, when I was working with a recruiting agency in the past, they would usually brief me on a role and the client first to gauge my interest. If I was interested, they would then set me up with a phone call or an in-person interview. After each interview, we debriefed to understand what the client was thinking. Not every recruiter might have this process in place, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
At the end of the day, agency recruiters are usually compensated based on commission. This could be a good thing and a bad thing. It can be good in the sense that they’re also motivated to get you a high salary (since they’ll get a percentage cut). However, it may be bad if the recruiter gets sales-y and tries to push you toward a role that you might not be interested in at all.
Of course, not all jobs that will come your way will be a great fit with your goals. In those situations, it helps to step back and see if the opportunity resonates with you based on the future mapping exercise that you’ve done earlier. If you have a good relationship with your recruiter, they will try to get you a good match; but bear in mind, some opportunities will take time to surface.
Sometimes recruiters get a bad rap for reaching out to designers with UX engineering roles. It’s a tough job, and many entry-level recruiters start off by spamming everyone with semi-relevant job titles. Don’t worry about those but focus on the ones that have their stuff together. Recruiters who have taken the time to understand the design industry are worth their weight in gold in connecting you to the right opportunity, so use them wisely.
Reaching Out to Alumni
If you went to college, you have an alumni network. Universities usually do an adequate job at keeping records on their alumni—after all, who else are they going to call for more donations, though in my experience, they don’t do a good job of promoting these resources to the alumni themselves. Most of the time they do exist, so it just takes a bit of time to search for them on your alma mater’s website.
As an alum, you’ve paid a ton of money to go to school, so make sure you get the most out of your investment.
Here are some resources your school might have:
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