We recently posted a job looking for a designer for our startup.
We wanted a design geek who could banter usability theory on the phone, then hang up and make magic happen in the code. Not an easy person to find, and ultimately we posted this job twice to find the right person.
We received over 250 applications, and going through them was an adventure. As they came in I checked their portfolios and sorted applications into “oooh”, “maybe” and “no”. This worked well enough, and I could move applications from one category to another as the process went along.
Along with all the generic “I want a job” applications destined for the trash, we heard from a diverse crowd. One email might be from someone in New York requiring $120/hour, and the next from a small team in Poland competing on price at $7/hour.
We heard from print designers, web designers, illustrators, several programmers and a project manager at Microsoft. Twelve people ended up with a the label “interesting”; not right for the job but I’d love to have a beer with them someday.
In the end, Roben Kleene impressed the heck out of us and is already doing great work. Welcome aboard sir!
Hopefully this review will help other small startups when hiring a designer. Happy to answer questions in the comments.
|$185||1||$185||Not sure why we didn’t get more applications here. I think they’re quite popular in the UK, perhaps time zones got in the way.|
|$200||1||$200||I had some initial trouble posting the job (my fault), but Michael Arrington took care of it right away.*|
|$250||2||$125||Designer found here!|
|5||$110||Great quality, very targeted.|
|$100||2||$50||Posted in Vancouver, Toronto, Los Angeles ($25), San Francisco ($75), Boulder, Austin & Seattle. Craigslist reaches a lot of people, but the average application isn’t very good.|
|$52||1||$52||Many applications, slightly more qualified than Craigslist.|
(Joel on Software)
|$350||–||–||The designer jobs section is tiny but I tried it anyway because of their guarantee. Indeed the response was small, and I got a prompt refund with a smile. Impressive.*|
|free||–||–||Posting process was frustrating.|
(Programmer meet Designer)
|free||–||–||Neat concept and targetted to designers. Medium volume.|
*Ratings are based on both the quantity and percentage of high-quality, targeted applications received. Some of my favourite sites didn’t rate highly, simply because they’re not targeting the design crowd. I expect the ratings would be quite different if we were posting a programming or marketing gig.
 In theory, if you can’t find the perfect person you should walk away. Hire no-one.
In the real world that’s not how it works. Even if there are no candidates that make your heart race, you will hire someone. The solution is to manage the process with this reality in mind, and attract as many qualified applications as you can.
Volume is the answer.
 Next time I’ll use a separate email account to receive applications. That way they’re not mixed in with all my other email, and it enables sharing when appropriate with relevant team members.