In a recent tweet, Sahil shared thoughts on applying for a highly competitive remote job at Gumroad. He suggests watching public board meetings on YouTube, designing something relevant to the company's roadmap in Figma, and sending an email or DM with the embedded design and explanations of the design decisions. This approach, Sahil believes, would place applicants in the top 1% of candidates.
Firstly, if this becomes the expected norm, it adds yet another hurdle before even getting a chance at the job. While innovative, this method isn't universally applicable. Not all companies have public board meetings or roadmaps, and a candidate's unsolicited redesign can often lack context.
The hiring process in design often seems to expect candidates to be so eager for a new opportunity that they'll invest extensive hours outside their current job. This is especially true for VC-backed companies seeking high-profile hires, often from FAANG companies, who may be less inclined to engage in external design projects.
Juggling the demands of a current job with the expectations of a potential new employer is challenging. This one-sided process places undue pressure on the candidate, creating a divide between those who can afford the time and resources and those who cannot.
As a former hiring manager, I recognise the difficulty in filtering large numbers of applicants. However, relying solely on special, unrequested design tasks upfront isn't the solution. We should consider pedigree and experience, particularly for candidates with a proven track record. Making design tasks optional and focusing on less experienced candidates who need to demonstrate their abilities could be a more balanced approach.
There's a nuance here, though. Individuals at larger companies like FAANG often work on more isolated, smaller problems. What they "ship" may be less substantial, and their work often involves advocating for their projects. In such cases, a design task could showcase their true capabilities.
However, for experienced candidates, probation periods exist as a safeguard against poor hiring decisions. Yes, hiring is costly and time-consuming, but probation periods are a practical solution to assessing a candidate's fit.
Despite my criticisms, I understand Sahil's point: going the extra mile for a dream job is commendable. But in a struggling economy, is it feasible or meaningful to invest hours into designs that may lead to being ghosted?
We should instead focus on fostering industry communities for networking-based hiring. This approach allows companies to connect with talented individuals already contributing to the industry. While processes are essential, they should not overshadow the effectiveness of networked hiring, which offers a more holistic view of a candidate's capabilities and potential fit within a team.
Communities like Dribbble, Campsite, and Read CV are steps in the right direction, but we need more inclusive and supportive spaces. Businesses should aim to build communities not for their hiring agendas but to facilitate meaningful connections between candidates and employers.
While Sahil's approach to job applications is innovative, it risks setting an unsustainable standard in the design hiring process. The industry needs to strike a balance between assessing a candidate's skills and respecting their time and existing commitments. By fostering community-based hiring, we can create a more inclusive and equitable environment. This approach not only helps candidates find opportunities that align with their skills and passions but also enables companies to discover talent that might otherwise be overlooked in traditional hiring processes. As we evolve in this digital age, it's crucial that our hiring practices reflect a blend of innovation, fairness, and community engagement, ensuring a healthy and dynamic industry for all.
Side note: this is top of mind for me as I’m building a platform to help Design Engineers both find jobs, and hire teams, and we want to do this in a way that’s meaningful and impactful through community.