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Top UX Hiring Trends for Early 2015

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Dear Doctor, I'm gearing up to start looking for a permanent UX hire this year - what are the key market trends in 2015?

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Jon Wall says...

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With the new year comes a time of evaluation and re-evaluation – of hiring plans, career paths, and where to go from here. Jobseekers and employers alike take a step back at the beginning of the year to form their strategy in the market. Speaking from a helicopter view of the user experience market, these are the key hiring trends we’ve noticed this year and our suggestions on how best to compensate for them.

Recruitment trends: Navigating the buoyant permanent market

In-house permanent research roles are growing steadily, which is fantastic. This trend seems to be down to the fact that clients are doing more strategic/longitudinal research in-house and feeding that into their Agile design and development teams. As well as regular usability testing becoming the norm, most clients are using a variety of informal/guerrilla testing and more formal lab-based studies.

There are plenty of adverts and job specs flying around the permanent market, which means it’s a buoyant market for candidates. That said, clients remain fussy, and are rarely hiring just for the sake of filling their headcount. As a result, candidates can’t get ahead of themselves and need to remember to impress at interview regardless of how many options there are.

The biggest concern hirers have in the market is the quality of soft skills in their non-executive hires. There is often a lack of commercial awareness, project leadership skills, stakeholder engagement, workshop facilitation, and genuine research experience.

Recruitment trends: Going freelance in a competitive contracts market

2014 saw more permanent employees making the plunge to go contracting earlier in their careers, with most common destinations being agencies, FS, or government projects. This doesn’t feel like a positive development as it can hinder career development of those soft skills mentioned above.

The contract market has become much more client-driven and is now highly competitive for candidates, particularly those who are new to contracting. Due to the volume of contractors usually available, clients can secure exactly the type of experience that they’re looking for.

Recruitment trends: Management consultancies & product management on the rise

There has been a rise in credibility of UX opportunities with management consultancies; we’ve seen more examples of clients on that side of the market establishing their teams and UX practice in a sustainable way for UX practitioners. There’s still plenty of work to be done across the market, but 2014 saw a positive shove in the right direction.

We’ve also seen seasoned UX practitioners moving into product management recently – this isn’t a brand new development but it seems to have become a well-trodden path now. Like UX, product management is a broad discipline.

Salaries/rate: Continued growth, but increased pressure

Continued growth of retail banking and GDS/government projects is putting pressure on salaries and rates in other industries. The rates that are achievable in those markets are significantly higher, particularly for mid-senior level contractors, and generally aren’t sustainable when contractors look to contract in other sectors in the market.

Permanent salaries, however, have continued to rise. The most obvious reason for this continued rise is the fact that the market is shy of solid mid-senior level practitioners. Clients are often tempted to offer a bit more to secure their permanent candidate rather than miss out and have to go to the contract market. That doesn’t mean candidates can or should hold clients to ransom, though.

Our take-homes

We’d always urge candidates to prioritise finding the right company, team, boss, projects/products, and approach ahead or at least alongside salary. Ensuring that you develop a profile that demonstrates depth and breadth of experience is the most important thing in a market that is ever-changing. Additionally, we strongly advise that permanent candidates place an emphasis on demonstrating their soft skills to set themselves apart at interview stage.

Jon is Senior Consultant within Futureheads Recruitment’s UX team. He has worked in recruitment for over 7 years, and has experience supporting clients from large corporate organisations to Silicon Roundabout start-ups. Jon has a client-first approach and enjoys detail – getting down to the heart of the problem.

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