Interview – Claire Sadler on the UX Job Market

Claire Sadler

We speak to Claire Sadler (@ClaireSadler13) from Cogs Agency in Shoreditch, London, UK about the state of the UX Job market, employment trends and salaries. Like a flame to the UX moth nation of London, Claire has been recruiting for UXers for 3 years


How have you seen the UX job market moving in the last 6-12 months?

In the last year there’s been a significant rise in the number of freelancers, UXers freelancing earlier on in their career and a real need for permanent applicants, elusive applicants who are gravitating towards the freelance market more and more. I remember a world where I would speak to 3 or 4 available permanent UXers a week, applicants who were actively looking. Oh the good days. The demand for UX folk has exploded in the last year as User Experience is becoming a prevalent part of any business. There are still a few companies we work with who don’t yet have in-house UX resource, but they’re certainly working on building one pointing to a positive future for UX design.

How do you filter CVs and portfolios for employers?

With a lot of care and attention. After lots of meticulous head-hunting to find the right kind of skill set and background, the real journey begins. Whether I’m recruiting under strict instructions from a client or I’m working towards building my network within a certain UX discipline I will meet everyone I come across. Likeability is incredibly important alongside skill set, so once those two boxes are ticked, a portfolio that reflects the work of the prospective company is a great bonus. Once you reach a point where you know both your clients and your candidates inside out, it becomes a much easier and loving matching process.

As a UX recruiter how familiar do you have to be with what a UX designer would do on a day to day basis?

Oh you have to be ahead of the trend at all times. An acute knowledge of the work UXers carry out day in, day out, gives me a great insight into their processes, and the process of the company they are working for. By the same token, it differs from person to person and there’s always something new to learn.

What do you think makes a good UX candidate?

Someone with a well-rounded set of skills, both aesthetically and in the way they function. I sent a couple of people off to work with a long standing freelancer of mine, now a Head of UX at an agency in Shoreditch. They both, separately, described him as an Einstein, a mad professor of new ideas, innovation and commitment to the cause, every sketch artist’s dream with the ability to map out a pioneering new product and its’ services in seconds; someone who they dropped everything to work with. They were glowing after meeting him for the first time and for me that’s the secret to a good UXer. Someone with something a little more to offer as well as their hands on set of skills.

Who’s the worst candidate you’ve come across?

Bad CandidateThere was one in particular who used to used to forget about interviews, or arrange something more interesting to do and miss an interview, then give poor excuses as to why they couldn’t attend said interview. This was all with the same client too. One time they saw an odd, unidentifiable animal in their garden so couldn’t leave the house for fear of dying. I mean that does actually sound quite terrible, but you get the point. On the whole though, my candidates are usually very loyal, and in turn we treat them with respect.

What is your view on people who say portfolios are counterproductive to the hiring process?

I’ve never come across a client that doesn’t want to see a portfolio so it’s all a bit alien to me. I like a good, open minded approach where a client is more interested in a cultural fit, their specific expertise and what they could bring to the business, but ultimately a snapshot of a candidate’s output and raw capability is a strong contender when hiring someone.

Are companies moving towards hiring permanent or contracting staff at the moment?

Generally, most companies have always wanted permanent staff on their team for a number of reasons. Headcount, budgets for two, but having someone established into a team and a company is normally their preference. This doesn’t mean, however, that this is the way the market is going. It’s very driven by freelancers at the moment and we’re seeing day rates rocket due to stiff competition. Whilst a permanent fixture is better in the long run, I’m seeing a huge demand for freelance resource to get the work done.

There are typically very few ‘Junior UX’ level roles – why do you think this is?

There’s a really high demand for quality at the moment. Coupled with the ever rapid timescales of getting projects out the door, there’s very little want for junior talent. It’s the smaller companies who are more committed to and interested in juniors, to help give them a solid UX foundation and give them an exposure to the whole project lifecycle.

As a recruitment agency how do you try and keep hold of the good candidates?

image2My candidates and I have great relationships because we stay in touch. We meet frequently to talk about new clients, upcoming roles, world politics and last nights’ Made in Chelsea, something which breeds commitment. I’m their first port of call when they’re looking for a new job and I love finding them new work, so it’s always a nice easy process that keeps them coming back every time.

What advantages can be gained by going via a recruiter instead of direct to clients?

Much like the great corkscrew, we’re here to make your life easier and less stressful for one. Half of my life is spent developing client relationships and creating new ones to give people out of work the opportunity to sample some of London’s finest projects. I put a lot of time into speaking to great people and helping add value to their team. It’s a cliché way of putting it, but I work on really evolving a team, a company instead of just “filling a gap”. It can be quite a burden trying to make these connections yourself whilst still working, not having the time to be picky about what project you want to work on next – with me it’s done in one clean sweep. I spend a lot of time networking with the UX community too, both clients and candidates. We host meet ups, we blog, we cram as many industry events into our calendars as we can because we like to be in the loop and keep everyone else in the loop too; because with great knowledge comes great power.

What do you see happening in the next 5 or so years in the UX Job market?

UX Job MarketI don’t honestly think we’ll know how the market will look in 5 years, but a trend we can identify is a real boom in UX specific agencies and consultancies, and larger UX teams amongst the other companies. It wasn’t long ago that some people thought user experience was just a small part of the overall design and development of a product, a website, a service. This I can see has changed a lot in the last few years, and quite rapidly. I’m glad to see that people are learning about proper UX, and those that are championing it are really making a difference. We’re going to see a huge rise and demand in the user experience space for years to come.

Cogs have recently published their annual salary survey for a whole range of digital roles in and around London.

Images courtesy markunti and Claire Sadler