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  4. Why We Need UX Researchers and Designers in the Federal Government (Part 3)

Why We Need UX Researchers and Designers in the Federal Government (Part 3)

Release Date: November 14, 2022

In our previous articles, we covered why design is important for delivering government services and why having federal designers is critical to that process. Next, let’s focus on how you establish design roles at your agency, recruit talented designers, successfully interview candidates, and ensure that designers are successful within your organization.

The first step is to realize that you need federal designers. Hopefully parts one and two of this series were effective in convincing you that hiring federal designers is critical. The next step is to consider how many and what types of design roles you need.

There are many different types of design. Typically, if you’re just beginning to establish a design program, it’s best to consider hiring a more experienced, generalist designer as your first hire versus a more specialized designer. Generalists have a breadth of experience and skills (usually a mix of design research, visual design, interaction design, content design, and more) that enable them to begin to build a design program internally, provide guidance on a range of topics, and serve as a subject matter expert in future design hires.

Design the job

The next step is to consider what range of skills are necessary to include for the role. Many people tend to focus a bunch of time crafting a new position description (PD), which includes a classification process to formally approve the new PD. This process can be time consuming and involve org charts, discussion about GS levels, and more. In the end, the PD isn’t even seen by the candidates you hope to attract. Luckily, there are already a bunch of PDs for design-focused roles already available to use and that’s the path we suggest you take. Instead of focusing on the PD, focus most of your time on the job announcement that will appear on USAjobs.gov and interested candidates will see.

Here’s a pro tip: the job announcement can include a title for the role that doesn’t match the one in the PD. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) allows for working titles to be used. The official title is still mentioned in the advertisement, but you can use the less formal title for recruitment or visibility. Select a working title that matches the skills needed for the role and is similar to what can be found out in industry. For example, if the role is technically an Information Technology Specialist and the need you’re really hiring for is interaction design, then use “Interaction Designer”. Simple, right?!?

When crafting the job description, depending on the classification, a set of behavioral needs such as attention to detail are thought to be required, but they aren’t particularly useful for evaluating design competency. We encourage you to think about the skill set you need, and then build your advertisement and evaluation factors off of the design competencies that are critical for your agency or department. According to OPM experts, applicants say that resonates with them. If possible, include federal designers from your Component or other agencies in the crafting of the role(s).

Consider and design the hiring process and evaluation criteria

As you’re considering how to work through the job description and interview and evaluation steps, consider using the Subject Matter Expert Qualification Assessments (SME-QA) process, which introduces subject matter experts (SMEs) in partnership with HR specialists as guides, to create and conduct job-related assessments before an applicant is considered qualified. A part of this process includes a job analysis workshop where hiring experts help you think through the job description and interview process, including what questions you may want to ask and who you would need to include on your subject matter expert team to review resumes and interview candidates. When planning the review and interview processes, please be cognizant of the time burdens on reviewers and applicants, the volume of applicants, the applicant experience, and the quality of the review process in order to most efficiently get candidates you want without overburdening participants.

When your job is ready to be listed on USAjobs.gov, get out there and recruit candidates. Use design communities, social media, and professional connections. Tell folks out on the street, or yell it from the rooftops if you need to. Bottom line: if no one knows the role exists, odds are very good that you won’t get good candidates to review. Too often, roles are just posted and folks just hope qualified candidates will find them on their own. Many of the design candidates you seek may have interest in civic design but aren’t actively querying USAjobs.gov looking for roles. So, you’ll need to go where the designers are.

Lastly, when the job posting has closed and you have your candidate pool to interview, you’ll want to jump on that process as soon as possible, so candidates remain interested in the role and don’t end up becoming disillusioned by delays that are less likely to happen in the private sector. From there, HR can help with job offers and the rest of the process.

This is a somewhat simple list of suggestions. One resource you might want to check out is a book called Hire With Your Head by Lou Adler. It describes a performance-based job definition and interviewing process that has informed how the DHS CX team thinks about the roles we’re hiring for. The HR officials in your agency will be your best source of information and guidance, but if you have any questions, please contact us at cx@hq.dhs.gov.

Last Updated: 02/29/2024
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