If being passionate about design isn’t enough to stand out, then what is? Morgane Peng, Director of Experience Design at Societe Generale Banking, describes the hiring realities that UX candidates face in landing their first jobs. Some of these aspects are often overlooked but Morgane guides us on how to stand out by leveraging past backgrounds and understanding why time is one of the biggest factors.
It’s funny, because as designers, we know about all the design principles. For example, the proximity principle, says that things that look the same and are close to each other, are visually grouped together. In this scenario, if you want one item to stand out, you have to visually differentiate it from the rest. And hiring is the same: if you want to stand out and you say exactly the same thing as all the other candidates, you won’t…
Morgane PengHead of Experience Design at Societe Generale Banking
Behind the mic
Morgane Peng is responsible for the design vision and strategy of Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking. She delivers united and meaningful experiences with her team across Societe Generale products for start-ups, corporates and financial institutions.
Previously, Morgane adventured into various fields of consulting, financial markets and tech. In her spare time, she’s a gamer at heart and works on an indie video game successfully crowdfunded on Kickstarter.
In case you missed my barely audible accent, I was born and raised in northern Italy, near the Milano area, and moved to the USA a decade ago. I started venturing in the realm of pixels and websites during high-school, but at the time, I had no idea design would become my career, my biggest passion, and such a vital part of my life. Nowadays, UX design, strategy, and mentoring take up most of my days. And I love that. When I’m not behind a screen or recording podcasts, you’ll find me drawing with pen and ink or training at a local park for my next Highland Games competition.
We first dive into the evolution of Morgane’s hiring process and how things have changed over time from her small team to a scale of 20+ designers. To hire well, it was more about the potential and not so much about skills or what people have been doing. During the candidate funnel, she points out how her team formalizes the process in the first rounds by looking at CVs, the portfolios and come together later to evaluate.
For design and whiteboard challenges, it’s possible to assess someone’s skills in 30 minutes. This design challenge is done during the interview and helps understand a candidate’s skill and assess someone who they may not have been sure about. A bootcamp grad was able to convince Morgane that his skills went beyond what was expected by expanding on his thought processes, even though it was completely optional.
Over the years, Morgane noticed certain trends and behaviors exhibited by many candidates and began documenting these to soon write her article “11 Realities on Finding Your First Job.” Her first point in the article: you don’t get hired because you are passionate. She explains that obviously everyone will say they are passionate, so don’t waste time on a given. Instead, leverage in what makes you different by exhibiting different traits to stand out in a good way. In one example, Morgane talks about a previous flower shop owner who demonstrated strong work ethic because she had the willpower to wake up really early in the morning to run her business everyday. This impressed Morgane greatly, even though it wasn’t directly related to design.
Her second point: timing is the biggest factor. The moment an application is open, candidates start piling up. According to Morgane, candidates are reviewed by order of arrival, so don’t waste time trying to perfect a cover letter. In one instance, a junior position received over 300 applicants. The reality is that once someone good enough has been found, the search stops. They don’t look for the “perfect” candidate. So don’t miss an opportunity by trying to be perfect and get your foot in the door!
- Morgane Peng’s LinkedIn profile
- Morgane Peng’s Medium
- Morgane Peng’s Twitter
- 11 Realities on Finding Your First Job Article by Morgane Peng
- Societe Generale Design Blog
- Filippo Lovotti’s LinkedIn profile
Watch with Closed Captions
Filippo Lovotti 0:00
Hi, this is Filippo here. Before we start with the episode, I wanted to let you know that my team at the Industry of UX and I have started a UX career prep service. And we do it all. We go from portfolio and resume review, to whiteboarding and interview prepping, to mentoring. If you want to get ready for your first or next UX job, we got you. Check us out at school.theindustryofux.com.
Morgane Peng 0:27
While you wait for that perfect cover letter and to have that perfect form, whatever, there may be, like 20, 30 100 people ahead of you applying and the reality is people stopped when they find someone that they think they're good enough.
Filippo Lovotti 0:44
This is the Industry of UX Season 2, inside the UX hiring journey. We talk to the experts to bring you the strategies, the thinking process and the reasoning behind the hiring decisions in the UX job market. Let's dive into the episode.
Hello, you wonderful UXers. Welcome back to another episode of the industry of UX. I'm your host, Filippo Lovotti. I'm glad to be here with you today. And we're already at Episode Three of Season Two. And today I have another great international guest because we get to chat Morgane Peng, Director of Experience Design at Societe Generale banking. Morgan has written quite a few articles on medium, and I'll put the link to her medium collection in the show notes. Go check them out. There is one article that Morgan wrote about six months ago that specifically talks about UX jobs. It's called 11 realities on finding your first job. And it's a great article that speaks to a lot of different aspects of the hiring process that people don't really talk about. So today, Morgan and I start our chat, talking about how her hiring process has evolved, and how candidates expectations have changed over time. And after that, we covered the first two points from her 11 realities on finding your first job article, which are number one, you don't get hired because you are passionate. And number two, timing is the biggest factor in a hire. And don't worry, we are going to cover the remaining nine points in another episode. So keep checking back in every Friday. Let me know what you think about the episode by tweeting @IndustryUX, no offense to Android users. But if you have an iPhone, give us a five star rating and a review on Apple podcasts. It helps us produce a better show and bring the podcast to a bigger audience. Okay, it's time on to the conversation with more.
So why don't we go over the evolution of your hiring process from the moment you started hiring up until now? How does How did that change?
Morgane Peng 3:16
Yeah, that's an interesting question. Because obviously, when you form a team, you set up some stuff. And as long as they walk your leg, it should well fall away. But actually you realize that things needs to change because the team changes and you know, projects that change the structure changes. So I would say seven years ago, we actually had to build from scratch the team, the design strategy or methodology, the one we wanted to use. And it was really kind of finding those early settlers, like the people who want to have skin in the game, build that with us. So we were really hiring more like for expertise, you know, people who can bring in what they've done in the past or something they are more interested in. From then we're going to build the rest of the team complementing each other one person at a time, but oversee today, since we have scaled to 20, it's quite different. We have like a design system practice, user research practice. So I would say we're still looking to hire for complementarity. But it's not so much about skills or what people have been doing. I guess it's much more about potential because we know that if there's someone with potential, that person at some point that will find something they like to do more on the team and then they will specialize with or maybe they will even set up their own practice on something that that's actually what happened with analytics. Yeah. So it's kind of funny how things have any way to evolve because the world is changing. And even if you feel that you found the perfect formula, yes, not the case.
Filippo Lovotti 4:46
So when it comes to candidate funnel, so let's say starting from the moment you receive an application all the way to making an offer, and potentially even accepting an offer. How is that actually that the more Tactical side of things, how has that changed over time.
Morgane Peng 5:05
So I would say, again, seven years ago, the team was a none. I mean, we didn't have anything out there for people to read. So it was, as I said previously, was very hard to convince people even to interview with us. So the real first people who got interested, was more, I mean, they were more like coming from networks, not necessarily mine. But people who had semi working in banking, who kind of knew a little bit of the design challenges in the industry. Today, we also have highs and has really changed because we know we can put something we can share what we do. And so we really have candidates from all over the place. And what we find in places where something much more structured, to make sure that we don't miss out, or we try to also lower the bias that we have in a process of, for example, all the applications are screened by two volunteers in the team. And so they do it separately, and then they kind of gather together the nuts. So that itself takes a lot of time, because you have to go through all the CVS, the portfolios, and then we try because again, it's everyone is a bit different has a different kind of angle in the team. But we kind of still try to form formalize what we're looking for, so that everyone is aware of, you know, what's the criteria to pass, let's say the first round the second round? So yeah, it gets more I would say, formal, for sure.
Filippo Lovotti 6:41
Question for you, just to get a couple more details. Do you administer both a design challenge and say, a whiteboard challenge? Or do you gear more towards one versus the other? Or do you have another format to, in a way, test the readiness of the candidate.
Morgane Peng 7:01
So usually, what we do is we first have a little chat 30 minutes just to get a sense of why they applied, explain what we do as well to see if there will be a good match that's offers round. And then indeed, the second one, we're gonna really look at the design skills and what they've kind of learned or done over the past in the past experience. So part of that is we actually have like, a challenge, but that is done during the session. So I know there's a lot of discussion, I would say on design challenge, like take at home challenges, I find that that it is possible to assess someone's skills during the interview. That's what we do, we have a challenge of 30 minutes. So we give them a brief we give them a few minutes to ask questions. And then usually we get we let them do you know, think a little bit of, you know, what they want to how they want to structure the answer and what they want to do. And then when we come back 30 minutes later, we can talk through their points. And I would say that, honestly, is enough first to assess whether someone has the skills we are looking for maybe the only and that's just the only instance where we weren't sure, it was for someone who was straight out of the boot camp. And so we're not sure suffers in the portfolio during boot camps. They have this kind of premade formula sometimes. Yeah, so we're not sure how much of the portfolio was really from that person with if it was like a team project, etc. and test was maybe ambiguous. So we kind of, we kind of gave the person the option to kind of kind of expand a little bit at some points where we're not sure. But that was completely optional. The person did it. And actually, I can proudly say that today we actually so we hired him from an internship. And then we hired him full time. So yeah, I feel very happy that we actually gave him the opportunity to to do to do a little bit more, right compared to the other candidates who had like a more classic education. So I felt like it's hard this question because you still need sometimes to give people flexibility in the process. Yes, otherwise, you might miss out on amazing people that we ended up hiring.
Filippo Lovotti 9:12
Okay, let's change gears a bit, shall we? I know you have written quite a few articles on medium. And one of my favorites is designing without chaos. But the one that I like to focus on today, and it's spot on for this season is 11 realities on finding your first job. I think it will be beneficial for our listeners, if we went point by point and cover all 11 I think they are very meaningful and worth covering. So let's start maybe with a basic question. How did you get the idea for the article?
Morgane Peng 9:48
Well, when we had to hire for last Junior position, as I said earlier, we had 300 applicants and I realized that was Some people because obviously when you start doing something a lot, and we add to screen and interview a lot of people, you start to notice patterns. And what I noticed is some people were clearly trend, they were having the right behaviors they were, they didn't know how to pitch themselves. And some people were really like, kind of like just going out of school, kind of not really knowing how to do an interview. And I was like, this is just so kind of sad that they're not in the know, because maybe they don't have their parents or their family to train them. Maybe the network or maybe their school, because stem schools, they don't do that. I was lucky because my school did this kind of mock interviews. So I was kind of a little bit prepared. But I know some schools, some unions, they don't do that at all. And yeah, so I was like, this is just so sad. Because again, it's nothing linked to the individual. It's just because they don't know it. And so I started to write down some notes of stuff. I've noticed, I compiled a list, I think I first shared them on Twitter. And then obviously, because people were asking questions and follow up questions, I was like, Okay, I need more space to write more stuff. And that ended up being in a, in a medium article.
Filippo Lovotti 11:15
Alright, let's go with point number one, you don't get hired because you are passionate. Why not?
Morgane Peng 11:24
So I'm not saying that you should not be passionate, because obviously, if you go in there and like, I don't care about design, I don't care about whatever, you're not going to be hired. But that's not going to be the reason why you are hired. Because again, you have to think that you probably want candidates among others. And all the other candidates, they will probably say they will be they are passionate, nobody's gonna say the reverse.
Filippo Lovotti 11:53
You can imagine that. Have you ever had one applicant that comes in and said, Oh, yeah, I'm not I'm not passionate about design, by the way, I'm just applying for this job. And I'm not passionate. Yeah.
Morgane Peng 12:04
And this year, because I saw like that, that's that's it? Yeah, it's not possible. So don't waste your time on a given. Because basically what happened is like this, probably interviewer will see many, many other candidates. And those candidates, they will say that they are passionate as well. So that doesn't allow you to stand out from the rest from the group. And it's United States. It's funny, because as designers, we know about all the results principle, you know, the proximity, things that group, the same are grouped together. And if you want to stand out, you have to visually differentiate the item. But here's the same if you want to stand out. And if you say exactly the same thing as all the other candidates, you won't, and I think it's probably something that Junior people tend to do a lot because they choose either school or just out of a boot camp they want to fit in. So they want to exhibit the same traits of the other people. But by doing that, they're just like everyone else. And it's going to be very hard to to even remember the candidate if you're so similar to all the other candidates. So you have to leverage in what makes you different.
Filippo Lovotti 13:16
However, where would you draw that line? Because in a way, I understand why juniors will want to be, in a sense, they will want to conform, because they are told that there is a certain expectation from them. So they want to match that expectation, because they may not really know what is helpful, you make them stand out. I would imagine that someone will be a little bit worried that something can make them stand out, but not in a good way, if you know what I mean. So how do you think what what advice would you have for this, these folks that want to stand out, but they also want to be make sure that they can stand out in a good way to not, you know, in a way that makes them? I don't know, make the throws off the entire hiring conversation?
Morgane Peng 14:07
That's an interesting question. I would say, and maybe sometimes it's not very, not everyone knows that. But in the hiring process, there's different steps. And in those different steps, there's different things to validate as a hiring manager. So if you're married to the interview stage, that that means that someone's Cray knew before, and looked at your portfolio and look at what you've done previously, or looked at your resume. So that means that if they even consider you for chat, because that's time for everyone, that means you're already passing the kind of basic criteria of Okay, can this person design and work on a project. So that's why in that sense, when you get to talk to the hiring manager for the first time Probably why they want to check is your motivation, just get a sense to, you know, to know you. And I would say, if you've passed this screening already, it's okay to mention what you've done before. Okay? To give you a real example, because I'm thinking about someone I mentored recently, at someone who was looking for jobs, she got it, by the way, and she did a boot camp. But she didn't want to kind of say what she was doing before. So she kind of hides what was there before. So she just had a portfolio with a few projects, and oversee, if you did a boot camp, which is a few projects, you can't compete with someone who spent five years studying design at uni, obviously, they will have a lot more references, a lot more projects. But what was really interesting with her profiles, before she was owning her own business, I think she was running a plant flower shop. And when I was just chatting with her, I learned that she had to get up at like, 4am every day to take care of the business that she was dealing with her own stuff. And to me, I was like, Okay, look, you don't have to put that among your design projects. But it can be a separate section. Because To this day, I remember I talked to someone who gets up every day at 4am, to collect the plans. And that may not be something I will be willing to do. But I know that she would have a very strong work ethic, because she was dealing with her own business didn't go with, you know, all the suppliers, then with everything. And that's a very strong point. And she definitely, I think she was really scared to stand out because she didn't have previous experience to mix with the design aspect of things. But again, so it's when you time when you push I would say, for this information and the angle, how you sell it, because it's interesting. Oh, I was interested in flowers before and then I'm interested in design and very passionate in design. Now. That's not going to cause everyone. The Yeah, if you say I used to run my business, I get up super early, I have a very strong work ethic with a real example. You know that not everyone can say. And by the way now, I'm super, super game on design. And I want to work in this field a lot more convinced?
Filippo Lovotti 17:20
Yes, that is a great point. Sometimes. I mean, I had the same experience as a mentor when you have mentees that almost want to hide what they did before. And I tell them look, no, no, as a hiring manager, this is very valuable to me, because I'm not hiring you has a robot that can do UX. You're a person, I want to understand you as a person. And I know that people have a lot of different passions, a lot of different hobbies and things that they do. And I want to learn a little bit more what you bring to the table outside of the US skill set, right? For instance, your example is perfectly, I think hits the nail on the head because this person has a very strong work ethic. Well, who wouldn't want to have a designer that on top of having a good skill set for UX also has a great work ethic, I mean that that makes a lot, a lot of difference. Because I've seen firsthand folks that do not have a great work ethic, and they can be great designers. But at the end of the day, there is little to show for that. And so it's an amazing skill set. And it's such a shame that they decided to hide it because it was not necessarily applied to design, it was applied to a different industry. But I think that you put the play very well, if you're if you're able to package it in a way that makes sense. Of course, if you come out, as you said, saying, Yeah, I was passionate about flowers, and I'm passionate about design. That doesn't necessarily exactly hire me. That doesn't necessarily work. But if you're able to, and I think you mentioned this in your article too. If you're able to make a statement and then bring in an example to support that statement, then it doesn't matter if that example is necessarily extremely related to design, of course, you shouldn't be you shouldn't be hindering your entire UX application or your hiring process around something that is not UX related or design related. They will be a little silly, because I mean, at the end of the day, we are hiring someone that can do design. But of course, you know if the core is design and UX experience and motivation and all of that, and then around it, you sell yourself as a person that has a lot of different skill set that has a lot of different passions. That is a lot of experience outside of UX, but that makes you a much, much more likely to stand out versus someone that sells as a you know, a great UX machine. Right.
Morgane Peng 19:49
Yeah, and I guess that's something I'm not sure I put that in the article, but I definitely remember the one I was looking for my first job. I really wanted to fit in Do you like to perfectly shave the perfect candidates somehow. And, and they remember I gave, I had a friend that I helped that there wasn't design, she was in a lot of physics, something very engineering, and geeky. And she was trying to she was in the really academic world. And she was trying to find a job outside. She wanted to graduate from the academic world, and acquired a stand where she wouldn't get the past the first interviews because they actually was a very likable person. And so I offered her to do a mock interview. And what I realized during the mock interview is she was behaving like at school, that super academic, super cold. And she wasn't like that, in reality, she's someone who likes to jugs and you know, and I was like, why are you so serious? And she was like, because that's an interview. And as I read, you know, that the people interviewing you, they're trying to assess if they really want to spend up to, I don't know, eight hours per day with you. And if you call like that, who, who wants to work with you, and you're not like that, in reality, so stop pretending you're someone that you're not. And but the thing is, I was the same a third, I had to be super serious. I mean, you have to be so busy. Don't sweat too much, you know, but you still need to give people a sense of who you are, because they're gonna spend a lot of time.
Filippo Lovotti 21:23
Instead of series, I will say professional, right? You can be informally, yeah, professional, meaning that you can still joke, you can still have a playful or an informal attitude that is also appropriate and professional. I think that yeah, that's exactly the type of person that because again, like as you mentioned, of course, we want to make sure that you have the skill setting all of that, but you are also going to be a culture fit. So you want to make sure that not only you're compatible with the culture, but vice versa. And so there is there is a lot that could be said about that. And there is a lot more that could be said, between the contrast between academia and what I would call the real world, the world we live in, there is a big difference. That's almost a season on its own. I know that we have three more minutes. So I wanted to tackle point number two, I think that point number one, we have gone above and beyond so far, but I want to tackle point number two, timing is the biggest factor in higher.
Morgane Peng 22:25
Yeah, so I feel like I need to tell my story again here, because that's exactly a mistake that I did when I was looking for my first job, which is I wanted to save the best opportunities for the weekends, or for when I have time. So I could write a perfect cover letter, I could tweak perfectly my CV, I could, I don't know do everything perfectly. The sometimes I realized that by the time every weekend, the ad was gone. And now that I'm on the other side, I can guarantee that tonight Wait, because once something is out, things start to pile up. And so if you're coming out with a if you're organized as a team, you start looking at the candidates, if you're not organized, you kind of do everything at the last minute. But most of the time people will do it by order of arrival, kind of kind of first come first served, kind of thing. So while you wait for that perfect cover letter, and to have that perfect form, whatever. There may be, like 2030 100 people ahead of you applying. And the reality is people stop when they find someone that they're saying they're good enough, or they're good. They're not going to wait forever to find the perfect candidate or that perfect person. Because it's just not how, and that's not how it works. And even when you when you look for a product, or you want to buy something you don't do like a market wide research, you look at what is available right now. Who is the best candidate for that? And yeah, go for it. So yeah, that's kind of sad. But I think as something that people really don't realize, and okay to give you again, a real example, I feel like I need to give you real examples here. When we had those 300 applicants for junior position in London, we had to close the ad early. Because there was way too much we couldn't screen so many people. So usually when you publish, I mean, for us, at least I don't know for the other companies, but like when you publish a job, ad, maybe it's there for months, months and a half. And I say we had to close that after two or three weeks, because we had too many people. And we knew that in that period of people, because we've seen the first candidates were already very strong. So we were pretty confident that we will find someone a junior against I was a junior, so a junior and those 300 people so why wait and maybe end up with like 600 you know, applications to screen and so we had to close it. But the thing is like, if you had, if you wait, maybe you will miss the opportunity. And also, if you wait, that, I don't know, perfect moment to start looking, maybe you wouldn't see as well, the ad anyway.
Filippo Lovotti 25:13
Yeah, definitely, you know, maybe it's me becoming an old man. But the older I grow with age, the less I appreciate perfection, meaning that I realized that perfection is an luding. idea. There's no such thing as a perfect thing. It's always depending on context, moment, timing, to which timing, I think timing is luck. But that's another completely different episode. But you're totally right. And normally, when we as a hiring manager, when we start looking for a position, we are looking because we need that person to start working is not just because we we love going through the hiring process so much that we we just do it for the sake of the hiring process. So if we need that person, we need it relatively timely manner. So it's better as a candidate to send in a resume or a portfolio that is, or what have you even a cover letter that is not perfect, but at least you have a foot in the door, compared to going to perfection, and then missing that opportunity all together. So even it's also true if you get a rejection. Because sometimes, you know, sometimes you may need to flex that muscle that allows you to be efficient quickly, to quickly personalize your cover letter, quickly personalize your portfolio or your resume. Maybe you need to flex that and you had to learn how to do to be able to do that. But that's just the reality of it. We're not gonna necessarily leave the rack open indefinitely, because we want to find you necessarily, right. So it's good that every time you personalize a portfolio, maybe for an industry, it's good to also save it and leave it there saving in a folder where like if you know that you're applying for FinTech and then you apply for retail. And you're not you find another job in FinTech, maybe you can reuse you reuse that resume to that state or for FinTech. So that also that saves you a little bit more time, but at least as you said, like at least you apply in an efficient in a time and company efficient manner. And you just don't waste that opportunity.
Morgane Peng 27:20
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And it may be something that is not really related, but somehow it is. But I know if many people realize that when they first started looking for a job is probably that's the only time in your career or that one of the few times you will do that. Because as you kind of develop your experience and your network, probably in the future, how you will apply is very, it's going to be very different to what you're doing now. Which is, obviously when you as a junior, you're going to probably go job boards apply there. But once you study, as I said, to develop your network, maybe the next your next job is going to be someone who reaches out to you or maybe like a recruiter Exactly. And that obviously is going to be completely different. So that's why don't spend too much time because the most important and you said is to get your foot in the door.
Filippo Lovotti 28:20
Morgan, we are running out of time, I know that we were able to cover only two out of 11. So you have to come back. Absolutely. So we can cover the remaining nine. There will be nine Yes. Good Now, before before we leave. Exactly. Before we leave, I wanted to ask you, if people listen to this and are really interested in reading more about you or contacting you directly where they can find you online.
Morgane Peng 28:48
So they can go on Twitter. I try to be active there. Obviously on the medium article where there's the those 11 tips. I try as well to the other I'm not terribly active on LinkedIn. I'm also there. So yeah, basically all the kind of social media you can expect. So it's most of them are just my first name and feminine. So Morgane Peng, and yeah.
Filippo Lovotti 29:19
I hope you enjoyed the episode. If you're interested in any of the resources we mentioned, all the links are on the episode page of our website, theindustryofux.com thanks to Morgane for coming on the show. Thanks to Youssef Hemimy for the audio engineering work. If you have any feedback about the episode, or the show, you can tweet @industryUX. If you really want to help or say thank you from the bottom of your heart, please leave a five star rating and review on Apple podcasts. It helps us find the charts and bring our show to a bigger audience. Last but not Thanks for listening, and I'm looking forward to talking to you next week.
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