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Unpacking Typecasting and Its Impact on Tech Industries
What It Is and Why Companies Should Avoid It
Just like how a stage is set for a specific scene in a play, individuals often find themselves playing a recurring role in their professional lives. In Hollywood, for instance, you might see an actor repeatedly taking up action hero roles due to their muscular build or an actress often portraying the girl-next-door because of her approachable charm. This is a practice known as typecasting - the process of consistently assigning someone to roles that are similar to those they have played in the past, based on their appearance, persona, or previously demonstrated abilities.
The concept of typecasting extends far beyond the acting world. It's a prevalent practice in various fields and industries, including the tech and design sectors. Typecasting, when applied to design roles, typically refers to the practice of hiring designers based on their previous design experiences or the specific types of products or projects they have worked on.
For instance, a hiring manager seeking a designer for a mobile app might prefer candidates who have predominantly worked on mobile app interfaces. Similarly, if a company needs an Onboarding Designer, they may inadvertently typecast by only considering candidates who have previously crafted onboarding experiences. There's a certain degree of comfort in choosing a candidate with an identical background to the role at hand, as it seems to reduce the risk and uncertainty involved in the hiring process.
But what happens when we extend this practice to its logical conclusion? We find ourselves in a world where a brilliant UX designer is passed over for an e-commerce website design role because their portfolio is filled with healthcare app designs. Or where a graphic designer with a flair for typography is rejected for a logo design role because they don't have logos littered across their CV.
While hiring someone with relevant skills is crucial, it's equally important not to pigeonhole potential candidates based on a narrow interpretation of their past experiences.
Although typecasting can simplify the hiring process, it narrows the talent pool and can cause hiring managers to overlook some potentially excellent fits for the role.
Let’s break free from typecasting
Diversity of Thought and Creativity
Different experiences and perspectives lead to more creative solutions. Hiring someone who doesn't fit the typical mold can introduce new ideas and inspire fresh thinking. This diversity of thought is particularly important in design, where creativity is key. For example, a designer with an extensive background in mobile app design might bring fresh, unconventional approaches to the onboarding process for a desktop application.
Design is an ever-evolving field. By avoiding typecasting, you're more likely to hire designers who are adaptable and versatile, capable of working on a range of projects and responding to changing design trends. A designer who has not exclusively focused on onboarding but has a wide array of experiences might provide unique solutions that an 'onboarding-only' designer may not consider.
Equity and Fairness
Typecasting can lead to unintentional bias in the hiring process. It can cause potentially skilled individuals to be overlooked simply because they don't fit a specific mold or don't have a specific type of experience. Focusing on skills, problem-solving abilities, and potential can create a more fair and inclusive hiring process.
The field of design is constantly changing, and what's needed today may not be what's needed tomorrow. By focusing on potential and problem-solving abilities rather than specific past experience, you are likely to hire designers who can grow and evolve with the role and the company.
Breaking the Mold: Hiring for an Onboarding Role
Let's consider an example. Suppose you're hiring for an Onboarding Designer role. You might think the best candidate would be someone who has years of experience designing onboarding experiences. While this seems logical, typecasting in this way can limit your options.
An excellent onboarding experience is about more than just good design; it's about understanding the user's needs and motivations, communicating effectively, and guiding the user through their first interactions with a product. A designer with experience in user research, communication design, or UX writing could potentially bring valuable skills to the role, even if they've never specifically worked on onboarding before.
Furthermore, consider the potential of hiring someone from a different industry. For instance, a designer who has worked primarily in the game industry will have a different perspective on user engagement and might bring innovative ideas to the onboarding process.
To avoid typecasting in this scenario, focus on the core skills that make a good designer and problem-solver: user empathy, communication, creativity, a keen eye for design, and the ability to understand and solve complex problems.
Remember, typecasting isn't just limiting for the individuals who get overlooked; it's limiting for the companies that miss out on potentially fantastic hires. By avoiding typecasting, you can ensure you're hiring the best person for the job, not just someone who fits a specific mold.
Embracing Diversity and Breaking Away from Typecasting
In conclusion, stepping away from typecasting enables companies to reap the benefits of diverse perspectives and experiences. By broadening the definition of what makes a suitable candidate for a design role, businesses can attract and retain a wide range of talented professionals. Each individual's unique background, skills, and insights can add immense value and help create design solutions that truly cater to a diverse user base.
The hiring process should always be about finding the best person for the role. In the realm of design, this often means looking beyond the surface level of a candidate's portfolio and delving into their problem-solving skills, their potential, and their ability to adapt and learn.
The best onboarding designer for your company may not be the person who has designed dozens of onboarding experiences before. Instead, it might be someone with a rich understanding of user needs, a knack for clear communication, or a fresh perspective born from experiences in different industries or projects.
Breaking away from typecasting can indeed be a more challenging approach. It demands that we look beyond the comfort of the familiar and venture into uncharted territories. But as daunting as it may seem, this strategy can help build a design team that's creative, innovative, and capable of evolving along with the changing landscapes of design and technology.
Let's rethink how we hire and step away from the typecasting mindset. After all, embracing diversity in all its forms is not just a noble pursuit, but a sound business strategy that fuels innovation and drives success in our increasingly interconnected world.
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