B2B market: how VTEX faces the challenge of hiring great designers
The position of Product Designer at VTEX has been published for four years. During this time, it was filled several times, but due to the company’s high demand for designers, this job vacancy was always immediately renewed. “For each good designer we hire, many new product opportunities are discovered”, explains Gabriel Carvalho, Head of Design for the company.
This permanent need to hire is common at VTEX, a company that grows around 40% per year, and whose employee motto is “create a software company for global e-commerce with as many good employees as we can find”, without ever lowering the bar. And that is not an easy task for a little-known company in a heated market full of fintechs that offer competitive wages and benefits. But the team led by Gabriel has been developing strategies, learning from their own mistakes and seems to have found a way to build a robust team. Today, the team numbers 20 designers – three years ago, there were only two.
The difficulty is in large part due to the fact that VTEX is not a B2C company. “Unlike Facebook, Instagram, Nubank or other brands that have a cool design and are known for having good product designs, we can’t offer our product in an obvious way for people to consume and say: this is a first-class design”, says Gabriel.
Therefore, one of his strategies is to engage designers so that they share with the general public, through lectures and articles, the work they develop and the reasons why they think VTEX is a good place to evolve as a professional. “We offer real challenges, with real customers who have complex operations and depend on our product to do their job, bringing with it a high level of responsibility”, says Gabriel.
“And here, designers have easy access to customers, so they can understand their business needs and make strategic decisions that will impact our product. Nothing is top-down here, designers can take the lead and direct our products.”.
Recruitment process evolution
When Gabriel joined VTEX, in 2016, the Design team counted on the internship program for recruiting talent. However, there were not enough senior designers to monitor the junior designers who joined the team, and they ended up leaving the company shortly thereafter, frustrated by the lack of mentoring to help them evolve professionally. This was the first mistake the team made in the hiring process.
“At that time, we were just two designers and we were tasked with reassembling the team. We then focused on senior profiles and started headhunting on Linkedin more than receiving applications. We met with the candidates and presented our product, VTEX’s design team challenges, the company’s goals, our office, our culture… everything we thought was cool and could help us attract talent”, he says. As a result, they managed to hire seven professionals, which greatly eased the workload.
Over time, however, the assessment techniques they used proved to be inefficient. One of them was the whiteboard challenge: the candidates came to our VTEX office and received a design challenge to solve in about two hours. “We realized that it took a lot of the candidates’ time, it was a dull and difficult challenge and we ended up dismissing many candidates that could have eventually been good”.
They then opted for an asynchronous challenge – an activity that the candidate had to complete in seven days and send in the results. “We started to realize that this was a little bit unethical, because somehow we were asking people to work for us, to develop a design work outside their business hours. This wasn’t very nice, many candidates dismissed us. They were happy with their jobs and did not want to get home after working from 9 am to 6 pm and still have to do work for VTEX”, according to Gabriel.
The team then came up with a solution, which is still used today: the candidates present a case they developed during their professional career. “It is much more relevant because we are able to not only understand how the work they developed is but also how they work on a daily basis, how they deal with real problems and relate to customers and to the rest of the team. We are able to evaluate the candidate culturally, not only on a technical level”.
Diversify to grow
Another challenge VTEX has recently taken on is to increase diversity among employees. This initiative came from the Design team five months ago and has had an impact on the entire company.
“We were hiring, growing and we started to notice that the team was very unbalanced in terms of gender and diversity in general”, says Gabriel. Without diversity, minorities on a team will not feel comfortable and represented. So we made the decision to actively search only for women applicants on Linkedin, in order to start balancing our team again.
Although the team is initially focusing on gender, the plan is to expand it to other minorities in the future. And some changes are already underway: the team today includes black and LGBT people, as well as people from several Brazilian states. The impact on daily life is already noticeable, says Gabriel: “Our meetings have been more productive, the people on the team are more empowered, more engaged, happier. There are different ideas on the table. Everything changed”.
The maturity of VTEX’s recruitment process is evident in other recent initiatives, such as the use of the Lever platform, which helps map leads and interviews and provides metrics – as for example, how many people are contacted on average before each new hire. The Talent Acquisition team, created about three months ago, is part of this recruitment formalization and has been guiding other areas in this process. Employees are also encouraged to make referrals and search for candidates, through campaigns such as “Hiring is everyone’s job”.
“The big hiring challenges remain the same. But today, at least, we are better prepared to face them”, says Gabriel.
We believe in the power of talent, and we are hiring.