Director level job – Solidworks test at interview?

Background – 18 years in ID in corporations + 21 as a consultant. I saw an interesting ad on Core77 for an ID Director job with a small staff and a job description that read like it should. Consumer products/ able to use Solidworks (no specific year) plus Keyshot. I use it for design control files / renderings etc. But I’m an ID first and not a full time CAD jockey. It’s one tool of many including pencil and paper.

Interview – They fly me cross country and after short pleasantries they march me into an office and a person with 3 years’ experience who would be a subordinate. She instructs me to draw an existing part in Solidworks 2012. I use 2016 with customized menus. This person tells me that when I get done with this part then draw this other one. “You have an hour”. “Here’s a ruler”

I refuse the test and after a short discussion I leave. First, this wasn’t disclosed, second there is a whole lot more to running a design department than one CAD file, and as a measure of a company’s dedication to ID it just felt wrong on many levels. Not the least of which was a sense of immediate skepticism.

Appreciate any and all thoughts from similar level folks. Thanks.

Good you stood up for yourself. In any case, if this is how they run a company, and/or treat people, probably not the place you would want to be.

I’ve never had a test in an interview, but have had a potential new client ask me to do a “test” after a lot of back and forth briefing on a new project. Told them my portfolio speaks for itself, hire me or don’t. They didn’t.


Wow, what a horrible way to present their company to you - I agree fully with your position and that of Richard’s. Thanks for taking a shot for all of us.

I doubt they learned a lesson regarding how to hire talent but they certainly deserve to have lost whatever $$ they spent on your flight, etc. And it looks like they don’t understand ‘big picture’ vs ‘task oriented’ anyway.

I’m not an opponent to trial projects, mainly to understand how someone thinks, but this brute skill level evaluation seems pretty unreasonable, especially for a director. I wouldn’t do something like that either. I have been asked to put together some thinking around a broad idea or problem and I had advance warning of the assignment.

Thank god you got that glimpse of the job during the interview and not your first day!

It’s experiences like these that I wish I had when I started in the industry. This company obviously does not know what a design director is supposed to be doing. Sounds like they want a CAD jockey or CAD manager.

I’ll present the other side for some perspective…

Somebody with your years of experience might need a skills test. If I am doing the math projections right you have 39 years of experience (18+21)which makes you at minimum 59 years old (graduated in early 20s near late 1970s), or if you were consulting while working your corporate gigs then you might be as young as 38 years old. Solidworks did not gain momentum in the market until the late 1990s when you were probably in your early 40s. Again, someone with your years of experience might need a skills test if you have been away from the drivers seat for a period of time. I was told by my physician after age 38 the vision begins to degrade , and from my experience, the stamina for long CAD sessions in front of the screen dramatically decreases.

Design direction means so many things to so many people these days, and with CAD it makes it even more complicated to evaluate a candidates knowledge and skills. It seems a bit odd to me that this kind of interview expectation was not sussed out over the phone by you before a plane ticket was purchased. I assume you had some sort of phone interview before the trip…no?

I’ve had a few skills tests in my career (including CAD). They felt odd at first because I was taught back in the day that portfolio is all that one needs to get a position, but with the level of fraud these days in all areas of business, these kinds of tests are necessary to evaluate talent before investing for the long haul. People can say anything as well as put anything in their portfolio which are all digitized now in 2016. It is also more efficient to some to do an interview skills tests rather waste time making reference calls before the interview as well.

I think if you’d have past their little test you might have gotten to the more familiar lines of questioning that you were hoping for. A lot of these skills test interviews also measure things like ego, flexibility and whether or not to proceed with serious inquiry. If the candidate can’t or won’t do the cad skills test then that tells both parties that it probably would not work out for either of you.

What this really reveals is that the demand side of the market does not understand design, designers and how they are valued. Computer skills are at the foundation level of any job these days. That is what they measure first when hiring resources. This is indeed short sighted and shows poor human resource hiring skills.

The first job interview I had after finishing my Master’s degree I was given a SolidWorks test… told to draw a cube by someone with lower qualifications and experience than me. Rather patronising and pointless.

Dude … WTF. This is the most condescending and insulting response I’ve read in a very long time. Idainc’s response was absolutely correct. A skills test for a design director is ridiculous – I’m sure if they had even hinted at it in a pre-interview the trip across country would not have happened.

Good for you Idainc!!!

I like to think if I find myself in this position (with the benefit of thinking through it ahead of time thanks to you sharing your experience) that I would ask the subordinate how they might approach the challenge, give them any thought on how I might do it differently, ask them about their tools/menus (customization or lack there of) tell them how long I think it should take, and say I’ll be back later to check their progress and help them through any challenges they might come across. Then ask the hiring manager or whomever I am interviewing with what is next on the agenda.

I think you did the right thing, I’d like to hear more about the experience and any fall out that ensued.

Thank you one and all.

When I spoke to these people I noted that two bosses I had showed no evidence of being able to draw let alone use CAD. I am not a philosopher. I subscribe to the theory that those who cannot do teach. In my conversation with them I noted that my career was linear and all of the information on my resume and items in my portfolio were mine and easily verifiable in Google patents.

I asked them if there was anything they’d like me to bring or send in the interim and that was their opportunity to ask me to bring – but not leave – Solidworks files. An opportunity to look at a file with me there of an item with a patent with my name on it that’s in the marketplace right now.
I pointed out to them that my references included three people who in one case I’ve known for nearly 30 years. All have used or purchased my files since the late 90’s.

There is no misrepresentation of any kind in my resume or work.

Due to the travel schedule, I had two short night’s sleep beforehand and it was 5AM my time when they dropped the test on me. I gave them as diplomatic a response as possible and instantly knew this was not the place for me so the conversation that ensued was unfiltered. I let it be known that if I was advised of this skills test beforehand I would not be there.

Anyone who would succumb to this could not effectively deal with their vendors which to me would require a sense of self and holding your ground.

They have lost 40% of their department since May according to LinkedIn.

Due to a maintenance issue on a return flight the entire experience took 58 hours door to door.

Before i respond 2 quick questions:

  1. can you provide the actual Job requirements/description? (without giving the company name
  2. Was this test the very first thing upon walking into the start of the interview?

Any more and it might be obvious -

“Director of Product Design, manage in house staff, drive NPD, collaborate w/factories, expand core competencies, Bachelor’s degree, 5-10 yrs, Solidworks a plus, travel, manage multiple projects, consumer product exp., various manufacturing processes and materials”

Yes, this was the first thing if you don’t count getting handed a bottle of water and a paper job application stapled together.

Wow! That is weird. A paper job application? Was it MacDonalds? Maybe you went into the wrong office building.

It’s weird that they ask you about SolidWorks in the interview and it didn’t seem to be in the job description…that’s what I find most troubling.

Having said that, I’ve worked with, and seen the results of, some outside firms on hiring. Sometimes the headhunter writes the job description based on their knowledge while the client had a completely different criteria in mind.

The hilarious response here would be to say “this is how I draw a cube in solid works - you, sit in this chair, draw me a 10” cube in SolidWorks , render in brushed aluminum. I’ll be in my office thinking about actual problems and solutions, come get me when you are ready for a critique. Once I review and approve the file, I’ll want you to CNC it in actual material by the end of the day … thats how I make a cube in SolidWorks."

Dude … WTF. This is the most condescending and insulting response I’ve read in a very long time. Idainc’s response was absolutely correct. A skills test for a design director is ridiculous – I’m sure if they had even hinted at it in a pre-interview the trip across country would not have happened.

Good for you Idainc!!![/quote]

Thank You! :smiley:

I always enjoy an arrogant pontification early in the morning. How pompous. Must be an “educator” of some sorts. :wink:

My wife and I went to Pratt and in one of her classes a teacher at an ad agency told her senior class – “You need to ask yourself how low you will stoop and how much self-esteem you’re willing to sacrifice because industry will help you find out”. And the same applies to ID I guess.

I found the parts in question on the offender’s web site and reviewed them with a trusted colleague who uses Alias. We came to the conclusion that with proper measuring devices each part would take about 4 hours each

I think you handle it well.

2 other approaches…

  1. look at the young designer and ask them how long it would take and what would be their approach then provide insight in how they could do it better… And then after 30 minutes inform the interviewers that you as a director would delegate that kind of work to your staff as the opportunity costs to have someone like you doing that work day in day out is not worth their money that will be paying you.

  2. (i mind has changed if you think the parts would take 4 hours) but i would have asked the designer if they wanted a Sketch model, A model for prototyping or a model for production, what where they using this model for, what where the project time constraints and the project needs… all the questions that as a director i would be asking.

I would have probably taken option 2 (but like you i would not have modeled the cad unless though it was something i could hammer out in 20 minutes or so. And i am a pretty damn good with SW) I truly would have wanted to talk to the hiring manager or who my boss would have been to (more politely put) find out what the hell they were thinking… more and more i see posting for Design Director with 4-6 years experience and experts at everything under the sun… If they truly need a director then they are probably going to be in trouble, and or they just dont have a clue.

As for designbreathings response perhaps he is simply playing devils advocate and trying to provide a pov from the company interviewing you, if that is what they are thinking then they could have handled it very differently. I am cautious because of being burned once hiring a designer who when i asked if that was their work they said yes. After hiring them i n noticed a lack of creativity when i challenged them and did some digging they responded “yeah the sketches where my work, i never said i came up with the Design”

I think the biggest miss is that they didnt tell you about what the onsite interview process was going to be and entail… because as you stated had you known you would have not flown.

Still would love to know who this is… but that is just my curiosity. In the end i think you did the right thing and also dodged a bullet.

I had a similar test, although it was verbal by a guy who did SolidWorks at a foundry where I got my first “design drafter” job which I turned into industrial design job. They had a complex tap (bibcock) which the guy questioning me was having trouble modelling. At the foundry we had to get client’s products and bring them into the 21st century by 3D modelling them to create new low pressure die casting dies.

He showed me his file, which was ok, but not very accurate, and then asked me how I would model it. I told him how I would use surfaces rather than solid modelling; using splines and tangent relations, equal curvature relations, intersection curves and then stitch it all together, model the core, indent etc. He was blown away.

I then had to email my University lecturer who taught me solidworks, because my methods weren’t giving the correct result. Haha. As a fresh graduate, I found this nerve racking as my career literally depended on it - there were almost zero ID jobs in 2010 in Australia; but I didn’t find it insulting. I would now, though, as I have proven myself with product releases, awards etc.

I can’t imagine how shitty that made the OP feel as a senior designer and manager. What a complete insult. You were 100% justified to leave, and should have charged them for wasting your time. The person who excused this behaviour and added insult to injury obviously hasn’t been on the receiving end of this sort of behaviour, and if they have, must be a masochist of some sort.

I had a similar experience not for a Director Level job but for a senior level position. I was brought out half way cross the country to meet with this company. They did not express that I would have to do any kind of skill test. I had this product category represented in my portfolio. Showed up and proceed to have a pretty normal interview then they were like ok time for a sketch test and hand me paper and some random pencils and markers. They said I would have as long as I wanted. I felt board line offend to have this surprise test and it was very board like find problems with the products and show solutions. I had only really looked at the products on line briefly before the interview and had not really put much thought in to issues the products had. Well in 45 minutes they came back and said pencils down. This was very shocking giving I was told I had a lot more time and I was no were near finished even with some basic thoughts. All and all I was happy not to get an offer form them at the end of this whole process it would have been nice to be able to prepare for the test a head of time.

There were a number of factors at play in my decision.

With nearly 40 years’ experience and the portfolio to prove it I don’t think I have to qualify much to anyone. At this point in a career it would be very hard to misrepresent much and despite my respect for CAD people it is not really in an ID director’s job description yet my portfolio demonstrates a high level of proficiency in Solidworks.

If I was an employee interviewing at another company, the bulk of my training & software is not paid for by me. This allows me to be more flexible in giving away my time. Especially if I was much younger with much less evidence to present.

As a consultant the acquisition of the software, training, practice time, equipment and the environment to run it in are all mine to bear. I know the value of it and I do not give it away. If CAD work is unusable clients don’t pay for it, model makers can’t use it, my name isn’t on the patent and it’s not on store shelves.

I used the analogy of an attorney in my rebuttal. Would you ask an attorney to represent you in a small case to see how he / she did then have a paralegal review it?

If we don’t respect our field who will? Any time someone asks me for something for free they don’t value it and they’re not getting it from me.

So much about getting a job is about fit more than capabilities. Clearly this place was not the right fit for you, even if they did offer you the job (wouldn’t be for me either), so I think in the end they did you a favor and you did what you felt was right.