You have your resume, portfolio, and LinkedIn profile looking healthy.
You get asked in for an interview.
You assume the people interviewing you have read your folio, resume, etc.
You’re probably wrong.
Assume none of the people interviewing you know much of anything about you. Or if they do, it’s from a five-minute pre-interview scan.
This happens often, so it’s good to be ready for it.
When answering interview questions, remember that the person asking may have little to no context of who you are.
Help them out with that context.
I’m not the oracle of UX/product design interviews.
I researched the process when I was interviewing last year and this is what I came up with.
I had a handful of interviews and got a few job offers.
I lost a bit of sleep and some of my hair during the process.
It all worked out.
I now have a shiny new job and less hair on my head.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
Get some context of what you’re walking into.
What is this business? Who works on the team? Do you know anyone who works for the company? If so, get in touch. Find people who’ve recently left and message them on Linkedin. Find out what’s really going on with the team.
Rip the job description apart.
Write it down on a piece of paper. It sinks in better after putting it to paper. Go slow.
Once you’ve read it, highlight the essential points. Write each one on a Post-it note. Stick them up.
You need to keep returning to these points as go through your answers. They want to know that you can do (or have done) all the stuff they’re asking for.
Note: Small moments can mean you come out on top in interviews. They have checkboxes they want to tick, and the job description notes are vital for this.
Prep the following questions with your answers
I’m not going to tell you what exactly to answer. You can work that out. I’ll give a few pointers, though. Once you have the answers you like, read them out loud. Do this over and over again until you’ve had enough. Refine them if need be.
Remember: Where possible, tie your answers to the job description.
THE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
These can be broken down into five chunks. We have Kai-Ting Huang to thank for these chunks/funnels of design interview questioning.
2. What have you done?
3. Your thinking/design process
4. Teamwork/behavioural questions
5. Future projection
1. Tell me about yourself.
Keep this short — with a beginning, middle, and end — over a minute or two. Keep the main part focused on your experience and how it relates to the role you’re going for. People don’t want to hear your life story.
2. How did you get into design?
This is your story. You know this story, but you still need to practice it. Make it to the point with an interesting angle. You need to have a story that you can be enthusiastic about. If you can’t get excited about your journey into design, you’ll struggle to get them excited.
3. Why are you leaving your current role?
No slagging off of your current/previous company. Be positive and honest without bringing up the dirt.
4. Why do you want to work at [company X]?
Say that you’re interested in what you know about the company. Align your answer with the company values (dig around their website or the internet for these).
In my interviews, I mentioned that I’m not fully sure if I want to work at the company, and that’s why I’m here: to find out more.
5. On the spectrum of researcher to user experience designer to visual designer, where do you see yourself and why?
There are lots of different types of UX roles. Ideally, you’re going for a role that suits your experience. They want to know where you lie on the spectrum. This is something to think about as it’s a favorite question. Best not to bullshit here.
What Have You Done
6. Portfolio walk-through.
I’m not a big fan of the portfolio walk-through. Mainly because it’s so tough for the interviewer to get proper context of what was going on in the project.
The main aim here is to show your thinking. The interviewer wants some insight into your process. You may have two or three projects in your folio. Each one needs to walk through your process.
It’s crucial that you have a solid structure that you can talk to here. The interviewer doesn’t want to hear granular details in the walk-through.
Think of the case study as a story. It needs a beginning, middle, and end. Within it, the story needs to include parts that link to the job description. This is important. The people doing the interviewing remember this.
7. What’s your design process?
How do you work through a project, from research to design? Be honest here. If you don’t usually participate inthe full process, say this. But be clear about your interest in the rest of the process.
Aim to mention research, defining the problem, ideating on solutions, choosing a solution, and testing it. As well as balancing the needs of the users and the business.
8. What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
Tell the story of a relatively recent project that you’ve worked on. Pull out what was different about it. It could be that it was innovative. It could be that you were working with new software that made the process enjoyable. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the project itself. It could be the way that you approached it with your methodology.
Your Thought Process
9. How do you define UX design?
Figure out a response that suits you. Try to avoid the typical answer. Create own that’s unique, simple, and makes sense. Don’t waffle. Keep it to the point. Even though you might think you know what to say here, do some research, come up with an answer, and practice.
10. How do you evaluate a design and make a design decision?
This section of the interview might include a take-home exercise, a whiteboard challenge, or an app critique session.
This is part of your process. The interviewer wants to know how you come to a decision. Tell a brief story of a specific time you tested a range of ideas, and with the business and users in mind, you came to a solid design decision.
11. What are your strengths?
Painful question. This is right out of the interviewer handbook. They love it. When I was asked this in one of my interviews, I said I was “a good people person.” I cringe thinking back, but hey ho.
You need to ask a few people for help on this. Ask designers you’ve worked with or close friends. They all have a better idea of where your strengths lie. You could even get a few testimonials from previous bosses or colleagues.
You need to prep for this answer. It seems easy, but it’s weird saying how great you are. The litmus test is only when you hear an answer you don’t cringe at, then you can you be happy with it.
12. What are your weaknesses?
Urghhhh. I am not a fan of this one, but it does come up a lot. Best to be prepared. And strategic.
In a recent interview, I said, “I’m impatient when getting work out.” This is true, but framing it as a kind of positive weakness works. Be bloody careful slipping up on this one.
13. How do you take criticism?
“Comes with the territory” is pretty much what needs to be said. Add your own twist. Again, you could tell a story. Not much to be said here.
Mention that if you’re not getting criticism, something is wrong.
14. How do you work with engineers/product managers/other designers?
Again, be honest here. Collaboration is significant in design roles. You facilitate the design and need all these people (plus others) to get it over the line successfully.
They want to know that you’re going to join the team and get on with people. They want to see that you’re happy to chat back and forth with whoever is needed to get the work done.
Add in a story about working through a project and touch on working with engineers, product managers, delivery, etc.
15. How do you hand over your designs to the developers?
Have a true story of a recent project where you worked with a developer. This brings your experience to life.
They want to visualize you sitting with their developers signing off on designs.
16. Have you had a project that didn’t go as planned? What did you do to rectify it?
You need to say yes. If you say no, that’s a red flag. Problems don’t have to be negatives. They are just obstacles. It’s key to tell the story of a time when the process wasn’t working, but you managed to get it back on track with collaboration and communication.
17. Why should I hire you?
Tough one. The likely answer is that the job spec suits your level of experience. From what you can see, all the crucial areas of the job description you’ve covered in your past role(s). But there’s also room for you to stretch and grow. List out the essential points from the job description.
They want to hire you, so trust yourself and be confident in your answer.
18. Where do you see yourself in five years?
You might need to think about this one. It’s good to have a bit of a long game plan to talk to. It might not be what you’re actually planning, but you need an answer/story. Again, this should be interesting. Progress and growth and are a good foundation of what to talk to here.
Do you have any questions?
You need some. It’s lame not to be prepared to ask questions. I write down the questions I want to ask and refer to them. These can be in a notebook. Don’t worry about turning to notes. It’s better to be prepared than not, and it’s more relaxing to not struggle to recall them. Here are a few:
- What is company X’s UX design process?
- How do you see the design team growing?
- What is the business’ view of UX design?
- Do you do user testing, and if so, what do you do and how often?
- Where is the designer team strongest and weakest?
- Take it easy on the coffee and sugar on the day of the interview.
- Chewing gum before an interview has been proven to reduce stress. Weird, but I get it; it seems to work.
- Meditate daily over the entire interview process. I use Headspace. There is no question that this helps with clarity and relaxation of the mind. Meditation’s not for everyone, but it works for me.
- Listen intently during the interview. This is obvious, but it’s not as easy you think when you’re nervous.
- Use a notepad and take notes. This pad can also house the questions you’ll ask.
- Don’t forget that in addition to advocating for the users, you are also pushing for the business. This is often overlooked, but so important.
- Do some jumping jacks before you begin. Yeah, this is super weird, but there is a method to the madness. I found myself jumping up and down in the bathroom of a nearby coffee shop before one of my interviews when I was feeling a bit shaky. “When you jump and move your hands up and down, your brain stimulates the release of serotonin (the ‘feel good’ hormone). The release of adrenalin also gives you a rush of excitement. These hormones, together, are responsible for making you feel happy and lower your stress levels.” (Daily Hunt article.)