Can I just say: Interviewing is DAMN hard.
And the sad thing is: Not a single college course teaches us how to prepare for UX design interviews.
Thus, in this article, I want to share a breakdown of the main UX design interviews and ways to prepare for them. I hope this will help anybody who’s interested!
The content is mainly divided into two sections
This is a long article. So let’s get started!
Before I start, I will like to recommend an amazing book called When Can You Start? Ace The Interview and Get Hired.
It was recommended to me by an ex-Google & Uber designer.
It’s not a lengthy read (248 pages). And it helped me set the right mental foundation for interviews.
A lot of this section comes from this book.
So, if you’ve never been in an interview before, I highly recommend getting it.
But let’s get into the meat of the article.
This may be the most critical tip I can give.
Empathy is important.
You might hear that designers need to empathize with their users.
Well, why not apply it to the interview process?
Imagine you’re in a portfolio presentation.
What does the interviewer want to know? What kind of projects does the interviewer want to see? What kind of design process are they looking for?
Understanding what the interviewer(s) wants can help you tremendously in your preparation.
Again, every interviewer is different, and this won’t apply to everyone.
But it never hurts to step in the interviewer’s shoes.
If you want to get into a company, you should know the ins and outs of the business.
This includes their products, culture, visions, competitors, and recent news.
And always expect a question like this:
Why did you decide to apply to XXX?
Your answer to this question will dictate whether you did research. Treat this as an opportunity to showcase how much you want to work for the company!
Also, it’s great if you’ve used the company’s product. But it’s even better if you can talk about what you like and what can be improved about the product.
One of the very first questions an interviewer will ask is this:
Tell me about yourself.
This is often called the “only question you must be able to answer.”
You typically have around 2-3 minutes to tell a story of how you came this far into the field of UX Design. Focus on crafting a concise and unique opening pitch to impress the interviewer!
Here are some resources to help you prepare:
Time zone is a pain.
Make sure that you know exactly when the interview will take place. Mark it on your calendar.
People might say this is insignificant.
I don’t think so. I believe that every single detail during an interview can be a game-changer.
Will you want to hire someone who wears a hoodie or a button-down shirt for an interview?
Do not be late. Period.
For every interview, I will always book a library room with a clean background.
The interview itself is already stressful. You don’t want any other distractions during the interview.
This is very important.
Towards the end of the interview, the interviewer will always ask
Do you have any questions for me?
This is your time to shine! Come up with specific, thoughtful questions to ask.
It means that you care!
When you enter the call, wave! Say, “Hi! This is (Name)!”
Be warm with your greetings.
Because it turns out: The first impression matters a lot.
A study by MIT confirms this: During the first 30 seconds, the interviewers will make their mind up about you. And they’ll spend the rest of the interview confirming that bias.
So, try to leave a good first impression in the first 30 seconds!
Don’t slouch on your chair.
It signals that you’re not excited about the interview and the job role.
We all make mistakes.
During an interview, you’re not expected to be 100% perfect.
It’s okay if you don’t know something. Ask to clarify or explain.
Sometimes, displaying vulnerability can be beneficial.
This stems from the preparation I mentioned earlier. Some of the questions you can ask are:
And please do not ask:
The bottom line is to stay curious and thoughtful.
Please send one to your interviewer(s) and the people who have helped you along the way. You may think it’s not important, but I believe it makes a huge difference.
Nobody gets it right the first time.
I’ve made countless mistakes during an interview.
But what matters is after the interview, you reflect, identify the mistakes, and fix them.
With each interview, you’ll grow in confidence as you actively make improvements.
Now onto the more specific stages. I will go over:
Expect the usual rounds of questions
Here is a Google Doc I used to prepare for my interviews. I didn’t answer every single question on here. But I think it’s a good start.
Recruiters are on your side! They’re hoping that you’re the real deal and the right fit for the position.
Only do this if it’s a phone call. But feel free to look at it for reference.
Make them open-ended. Use them to show your familiarity with the company and the industry.
Here, the number of interviews varies from one to many. Google has seven, so it really depends.
Typically, the hiring manager will be product designers or design managers. Here are some of the common hiring manager interviews:
This stage is your chance to flex your past works!
I will suggest starting by selecting some projects based on the given timeframe. Some deciding factors may be:
If any of your projects is a “yes” to these deciding factors, add them in!
After you’ve chosen your project, it’s time to create presentation slides.
You can use any tool. I used Figma for all my presentations.
For reference, here is a standard process I follow for the presentation:
Also, if you’re interested, this is my Figma presentation for one of my design interviews.
This gives the interviewer a good expectation of what’s about to come. No more grand reveals.
Here are some helpful resources I looked at:
Here are some common questions to get started:
In case you missed it, here’s the Google Doc with a list of common UX interview questions.
This method is gold. Learn more about it here. You can use it for any question I mentioned above.
Go over all the common behavioral questions and rehearse your answers!
Remember, the interviewer is a human too. Make the interview more conversational!
You know the drill. Do your research and ask good questions.
Here is a helpful video I looked at:
Look at different articles, videos, and real-life examples of whiteboard challenges.
Even better: Find a designer to practice with.
Also, it’s good to have a clear process. Here’s the process I followed for a challenge:
This is important. Always ask clarification questions and try to understand everything before you start designing. Jumping straight into a solution is one of the worst things you can do as a designer.
The point of a whiteboard challenge is to let the interviewers know how you think. So always speak out your thoughts!
When the interviewer challenges you or suggests alternatives, it doesn’t mean you’re wrong or a bad designer! Throw that thought away! The point is to work with the designer to create a workable solution!
I know it’s hard. But try not to treat this as a whiteboard challenge! Treat this as a collaboration exercise. Ask questions and communicate frequently with the designer! It’s as if you’re already in the company working with him/her! Feel free to ask them:
What do you think about this?
Is there anything I’m missing or should consider?
Here are some resources I looked up when I was prepping for the whiteboard challenge:
This is another opportunity to flex your design muscles!
What I’ll suggest is to focus on the research and show how your findings led to your designs! Here’s a standard process that I follow:
...they’re asking you to design their product. That’s free labor. Don’t do it.
Think about the user journey, assumptions, constraints, and trade-offs. These considerations will help you make more focused and effective design decisions.
Remember: You don’t have that much time. Showcase what’s most important!
If the company gave you a time limit, feel free to go over it. But don’t make it obvious that you spent more than that. You can easily tell an applicant worked on an assignment for over 20 hours vs 8 hours.
Here are resources that I looked at when doing the take-home assignment:
Also, here is the design challenge I did for Roblox.
Here are some things you can do to increase your chance of getting the critique right:
Talk in a way that interviewer can easily understand. Telling a story is the most effective way.
Don’t be afraid to ask for the designer’s opinion. You’re young and still learning.
Here are some helpful resources:
Going through an interview is a stressful, but valuable experience.
You get to understand yourself better as a designer and a human being. You begin to know what you lack and start to improve yourself.
To wrap it up, I will like to end with a final tip:
If you’re nervous, that means you care deeply about the role. View your nervousness as excitement!
I wanted to write this post to help anybody in their application process. I hope this article will give you some insights and tips to succeed in the interviews.
Here are some final resources about the UX design interview process:
Thank you for being awesome and reading this far! :)