For all designers out there that are looking for their next challenge and are struggling with the presentation aspect of the interview, I have some pointers for you. The following are what I look for when interviewers are presenting their work to me. As much as these seem like common sense, you’d be surprised at how unprepared most designers are when they show up to walk through their work. There is an art to presenting and it takes the same thoughtfulness and preparation as any design project that you take on.
If you only read this far, this will be the most important paragraph. Please, please, please — PREPARE. 90% of the interviews and/or presentations I sit through fail because of lack of preparation. It’s obvious when you’re winging it. And, if you don’t care enough to prepare for a major career move, how can we trust you to do the work we need you to do?
Where you start: Ask your point of contact what all the expectations around the presentation will be so you can prepare accordingly. Be sure to know what the key aspects or focus points are and bring samples that reflect those asks. Approach it like you would a product problem set. Think about the work you can present. How does it relate to the position? What can you present that shows your expertise in the areas the company is looking for? How many projects can you show in the time allotted? What is the environment you’ll be presenting in? What will you be showing your work on… laptop, monitor, projector? Will showing work on a mobile device make an impact? If so, bring one, and have the product logged in and ready to go.
Also, If you need to update your work to fit the need or there are somethings you don’t love about it’s current state, fix it. No hiring manager wants excuses as to why it’s not great or your not your best efforts. Spend the time to get the work perfect and tailored to the need.
The presentation: Set the stage. Create a narrative. Presenting requires you to be a good storyteller. So practice it… outloud…a lot. Present to your significant other, your mom, your dog, your neighbor. It doesn’t matter, just get in front of some living thing and act out your presentation. Yes, I said “act”. It is a performance so treat it as such. Rehearse your lines. Shake out the nerves. Be able to roll out your monologue like you’re gunning for the lead role in Hamilton (I wouldn’t suggest singing though).
How to frame and talk about the work: This is tough because it will be different for each position you’re going for, but here are some things I look for. First, I don’t need to know what every button or filter in your design does. I don’t need to know every detail as to what the product does. Think more towards a case study. Show how you identify the problem, approach the solution, and measure the impact. All most hiring managers need per piece is:
- What the product does (high level) and who is the intended audience.
- What the problem statement is. Meaning, what problem is this portion of your work solving.
- How the problem was identified.
- How the problem was validated.
- What role you played in solving the problem and who else you worked with.
- How you solved it.
- And finally, what was the impact.
Be prepared to answer questions. Things like:
- What challenges did you face?
- How much of this work is yours alone?
- What did you learn?
- What would you do differently?
- Has it shipped?
- What metrics did you use to measure?
With practice you can predict the questions and answer them before they are asked.
Which brings me to this, Know your audience: Ask your point of contact for a list of people that will be in the presentation and then research us. LinkedIn is there for a reason folks. Look at our work. Look at the work of our company. Get a feel for our methods, process, and style. Cater to us and talk about how you can expand and improve our organization. Be prepared to ask us questions about our careers. Look for ways we can help you grow as well as what we can learn from you. This job has to be right for you as much as you have to be right for us.
One of the most respectable things I’ve encountered with interviews is when an interviewer has followed up with me and let me know that they don’t feel they’re a right fit for the position at this time. Oddly, it makes me want to hire them more. I’m not suggesting you use this as a tactic, but merely saying that knowing yourself and what you can or can’t bring to the table is invaluable to a hiring manager and team.
If I haven’t said it enough…be prepared. Be ready. This is your one shot to impress and change the course of your career.
Rise to the occasion.