This interview is, in my opinion, the most interesting step in the process. It’s the opportunity to discover if both Interviewer and Candidate have what the other is looking for.
In this step the questions will be more or less specific depending on the size and seniority of the team. For instance, you might need to be prepared for deeper questions about user validation and qualitative insights if the company has a big budget and a User Lab. Don’t expect questions about collaboration with a large group of designers if the team is small; the same applies to everything from design thinking to Agile methodologies which depends on whether the company works with Scrum or Kanban. This is a generalisation, however, as the type of interview depends heavily on interviewer style and experience.
I like to think of interviews not as “the company” looking for a candidate, but as a time for me to explore whether you can help us in crafting great things and be comfortable working in a highly collaborative environment — not only delivering fancy products but also pushing the envelope to move the needle in the right direction.
What to expect from this first interview:
I don’t have a super rigid and standard way of running interviews. I usually start with who I am, what I do, the profile of my team, and a short explanation of what we’re looking for.
The next question I ask is:
“Tell me whatever you want about yourself in 5 minutes”.
This is pretty standard, and you’ll hear it in most interviews, but for me it really sets the stage for the rest of the conversation.
Although I keep a checklist to ensure I don’t forget to validate certain things, I prefer to let the chat itself connect topics naturally, as different projects lead to different conversations: wireframes, KPIs, research, development, agile methodologies, users, biases, cognitive load, companies, design processes, etc. I might ask something about your motivations for joining my team, or jump directly to your portfolio if I feel you’ll be more comfortable with that.
I try to cover UX 360º, but rather than a never-ending list of Q&A, it’s more a conversation with the chance to spend more time exploring certain topics where this makes sense. It’s a chat to share points of view on the different disciplines and subdisciplines of User Experience: design systems, prototypes, working with stakeholders, interviewing users and critiquing design for example
Prototyping is a basic skill for most companies, so expect and prepare answers on this. Do you prototype? Which tools have you used? High-fi, Low-fi? Do you prefer to start with a pencil and paper? Why (or why not)? If you are a UI Designer and your portfolio is visually great, I’ll try to cover it as quickly as possible and drive the conversation to other disciplines.
I also want to learn what sort of challenges you’ve had: how you approached a solution, the steps you followed building a complex prototype, the mistakes you made presenting results of a test, learnings, unexpected outcomes, etc. Have you ever had to park an idea because it was impossible to build/code? Pixel perfect designs look awesome in Sketch, and animations are mind blowing in FramerJS, but UX is also about translating brilliant ideas into executable design.
Listen and be in the conversation. UX is an eclectic profession with great potential for interesting conversations. Don’t be a robot — don’t act as a dispatcher of keywords. I’ve interviewed too many designers waiting only for the opportunity to deliver the next buzzword to amaze me:
Q: “Why did you chose radio-buttons instead of a dropdown in this filter”?
A: “We had some data that informed my decision. We followed a lean agile process creating as little specifications as possible to push an MVP into production. To validate that the radio-button was the right choice, we launched an AB against a dropdown and validated our hypothesis against the KPIs”.
This answer is correct, but it’s over-complicating the conversation. If you’re looking for an opportunity to talk about MVPs or KPIs but the timing isn’t right, I suggest you write down a reminder and try to come back to the point later in the conversation.
A common, multifaceted question I ask — one of my favourites — is:
How did you become a UX Designer? Did you study UX, or grow into UX Design from another discipline? Why did you pick UX Design and give up on what you were doing before (coding, designing, advertising, etc).
In general, we managers are proud of the work we do. We love to talk about our teams and how we craft shiny products, so I encourage you to ask questions. It’s not only the simplest way to find out things about the company you are applying to, but also a priceless opportunity to connect with the person you’ll probably be working with 8 hours a day!
I don’t know if there’s a standard number of touch-points before moving to a group interview but if everything goes well, you’ll probably have one and the people in that room will probably be the UX Director and UX Manager as well as a Product Owner, Researcher, or anyone you may collaborate with within the scope of your future role.