Some months ago a friend of mine texted me. 
His name is Marco and together with his wife Silvia they are running one of the fastest growing startup in Italy (actually a scaleup). He needed to hire a great so he texted me:

“I need some advice on how to interview designers; can I call you later?”

I started thinking if I could give him good tips based on my experience. In my career I’ve interviewed many UX designers and it was the right opportunity to synthesize questions and answers that are good predictors of the candidate’s performance and attitude.

These are the key points I told Marco that day. I hope it is useful for anyone looking for a great UX designer.

1. He has to be good at explaining what he does and how something works

Ask a simple question like “What does your company do?” and see how he structures the answer. In my experience, a great UX designer knows how to transfer information in the most efficient way, no matter if the medium is a website, an app or spoken language. So, he should structure his answer applying a certain hierarchy: first the macro, then the middle level and at the end the details. If he answers jumping from one detail to another, no clear big pictures first, probably he will have the same approach when doing UX: while he could be an amazing UI designer most likely not a UX guy.

2. Sketch files: they tell a lot about his attitude

If you have the chance to see one of the candidate’s Sketch file you should pay attention to some details:

  • Levels and folders: are they well organized?
  • Elements naming: is the naming consistent or each level/folder has a different naming convention or worse, it does not even have a specific name?
  • Symbols and text styles: did he set a standard and applying it to the whole file or every text, icon, element has been created as a copy each time?
  • Spacing between layout elements: is he following a spacing convention (like 8pt multiples) or just looking if the layout looks nice?

Although those things might seem too specific, I never met a great UX designer that isn’t obsessed with that kind of details. The reason is that they show a clear attitude to execute tasks in clear, scalable and rigorous way.

3. He must be curious about your company’s product

The thing is: as a UX designer you basically work every day on the product. If the candidate doesn’t go deep and specific into product related questions about your company then:

“Houston, we have a problem”

And it’s no just about the product, in my experience a good UX designer should understand the whole context in which the company is operating in order to deliver the best solutions. That means that his questions should regard also your target clients, the business model, the main KPIs and many other aspects.

4. Portfolio: tell me what you did

It happens many times to see impressive portfolios. You see nice layouts, astonishing mockups, great use of typography and so on. For sure this is a good sign that reveals aesthetic taste. That would probably be enough if you look for a visual designer. For a UX designer I prefer to go deeper into the “reality” of the projects shown in the portfolio. For each showcase I would ask:

  • What did you do exactly in this project?
  • Is it a real project (live and visible somewhere) or a prototype? (if real, I would definitely try it live and comment it with the candidate)
  • Talking about the real project in the portfolio, could you give me some KPI’s ?

5. Tools and workflow

This point is quite obvious but better ask: which tools the candidate is using and what is his workflow.

In 2018 I would not consider a candidate if he’s not familiar with Sketch plus at least 2 rapid prototyping tools like InVision, Marvel, Principle and so on.

Asking about his workflow you can try to understand if he used to work in team and his focus and skills: if he’s pure UX oriented or if he can go beyond with some UI or product tasks such as documentation and prioritization.

6. An outstanding interaction he found in a digital product

Here the key is to go super specific. The question should be something like “Can you tell me a great interaction you found in a digital product?”. The goal is to see if the candidate is so passionate and competent to tell you easily some examples.

Good answers are definitely not general things like “I love Instagram’s discovery page” but instead super specific and detailed like:

“I think it’s very smart this interaction of Google Translate: when you click the listen button for the second time, the voice pronounces the word slower.”

7. A product that has an overall beautiful experience (even not digital)

Here it’s the opposite of the previous point. The goal is to discover if the candidate can see the big picture. Asking to talk about the experience of an entire product will unveil if he knows what makes a product great starting from the high level. If he replies something like “I think that product X has an overall great experience because of the icon set” than I would say:

“Houston, we have another problem”

8. Hobbies and passions: tell me what you love

Asking about hobbies and passions might sound trivial but in my opinion it isn’t. The reason is that:

  1. Usually the candidate feels comfortable at this question so he will speak genuinely
  2. In some cases passions and hobbies are good predictors of the candidate’s attitude

In my experience a great UX designer is definitely belonging to the “maker” type of persons. He loves to create amazing experiences and products and want to go deep into it. Assuming that, I expect to see among its hobbies something typical of the “maker” attitude like playing an instrument, cooking, painting, photography and so on rather than the passive mode of the same categories (listening to music without playing, going to cool restaurants without cooking, etc…).

On this point I’m not saying that 100% of great UX designers have this kind of passions but in my experience I noticed a certain correlation.

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