Written by Dawn Schlecht.
If you are reading this article you are probably considering becoming a UX designer. I have been there as well, and I know that interviewing for jobs is scary. And not just for beginners in the industry. Even if you have been in the same field for many years and have an impressive portfolio, dozens of happy clients and tons of experience in a variety of workplaces and scenarios, the process of being interviewed can still feel very daunting.
Preparing for the interview itself can be a lot of work. To help you feel confident about speaking about your skills and expertise, I have compiled a list of questions that come up in UX design job interviews time and time again.
Let us take a look at the seven questions below. Then we will come up with a strategy for nailing those interviews and getting the jobs we want.
The 7 UX Questions
1. Define UX in layman’s terms
Can you explain what User Experience Design is to you mother? If so, I am impressed.(Can you come over and explain it to my mother as well?) Seriously though, this is your chance to sell your craft, showcase your knowledge and demonstrate your value to the company. It is also an opportunity to show your communication skills. You can explain a complicated concept to someone with no knowledge of the industry. The person interviewing you may not be a UX design expert, so make sure you use relatable examples. If they are a UX design expert, don’t feel too daunted. They want to see how you might communicate with other members of the team.
2. Tell me about a couple of apps or sites that you enjoy using and some others you don’t. Why don’t you like them?
We all use apps. Pick the ones you use a lot and be prepared to talk about your favorite interactions in detail. Do they have great functionality? Are they intuitive to navigate? For the apps you don’t like, keep your criticisms specific to the UX or usability and then talk about how you would improve them. This leaves the interviewer thinking about the positive additions you would like to make to the app, rather than being left with a negative impression of some apps you ‘just don’t like.’ You will be seen as a problem solver, rather than a complainer.
3. Who, in the industry, do you follow or read?
Now, I am personally not one for heroes, but this is a great opportunity to demonstrate your passion for your chosen career. You might be a great UX designer now, but if you are not interested in where the industry is going by following influential people in the field, this could say something about your interest in this job. Employers are looking for people who are not just looking for a 9-5 to pay the bills. They are looking for people who want to invest in becoming the best they can be by being willing to learn all the time. When they ask you who you follow or read in the industry they are really looking for you to show them your excitement for this ever-evolving field. They want you to talk about some of the people you admire and especially who you have learned from in the field of UX design. What UX books have you read recently? Which blogs do you read regularly? Here are a few to get you started but do not stop there! Make some notes of blog posts you were particularly influenced by and talk about them.
4. Tell me about a project you have designed that you’re the most proud of.
This is a question from Jared Spool, long-time usability expert. He says he likes to ask this question because it simultaneously puts people at ease and lets him ask clarifying follow up questions about their process, thinking, and interactions with teammates. If you don’t have any projects you are really proud of in design because you are just starting out, you could simply talk about any project you have had a hand in that you are proud of. This another opportunity to demonstrate your pride and passion in the field, and that you are excited about making an impact at the company you are interviewing with.
5. How did you become a UX designer? How did you get into design?
Great! An opportunity to talk about why you chose this field, what it really means to you and how it fits your prior experience and/or personality. If you have had specific training, like an online UX design course, make sure you talk about this in detail, the specific skills you learned (e.g. wireframing). This could be a good time to talk about tools you are accomplished in using, or software you are used to working with. This gives the interviewer a clearer idea of where your skillset lies, and where you might need further training. If you have been mentored by someone in the field, make sure they get a special mention. You might want to talk more about this relationship and why how it inspired you. If you are completely self-taught, make sure you explain why you chose this route and how you ensured you received an all-round education while going it alone (either through online resources, conferences, workshops etc).
6. What role do you think user research plays in companies / startups / businesses?
An opportunity to explain your thinking regarding the impact research can have on saving resources, building things that are useful and helping companies to be profitable. Talk about processes you have employed in the past, how you have found suitable candidates and how you have interacted with them. Have you mainly worked with friends of friends? Have you managed whole target user groups and conducted in-depth observation analysis? Give the interviewer an idea of the scope and range of the user research you have performed and the value it has provided for the companies involved. Specific examples of the positive benefits of user research on conversion rates and sales would work very well here.
7. What is your design process?
This one could potentially be the most difficult to answer. If you are indeed new to this field, it may be difficult to say exactly what your process is. This is the sort of thing that comes with experience. Approach it from a hypothetical perspective. What will my process look like and how might it possibly evolve and deepen as I gain more experience?
What Do these Questions Really Mean?
What do interviewers want to learn about us? Why are most of these questions so open-ended? For most, there is no definitive answer. For each of us our responses will be very personal. That is exactly the point.
Here is what they are really asking us:
- Will you fit the culture of their company?
- How do you think and reason things out?
- How knowledgeable are you about your craft?
- How do you approach problems?
- Are you able to communicate your ideas clearly?
- How persuasive are you?
- Are you passionate about this career choice?
They also might be wondering…
- If you are enjoying the conversation with them…
- If you are passionate about user research and design…
- How do you resolve conflicts with others?
- Can you listen well but also ask good questions?
- Have you done your research on their company?
- Can you identify their pain points?
- Are you user and customer-centric?
Now you might be thinking that is a lot to cover. Yep. There is a lot at stake, for both sides. However, if you know your stuff and if you are able to carry on a meaningful and engaging conversation with the interviewer you will be making a good start.
Some Advice from the Experts
In case you still need more convincing, here are some words of wisdom from design professionals explaining what they are looking for in a candidate courtesy of the Nielsen Norman Group.
- “Humility, ability to ask good questions, critical thinking.”
- “People who can see both the big picture and the details.”
- “Intelligence, the ability to connect or associate seemingly random bits of information. Curiosity, the need to know why. Experience. The assumption that they are not everyman and everyman does not exist.”
- “Someone who asks questions, has opinions and is open minded [and] has a good grasp of user-centered design concepts. Someone who really wants to understand how people approach different tasks and wants to understand how they are thinking, what their mental models for different things are … rather than someone who wants to design the next great thing or someone who thinks they know it all because of their education. Someone who can effectively communicate with all types of people … and who knows what information to communicate to each audience and what input to ask for.”
A Few Final Thoughts on Your UX Design Interview
Remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Ask them questions too. It might be that after they answer your questions, you are the one that does not want to work for them. It’s not being picky. It’s just a fact. It will save everyone involved money and heartache if you are honest with them and yourself from the get-go.
Google is a friend that will help you make new friends. Plan to spend some time learning about the professional lives of the people who will potentially interview you, and the company, of course.
Show them that you are interested in them and their company. Show them that you know how to do your research. Show them you are a good listener and can ask good questions.
UX Resources Worth Reading
I am enjoying reading UX Strategy by Jamie Levy right now. She has taken all the steps involved in the research and strategy portions of UX and outlined them in an easy to follow way. I find this book useful when one needs to think through how to talk about the design process.
In their extensive User Experience Careers paper Susan Farrell and Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group have interviewed countless designers. You will find Appendix G and H especially helpful as they talk about “What Interviewers Look For” and “Questions Interviewers Ask” respectively.
In this article for Smashing Magazine entitled How to Recruit a UX Designer, Matthew Ogston, CEO and founder of JobPage.com, shares the perspectives of 10 designers and how they approach interviews and what they are looking for in design hires.
Start sketching out your responses to each of the questions above. Leave your comments, thoughts or additional resources below. Let the hard work begin!