UX Managers and recruiters tell us how to ace that big-time user experience job interview
You’re a UX jedi, a master of prototyping and usability tools, an expert in user psychology. You’ve even got a winning UX portfolio all ready to show off. So why haven’t you nailed that dream UX job yet?
If this sounds familiar, could be you need to work on your UX interview skills. Knowing how to impress in any interview, not just a user experience interview, is a fine art that comes with practice and perseverance.
It also helps if you know what recruiters and potential employers are looking for. That’s why Justinmind got in touch with UX recruiters and managers worldwide to find out the skills, attitude and smarts they look for in a UX interview.
Find out how to impress in a UX job interview with these helpful insider tips.
Melissa Perri, Product Manager, UX Designer, speaker, and coach at Produx Labs
Impress potential employers by demonstrating that you really understand the process of connecting user needs to solutions. Many of the UX interviewees I’ve seen were great at walking me through their designs and how they function, but left out the “why” behind these designs. I want to see how you think strategically, how you connected the dots to land at the right solution. What does your process look like? What steps did you take to learn more about your users? The core piece of UX is the ability to let the “why” inform the “what.”
The core piece of UX is the ability to let the “why” inform the “what.” Melissa Perri
Tom Cotterill, UX Recruiter at Source LF
- Having a really strong portfolio where you can talk through your whole process, not just showing research, user flows, wireframes, etc, but turning it into a story for example why you moved onto each part of the process so a hiring manager can really get inside your thought process. As the UX market is getting more competitive with more applicants, you have to imagine if a hiring manager has 10 minutes to look at 10 applicants portfolio’s, when he gets to yours can they get a deep understanding of how you think and how you’d solve the UX problems they are working on.
- Having tailored examples of the job you’re going for, so if you’re going for a UX role which focuses on apps, having clear examples and processes of your previous app work will be great!
Rebecca Levi, UX/UI/Product Design Recruiting Manager, The Joanne Weaver Group
Practice presenting your case studies. Choose ones that solve the most complex problems and show off the greatest brand cachet. Storytelling is important. The interviewer wants to understand your process, your contribution to the team, and how your mind works. Show the evolution of the product, from early sketches and prototypes to launch. Be prepared to explain your design decisions. Share how your thoughts evolved in response to user research and testing during the iterative project lifecycle. And don’t forget to include the results. Was it successful? What were the lessons learned?
Be sure to build rapport with the interviewer–show curiosity and enthusiasm about them and their company. Come prepared with some good questions that show you’ve done your research. And enjoy! This is your time to shine.
Marli Mesibov, Managing Editor of UX Booth
To my mind, a UX interview is much like any other. Show up, and treat them the way you would want to treat a coworker. Share your ideas and provide examples when the opportunity arises, show them how you think, and try to get them to collaborate or brainstorm with you. That way you’ll both show your UX knowledge, and get a sense for whether you want to work with them.
Mads Soegaard, IDF Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief in The Interaction Design Foundation
Candidates should have a great portfolio and be able to show tangible evidence of their achievements. We always encourage our own members to include a list of UX courses they’ve taken, including their course certificates, in order to achieve this.
Sally Graham, Head of UX Research, WhatUsersDo Ltd
Usually, I’m impressed by UX professionals that are able to summarise in a very clear way their process and approach to User Research and/or UX Design.
Explaining how user testing fits within the UX Design process, how it can help to improve the overall user experience using specific examples is a must for User Researchers.
If they are able to explain how they have improved a digital product, they will get my attention. It is good to talk about research findings, it is awesome to talk about results. At the end of the day, user research should deliver actionable insights.
Sarah Bellrichard, SVP of Wholesale Internet Solutions & UX at Wells Fargo
My tip would be, tell stories. When designers present a flat portfolio it doesn’t tell me about how they approach the work they do and how they deal with the ebbs and flows of design. Tell me how you navigate from start to end of a project, I like to see a case study approach. Leave in portfolio assets and personal challenges and your part in a team. There’s always a human element to the design and development process. Tell the story of you and I highly recommend a case study approach to help your prospective employer understand what you bring to the table, not just form a design perspective but from a communication and collaboration perspective.
There are two things I really have to hear in an interview before I can be confident in a candidate: one quality to demonstrate and one skill to demonstrate. Jeff Onken
Jeff Onken, Design Strategist & UX Manager at Northrop Grumman
It should be a given then that you and your interviewers can talk about implementing solutions and results. You could spend all of your time talking about the things that everyone else can do or has done, or you could spend the valuable interview time explaining the qualities and methods that you have and use that complement the diversity of thought that the team needs to strategically innovate. Yes, there are teamwork, technical, and performance things to cover in the interview, but there are two things I really have to hear in an interview before I can be confident in a candidate: one quality to demonstrate and one skill to demonstrate.
I look for candidates who can handle the uncertainty of what the final product will look like, who can handle the mess before the insights and breakthroughs we get in the course of design synthesis. There is so much discovery in the design process, while we work through our user research, conceptual design, information architecture, and interaction design. Talk to me about your ways of handling the uncertainty; tell me a genuine story of how you not only powered through the uncertainty, but how you used it to your advantage to figure out a problem, and I’ll be impressed.
A lot of interviewing needs to be about your past successes, and we usually default to talking about the outcomes, as indicators or even metrics for how successful we were. I think that’s good, but to impress me, I’m looking for how you can prove to me that you can achieve the same or even better outcomes in the future. By describing to me your thinking methods, I want to be impressed with how you are routinely creative, generative, divergent, nonlinear, abductive, and associative and can carry ideas through the linear, convergent, deductive thinking to get great results.
This quality and this skill are the principal elements that I’ve seen in the people who do really good design work in teams. If a team member can’t handle uncertainty (even at a granular level, let alone product strategy), they can’t build upon others’ ideas during brainstorming or roll with an emergent prototyping exercise to unearth unknown unknowns, so we lose diversity in thought. If a team member doesn’t start with structured thinking methods for problem solving, then they can’t follow or adapt to follow anyone else through their problem finding or solving. If they don’t have a foundational understanding of what they’re doing, if all they’ve ever done is make it up on the fly, then all they can do is mimic someone else, and we lose diversity in thought again.
So, when I interview you, tell me a story about how you made something awesome even though it was super uncertain what it was going to turn out to be. And get meta and walk me through how you approach problems, how you navigate through idea generation and synthesis, and how you build solutions.