Like any good design challenge, successfully “designing” the UX/UI interview requires a carefully applied combination of user empathy, communication strategy, and emphasis on skill.
For professional UX/UI designers, this is exactly the type of challenge they tend to rise to.
Here are three important skills to demonstrate in your UX/UI interview.
Different teams have different expectations for UX/UI designers. In some environments, the focus of the UX/UI design role is a holistic user experience. In other environments, the UX/UI design priority is centered around the design, development, and delivery of the working user interface.
Either way, you won’t get far unless you can put yourself in the user’s shoes. And identifying the skills and traits the team prioritizes will help you speak specifically to the way you might fill those needs with your unique skills and traits.
- Take a few minutes to establish a quick mental model of the hiring team shortly before the interview. Note the context, circumstances, and tone of the interviewer, and actively consider their perspective when selecting your method, language, and communication style as a response.
- In multi-round interviews, clarify the functional role of each new interviewer or participant. Understanding the interviewer’s function provides context for individualized UX/UI design discussions.
- Consider the “why” of the interview topics. How questions are asked often reveals the nature of the expected context for the answer. Consider what the interviewer hopes to understand and respond directly to its intent.
- Objectively identify the ideal team outcome from the perspective of the interviewer to understand the functional team expectations of the UX/UI design position. View the interview from the perspective of the interviewer. Empathizing with the interviewer works in the same way as empathizing with the design user.
UX/UI design interview strategy is largely based on being prepared to flexibly respond to the interviewer’s perspective or area of functional interest. The next step is to figure out how to communicate most effectively.
Design a conversation strategy that emphasizes how you’ll meet team needs. Highlight how your skills can benefit or uniquely fill the team’s need. For instance, if the team has an interest in collaborative design, discuss design thinking methods. If the team needs product design support, consider a holistic presentation of a single, end-to-end portfolio project.
Here are some conversational strategy points to consider:
- Before the interview, do a portfolio audit. Determine which portfolio project to discuss during which design interview topics. Select portfolio examples that best represent the most likely team discussions, and have alternative portfolio pieces available if the conversation shifts.
- Because UX/UI designers facilitate many different stages of product, marketing, or technology-design delivery, focus on portfolio pieces that best match the identified responsibilities of the specialized collaborative design role.
- Practice effective communication. Answer questions openly and directly by preparing a “key takeaways” list of your most applicable skills. Stay on topic, but be open and responsive to the direction of the interviewer. Ask questions. Have a conversation.
- Focus the conversation on the design outcomes, even when discussing practical design examples.
- Always provide context. What did the solution “solve?” Why did the user benefit? What were the business gains? How did the solution scale? What were the technical needs that factored into the solution?
- Discuss the value of collaborative design exercises, design artifacts, UI Systems, interactive prototypes, or design deliverables, and how they could be used to address the specific circumstances of the team’s priorities.
- Frame your topics of discussion within the context of the needs of the interviewer. Identify discussion checkpoints, while listening for conversation opportunities.
- Listen, sense, and respond. Participate actively, even as the conversation strays from planned topics. Promote the things that you know, while also verbally acknowledging the things that you don’t. Leave room to learn more.
- Establish common expectations. Verify team need, outcome, and success metrics before taking the position. During the interview, openly discuss team expectations, while pointing out opportunities for a larger UX/UI design contribution.
Making sure your expectations match the team’s will not only make you a stand-out candidate, but they’ll ensure that the job you’re interviewing is a good fit for you as a designer.
3. Design Skill
Now that you’re on-site, in the room, crushing the Q&A, it’s time to promote those technical skills.
The presentations, the portfolio, and the prototypes have all been key points of reference for the hiring team up to the interview. Now is the time to dive deeper into the skills that were necessary to “deliver” those previous portfolio projects.
Because UX/UI designers serve a functional role, the interviewer is most interested in the candidate’s ability to recreate the same level of design benefit for their team. Highlight the previous functional method, design process, or contributor attitude that led to your design portfolio results, and describe how these design approaches can benefit the interviewing team.
The growing appeal for user-centered design practice gives UX/UI designers an opportunity to contribute a diverse set of user experience design methods, interaction design expertise, and product design strategy, to an ever-expanding, design-centered, business marketplace.
Although the UX/UI design title is often framed as a “delivery role,” the associated UX responsibilities are deeply rooted in the psychology and philosophy of Human Computer Interaction, which has a wide set of associated skills. Because a design portfolio is such a tangible point of reference, it’s easy for interviewing teams to only see the design “output.”
Here are some ways to speak to the application and success of your user-centered design skills, while framing project success against associated user outcomes and company benefits:
- Tell the “story” of the wider range of UX design skills concisely and directly. Speak the language of the interviewer while representing the value of design solutions.
- Know when (not) to use jargon. When forced into a position of jargon, fire back. Like a secret handshake, using the jargon correctly can create a resonance between the candidate and the interviewer, but only if both parties are speaking the same jargon. Avoid jargon in all other cases.
- Speak to both the polish and to the mess. It’s not just about the interface in UX/UI design interviews. How the team came to the design conclusion is often more important than the final design deliverables.
- Demonstrate the why. Clearly articulate the factors that determined the success of your previous UX/UI design projects. Speak to intent, need, or metric, that the portfolio piece, or technical approach, was originally designed to address.
- UX/UI design is often considered a collaborative role. Demonstrate this attitude of collaboration in the context of the interview. Express how team collaboration led to the design solution. Highlight the responsibilities of design in that process.
- Keep in mind that the “success” of any design solution is measured by the degree of benefit to the user, and frame the conversation around how the UX/UI design role will provide that benefit for the interviewing team.
As an increasing number of companies adopt user-centered design practices within different types of product, marketing, or technology delivery models, the role of UX/UI designer continues to evolve to meet a larger range of team needs which exists outside of the interface.
UX/UI designers have different responsibilities when operating within different teams. When operating inside of a product team, the role may require user experience research knowledge. On the technology team, designers may need experience writing front end code.
This growing appeal for user-centered design practice gives UX/UI designers an opportunity to contribute a diverse set of user experience design methods, interaction design expertise, and product design strategy, to an ever-expanding, design-centered, business marketplace.