HomeNewsWhat it takes to succeed at UX Design Interviews?

What it takes to succeed at UX Design Interviews?

UX Planet — Medium | Nishant Panchal

I recently participated in a Crowdsourced Affinity Mapping exercise to build a survival guide for the Master’s in Human-Computer Interaction (MS-HCI) program at Georgia Tech. While categorizing the post-its for career guidelines, I came across a data point with the following question:

“What do companies look for in candidates while hiring for UX Design roles?”

As soon as I read this, it struck me that I was asking myself the same question in my first-semester while applying for UX Design internships. I tried looking up articles, reading discussions on UX groups, and speaking to design professionals; yet so my efforts were to no avail. As a masters student, I had little to no time to think about this question and dig deeper to get answers. Thus, I never had a chance to learn what ideal qualities a candidate should have while interviewing with respective companies.

I am in the second year of my masters and have transcend this phase of uncertainty. The opportunity to interview with multiple companies have left me in a better position to answer the question in discussion. I felt that every company I talked to had different expectations and different evaluation criteria for their candidates. There are a lot of factors that matter during interviews- the team that you are interviewing with, the potential project you will be working on, the skillset you possess, the cultural fit and the interviewer’s job role, experience, training, etc. These factors determine your evaluation criteria during these interviews. In this article I will share what I have learned through my interviews with: Google, Apple and Salesforce.

The information shared in this article is strictly based on my interview experience and my point of view. The interview process and experience might be different for different candidates.

Google — Interaction Design Intern

Google has been ranked the Best Company to Work For for the sixth consecutive year by Fortune. The company has grown many times over the past year. Further, they have a history of hiring UX/Interaction Design interns for a vast variety of projects ranging from Daydream (VR platform) to Project Sunroof (analyze solar saving potential). During my interview, it appeared that Google valued the following characteristics —

#1 Curiosity To Learn

Stay updated with the design world

User Experience Design is a young and dynamic field that is constantly redefining itself. Design teams from well-known companies and individuals are constantly contributing to the design community, experimenting with and standardizing new design patterns. I feel young designers have to and should make every effort to stay abreast with the recent growth in the design industry. From my experience so far, knowledge learned from school is research-oriented and restricted to the courses. Dedicating weekly exploration times to know what the design world has for you has proven really helpful for me.

I personally find the following resources very helpful:

Work with designers/developers from different backgrounds

UX Design is a field where you will find people from very different backgrounds. Let’s take my MS-HCI cohort for example — we have students from Computer Science, Data Science, Psychology, Marketing, Industrial Design, Literature Media, Animation, Graphic Design, and more. Being a team player and learning to listen then becomes a key differentiator between a successful UX designer and an ordinary one. Being HCI students, we have an opportunity to work with talented students from different domains, and this opportunity should not be missed. The more you work with people from different backgrounds, the more you are exposed to different perspectives, and that path leads to only one result- A Better UX Designer.

How do I achieve this?

  • Take classes that are cross-listed with other majors in school and include a semester long group project. This will give you an opportunity to work with undergraduate and graduate students from different majors having a completely different perspective on the project.
  • Wing some hackathons! I understand that most participants come with a predetermined team, partnering with the teammates they are comfortable working with or trust their expertise in specific domains. However, I would suggest, at least one time, go with the intention to explore and experience the unknown! Form a team at the event, on-the-go, with members you have never met before. In this process, you will learn to trust unknown people, communicate effectively and work together to solve a problem. Try it once and share your experience in comments section.

Interview questions to prepare for:

  • What is the latest design trend that you found intriguing? Why do you think it is popular? How does it impact user experience? If given the chance, how will you tweak it to make it better?
  • How do you stay updated with latest design trends and design news? What do you learn from them? How do you apply that to your daily design process and approach?
  • While working on [a project from your portfolio], which tools did you learn on the go that helped you design better? How does that tool differ from other tools in the industry?

#2 Digest Design Criticism

Why is this important?

Google is a huge organization with more than 72k employees. Based on the information shared by my acquaintances working at Google, they have a very open feedback culture where anyone is free to share their perspective on what other teams are working on. The interviewers are interested in knowing how you react to critiques or feedback shared with you on your designs. This is a critical heuristic to make sure you are a right culture fit for Google.

Get comfortable with design critiques

Google stresses a lot on effective teamwork. With project Google Aristotle, they spent two years performing extensive research to understand what a perfect team looks like. The top key to build a perfect team was Psychological Safety– team members should be comfortable taking risks and speaking their mind. This also means you should be open to criticism and consider it as a constant part of your design process. I love the following tweet by Adam Connor:

Critique is at the core of collaboration… Critique is not a design skill. Critique is a life skill. — Adam Connor, Designer at MadPow

An increasing number of design teams across industry are incorporating critique sessions as a part of their design process. It is invaluable to be able to critique others’ designs, as well as digest and embrace the critiques of your own. It is an important skill to practice.

Interview questions to prepare for:

  • Were there any difficulties you encountered in your team while working on [a project from your portfolio]? What was the difficulty? What did you and your team members do in that situation? How did the situation end?
  • Imagine you are working at Google, and an employee come and tell you to change the color of the button to yellow? What will you do in that situation?
  • What approach do you use to get feedback on your designs? How do you analyze the feedback received? How do you incorporate that into your designs?

Optional reading: Application process for Google UX internships

  1. The applications for internship roles were within a strict deadline. For me it was January 6th to January 23rd in 2017. I would personally recommend to apply early since it gives the recruiters more time to go through your profile and quickly move through the phases if you are selected.
  2. If your profile is selected by a recruiter, you will be put to a pool of applicants from which teams within Google, who wish to hire interns, can search your profile.
  3. Then you just wait, until you get an email from the recruiter once you find a match. The number of interview rounds depend on the team.

Apple — UX Design Intern

Apple is very selective in their hiring process for design interns. You will hardly find any UX Design intern openings on their job portal; that does not mean they do not hire them. From my experience, the best way to get into their hiring system is to attend Apple campus events and share your resume with them in person. They have a streamlined process of recruiting through these events. The following are the two heuristics that Apple admired the most during my interview:

#1 Critical Thinking

Know the ‘Why’ of everything

One of the most important aspects of my interview was to reason everything, right from why I got into design to the % of opacity for a button. In my Research Methods class, I learned and strong believe that:

A good design is based on great insights

UX Design is an insight-driven design process. Each decision about the method used, information architecture, page layout, application flow, content strategy, colors, typography, etc. should be based on insights or data you get out of your research. This will not only help you build an amazing solution for your project targeting the right problem, but will also give you the confidence to back your decisions that will genuinely emerge during these interviews. The interviewers at Apple are seasoned veterans in design and they will know if you are trying to bluff or make up reasons to support your designs. (This also applies to all the companies I interviewed with) . I would suggest reading the following article to understand more about Research insights.

How do I prepare for this?

  • Document the process as you are going through your project. This includes your decision to go with a particular research method, team discussions on analyzing the data, what insights you got out of them, why did you prioritize a particular design over the other, etc.
  • Explain projects to your friends who are pursuing careers in different domains, like a UX Designer, a developer and possibly a manager. Ask them to be brutal on you and give honest feedback for the way you explain the project. Ask them if the flow is making sense, whether they understand the problem and the impact the solution has on the problem, and the logic behind each step in your process. This will help you prepare for the unexpected.

Interview questions to prepare for:

  • Why did you do [your research activity]? What did you learn from it? Why did you decide to include a particular user base in your research?
  • How did you convert wireframes to final designs? Why did you use this design tool? How does it compare to other design tools in the industry?
  • How did you validate the designs? What did you validate and why? What did you learn from it?

#2 Design Explorations

At Apple, you have a lot of responsibility as a designer since you have total control of the project you are working on. You do have weekly check-ins with other designers, however, you still have to make a lot of design decisions by yourself. Thus, it is important for the interviewer to know how much you think about the problem, your designs and design explorations you go through before you decide to narrow down on one. While explaining your project, make sure to mention the explorations you did as well. This will inform the interviewer that you think thoroughly through solutions than committing to one. Again, documentation during the process will help you a lot.

Interview questions to prepare for:

  • Did you explore solutions that did not involve technology?
  • What are the different workflows you explored to complete [a task] in your project?
  • What were the different ways you explored design for a specific component on the page?

Optional reading: Application process for UX design intern

  1. Visit an Apple campus recruiting event (even if it is not for your major)and speak an employee with relevant role. Share your interests in UX Design roles and discuss one of your project from portfolio and finally share your resume.
  2. If any team is interested, you will receive an email from recruiter with further instructions.
  3. Ideally there will be two rounds of interview with designers focused on portfolio and design problems.

Salesforce — UX Design Intern

Salesforce made it to the 4th place in Fortune’s 2017 Best Place to Work For Millennials and 8th overall. I interned there this summer at Salesforce in the Customer Experience Tools team as a UX Designer and had an awesome learning experience. Let’s read what they wanted from me during the interviews:

#1 Self-Starter With Breadth of Design Knowledge

Salesforce UX has played a huge role in improving the user experience of the B2B products that Salesforce develops. It is amazing to see a company in the Enterprise space having such an established Design Team. I am a huge fan of the Lightning Design System that brings usability, aesthetics and accessibility into Enterprise products. Salesforce UX still has certain aspects of the products where designers have not gotten the chance to get their hands dirty. They are constantly trying to expand to all spaces of their products and this is the reason they look for designers that are comfortable taking initiatives towards different projects. Designers who have a breadth of skills like designing for web systems, mobile apps, data visualizations and more, are a natural fit for the company. Having more exposure to different domains of design makes you an agile designer with good learning opportunities. I had this opportunity this summer at Salesforce, and I am thoroughly impressed by the company culture and truly feel a part of their Ohana (each employee at Salesforce is one family being intertwined and bound with one another). I approached many designers over summer to seek advice and to validate my process. It was amazing to see how open they were to meet and mentor me. 👍🏼 to Salesforce UX.

Interview questions to prepare for:

  • What is your background and how did you get into design?
  • What did you work on during your internship as a designer? What did you learn from it?
  • What domains of design have you explored? How did you explore them? What did you do in each of them? Do you have any artifacts to show for respective projects?
  • Explain a project from your portfolio and what were the major takeaways from it?

Optional reading: Application process for UX design intern

  1. Interview with a Senior UX Designer on the CX Tools team. The interview was focused towards portfolio and design knowledge.
  2. Interview with manager of the CX Tools team. Here, the focus was more towards finding team fit, understanding my background and design skills, and communicating my role in the team.

Conclusion

Though I have shared evaluation criteria from my interview experience with Google, Apple and Salesforce; the same criteria can be generalized to many other companies looking for UX design interns. Again, UX is an ever changing field and these heuristics might change over time. The key is to adapt and have concrete basics.

Thank you for reading and I wish you all the best for your interviews!

Make sure you click some 👏 if you like the article…

Have any questions? Do not hesitate to get in touch with me-

LinkedIn / Dribbble / Portfolio

stat?event=post.clientViewed&referrerSou


What it takes to succeed at UX Design Interviews? was originally published in UX Planet on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Featured articles on Prototypr: