Interview Tips For Designers

5 Interview Tips for New Designers

**Editor’s notes. This is a repost from an earlier article. Over the past year, I have talked with former students to hear about their stories interviewing for their first UX designer role. Their lessons combined with my interview experiences have helped shape the following revised interview tips.

1. Do the research

Know the company

Before the interview, be sure to research what they do, and what kind of work may appeal best to them. Think about your portfolio and arrange your PDF to show off the work that best aligns with their work. When I applied to IBM, I knew that they would connect with complicated enterprise software. I made sure to put those project first.

Know the interviewer(s)

If you can, look into who will be giving the interview. LinkedIn is a great source to examine their backgrounds, education, previous jobs, and position. Interview tips for talking to other designers – try to find their portfolios. What connections do you have with them through their designs or experience? Find a way to gracefully bring this up in the interview. It will show that not only did you do the research, but you also care to know more about the team you might be joining.

2. Prep your portfolio

Bring a PDF

Don’t rely on your website or their WIFI when presenting a portfolio. Prepare a PDF of your portfolio for the interview. You should be able to narrow down what kind of work the company is looking for through your research. If the company does mostly mobile apps, show your mobile work first. Avoid forcing your interviewers to imagine how you could do their work. Your portfolio slides should prove that you have done similar work in the past.

3. Pitch your work like a pro

Practice communicating clearly

Practice your talking points before hand. Be sure to speak clearly and concisely. How you are going to introduce yourself and your work? Sometimes the easiest questions can be the most difficult to answer (i.e. Tell me about yourself). Don’t fill silence with words. It is perfectly okay to allow for silence.
Take notes. With one on one interviews, it’s easy to have a conversation. However, you will often be put on the wrong side of a panel. So, it will be challenging to keep track of questions. Bring a small notebook and jot down questions that have multiple points. This will help you give the well-organized answers they need.

When I applied to IBM, I knew that they would connect with complicated enterprise software. I made sure to put those project first.

Be human

It’s ok to talk about where you learned from mistakes in your work. They are trying to figure out how your learn, and if you would be a good fit with the company. You should be doing the same.

4. Dress the part

Wear something that is professional and comfortable. Designers are expected to use fashion trends as an extension of their personality. Other designers will judge the ensemble you put together as a clue to your design skills. So, the typical power suit shows that you’re not thinking differently as a designer would. It took a few interviews to realize that I was over dressed. Eventually, I discovered a look that better communicated I was designer.

For more conservative industries such as finance, in house designers often adhere to the norms. So, in the case of a designer for a financial advisor firm, think about what people are expected to wear in those office settings. This is situation where the generic interview advice comes into play: dress a little more formally than your potential boss.

5. Follow up with a sincere thank you

If possible, do a handwritten response. I have heard multiple times from design managers that when they receive an actual letter, they keep them. For my first design role, I wrote a thank you letter on quality paper stock. He later told me that showing that level of effort meant I really wanted the job.

Interested in learning more design job hunting, check this post on common myths that stop designers from applying.

Matt Eng

Product Designer at IBM Design. Based in Austin,TX. Worked with clients such as IBM, Alcatel-Lucent, Polycom, Symantec and Pebble. Volunteers with AIGA Austin and teaches at Austin Community College.

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