Congratulations! You made it to the interviews. That means the team feels that your application (i.e. Portfolio and resume) is interesting enough to move you on to the next steps. Prepare for the UX job interview with these research tips on how to learn more about the company, team, and position.
Just getting started in UX? Read about how to get hired with no experience.
Why is researching the team and the company important?
Your immediate job responsibilities as a UX designer are only a small focus of your day-to-day activities. The reality is you will need to perform those duties on a team within a larger organization. In some cases, you could be working on one of many UX teams, supporting multiple Product Managers and Development teams. It can be confusing and difficult to get work done.
The good news is that you can at least research online to find some information about who you might work closely with, who could be your manager, who are the company leaders, what products and services they provide, and how customers and (sometimes) users feel about them.
There is a lot of information available that can help you understand what is going on at the company and how that may be influencing the UX team.
1. Research tips for preparing for the UX job interview
Why is the team growing? At the time of writing this book, the UX industry is growing. There are new companies that want to spin up their own UX practice. Legacy companies want to revitalize and transform their products and businesses, and they too create a UX organization.
Most of this work is about making digital experiences. Software. Companies are moving their experiences online and in some cases onto mobile devices. In the last 10 to 15 years, this work can be anything from messaging applications to healthcare forms. Businesses are targeting opportunities directly with their customers. And a growing number are finding new businesses with other businesses. All of this equals a huge increase in demand for UX. UX teams can double or even triple in size in a very short time.
Roles on the team
What roles do they have, and what roles are they looking for? UX teams that are just starting out tend to hire generalists. Those that can and sometimes prefer to work across the UX process. As the team grows and matures, the team realizes that everyone cannot effectively do everything. It starts to look for specialists in UX research, Visual Design, Strategy, Content, and Operations.
Specialization is a hint that the team is looking to raise the quality in certain areas. So, the roles available can give you a hint as to where the team is in its maturity. Are they just starting up the practice? Are they looking to specialize? You can do searches on LinkedIn and Google Jobs to see what roles they have available. Also, you can look on LinkedIn to see who is currently working at the company and when they were hired. Make sure to adjust your search for UX designers, UX researchers, Product designers, Visual designers, Content Strategists, etc.
Find the UX leadership
Who are the UX leaders in the company? As you are searching on LinkedIn for the UXers who are at the company, look for the managers and directors. Are there any positions higher than that? Vice President of Design or UX, Head of UX, or Chief Design Officer?
How is the team organized in relation to the products/services?
Is the team embedded with specific products and services? This means the UX team dedicate a UX designer and possibly a UX researcher are dedicated to that specific product/service area. Is the team centralized? In this case, the UX designer and UX researcher are dedicated to a project only.
Research the company
Who are the leaders of the company and what does the company stand for? On the site and usually at the footer, you can find a series of links that help to describe the company. Under pages such as ”About” and “Leadership,” you will find the CEO, President, and possible founders. Sometimes there are bios next to them, but you can get an idea of where else they have led companies. Perhaps this is their first company leadership role.
If the company is in tech, then I search for them under Crunchbase. This gives you a peek behind the curtains at the maturity of the company. You can see if it is a startup. If it is, what stage is it in? When did it last get funding? You might see how much.
Some companies are owned or partially by investment firms. In both cases, startups and companies partially owned by investment firms are looking for growth. This could mean growth in customer acquisition, new users, and increased revenue. This will impact the demand on velocity the Product teams and particularly the UX team will need to operate.
Learn more about the design and product work
What kind of work will the UX team be doing? Are products for businesses (B2B) or for consumers (B2C)? Depending on who uses the products and services, you can search for reviews or even do a test. For consumer-facing applications and services, you can look for reviews on places like the Google Play Store, Apple store, Reddit, etc. If there is a free version or trial version, you can try out the experience.
If the team is working on a B2B product or service, you will need to dig a little deeper. Most of the time enterprise applications and services will need a sales call to set up a demo. And even if you can get a demo, it will be a walkthrough by the sales representative.
That said, it does not hurt to look for a product demo on YouTube or the company site. They might have just simple screenshots or something overly polished on the company site. A search on YouTube can reveal public releases and a walk-through with the Product Manager. This will give you what the company is trying to achieve.
Find customer and user reviews
How are users responding? G2 offers reviews and comparisons of enterprise B2B products. My last two companies focused on this area, and G2 was helpful to get an idea of the product suit and what reviewers thought.
It helped me get a feel for pain points. They will not be rich in details, but you can see if they think the product is too complicated, difficult to figure out, or perhaps they actually enjoy using it. Gathering up all of this information
At this point, you have information on the following.
- Who is on the team?
- What roles are they looking for?
- Who are in the managers, directors, and possible higher leadership positions?
- Who are the leaders of the company?
- What is their experience with leading other companies?
- Where is the funding or revenue coming from?
- What are products the UX team could be working on?
- What are the potential pain points that customers/users experience with these products?
2. Research tips for during the interview
With the foundational knowledge above, you can focus on how the UX team would like to operate. And you can ask about what is currently preventing them from implementing its process today?
Learn the challenges for the UX team
What do your counterparts expect from UX? What are the possible challenges for the UX to get its work done? The UX team hires for a certain level of skills. You get educated and build work experience to meet the expectations of your UX team. However, your PM and DEV counterparts may have different expectations.
Uncover overlaps between product management and UX
A recent article from Neilson Norman outlined the results of a survey about overlapping job responsibilities between PM and UX. According to the results, both UXers and PMs believe that the other discipline intrudes on their work. Where do PM and UX responsibilities overlap? This is a common thing, and it would be interesting to see how aware or top of mind this issue is for the UX team.
(new UX positions) are addressing voids that PM’s often have filled
In this YouTube video, a PM discusses what her responsibilities are for a specific focus of a larger product. Much of her work appears to be the same as what UX is responsible for. User experience for a PM is a big thing. It is a part of achieving the vision of the product. For the UX team, how the PM approaches defining and measuring the user experience does lead to tension and conflict with the UX team.
Surface the conflicts
When UX teams expand, they are adding in positions that are filling in voids that PM’s often have filled. So, before a UX designer or UX researcher joins a certain product area, the PM did (to some extent) the role of UX researcher and UX designer. Conflict will arise when a new UX designer shows up to the team and sees that the early work of user research, feature definition, and lo-fi wireframes has already been done. The UXer then has to catch up by making hi-fi mockups for workflows and prototypes, and they struggle with understanding the decisions.
Advocate for UX – your other job
How much do you have to advocate for UX? This is a common struggle with companies that are spinning up a new UX practice. The company supports investing and hiring talent. However, the next step is a slow change in how cross-functional teams in product management, development, sales, marketing, support, etc. work together.
To get to this answer, you have to review the following data points.
- How new is the UX team?
- How long has the highest-ranking UX person been there?
- What positions are they hiring for now and in the near future?
For the last question, you can go back and compare on LinkedIn to see if there are currently people in similar roles on the team. If not, then that is another part of the UX organization they are building out. In general, new skill sets equal new ways of working. New ways of work require shifts in how other teams work. To lead that shift requires everyone on the team (including you) to be that advocate for change.
It is a necessary thing for a lot of teams. However, hiring committees rarely articulate the balance you will have to make between doing your work and advocating for your work.
3. Reflection tips for after the interview
Take a moment to reflect on what questions they asked, how well you felt you addressed them, and what you learned about their team.
Rethink how you presented your portfolio. I often reflect on how well I presented my work. Was the story clear? Did you struggle with the flow of the story?
This is part of the storytelling process. In the act of telling it, you may think of a better way to portray the work.
Address questions that you struggled with. There may have been questions that you were not able to answer well or you were not prepared for them. If you were not ready for the question, then either you do not have that experience or skill or some of those questions were a blind spot. The fact that these questions came up means they are either a concern about you or a need from the team.
Document the questions and come up with a plan of how to address them should they surface in a future interview.
Addressing your weaknesses. A common question is to ask about something you have not done frequently or well. Naturally, these items are not in your portfolio. However, interviewers may ask about them if it is a need for the team.
- Research the team and company through existing resources like LinkedIn and reviews of the company and its products.
- Who is the highest-ranking UX person in the company? How does this reflect on the support for UX from the company?
- Explore where UX struggles to implement its processes and how the team is compensating.