Ask The Experts: What are mistakes design candidates make when interviewing?

30 Apr 2021 1:48 PM | Audrey Bryson (Administrator)

Ask The Experts is a series in which we ask design leaders from our community common questions from UX professionals or those seeking a career in UX. This month we're covering interview techniques. 

What are some common mistakes design candidates make when interviewing for a position? What should they avoid doing to give the best impression?    

I cannot remember how many interviews I’ve been to, where the interviewers did not have the candidate’s resume at hand, or the candidate fumbled through folders and files to find/load their portfolio. For in-person interviews, have paper resumes ready to hand out and if possible, load/project your portfolio/sample work up even before the interview starts. For online meetings, pre-load your portfolio/work, and know how to share your screen in the meeting software. Within the limited interview time, minimize logistical errors so that the interview can focus on your experiences, skills, and conversations to get to know each other.

Another common mistake I see, especially for younger design candidates, is to treat an interview as an exam, show what you got, answer questions, and get out. Although it is very important to show and discuss your work, I cannot over emphasize the importance of studying the job description so that you can relate your experiences to the job requirements, point out alignment of your work preferences to the group/company’s culture, get to know the company’s business and suggest ways you may contribute. In addition to finding the right experiences, skills and personalities, the employer would like to see that the candidate is interested in the job, asking good questions, and overall an excellent fit for the organization."

Huifang Wang, Senior Manager of User Experience Design 

I find it disappointing when a candidate doesn't have questions for us. Interviewing is a two way street meaning I expect that the candidate explores if the company is a good fit for them too. Being curious tells me you're interested in the company and that you're being thoughtful about your potential future decisions. "

Leslie Hinson, Manager of User Experience Design 

 One common mistake is that candidates feel the need to justify why they intend to leave their current employer. While this will likely come up in the interview process, it's not relevant in every round. It can also leave a negative impression if the candidate complains about their current work environment. Even if your complaints are justified, no one wants to work with someone that seemingly has a negative attitude!

Other common mistakes happen during the design challenge component of the interview. A design challenge will typically present a fictional design problem, and the UX design candidate has a limited amount of time to work toward a solution.

There are two common mistakes that I've noticed: 

  1. The candidate jumps right to the UI design 
  2. The candidate doesn't do any UI design 
The design challenge's intent is for candidates to demonstrate their thought process, so candidates will want to show how they would make sense of an ill-defined design problem. Every UX designer has a different approach, but it'll often include some user definition, brainstorming, and flows. It may not be easy, but candidates should at least show some low-fidelity sketches. The sketches are essential to help demonstrate how the candidate translates requirements into UI design."

Andrew Wirtanen, Principal Product Designer

 Avoid seeming like you are only showing your wares and responding to questions.  Interviewing should be a two-way street.  So, be curious and interested.  Ask about the challenges and opportunities the interviewers see in the role, what they like and don’t like about the offerings you’d help design, what type of culture they strive to create, etc.  When considering candidates, we worry about personality fit and genuine interest as much as knowledge and skills.  Of course, show what you’ve done and respond to what is requested.  But, converse and informalize the interview process so both sides get to know each other as potential teammates."     

Aaron Stewart, Director Next UX & UX Research 

 While portfolios are important, many talented UX designers don’t even make it to the portfolio review phase at DesignHammer. When hiring a UX candidate, being a brilliant artist is not the foremost qualification. We need staff members who can review and follow instructions, as well as communicate in writing with clients and coworkers.

At DesignHammer, we provide detailed job descriptions, application instructions, and selection criteria as part of our job listings. All candidates are instructed to submit a cover letter—a candidate screen which identifies candidates who have read the complete job post and followed the directions it contained. However, the cover letter also provides a means for candidates to illustrate strengths that don’t necessarily fit into a conventional resume or portfolio. 

While cover letters that address all of the points we request and display the candidate's ability to communicate effectively in writing will advance them to resume and portfolio review, candidates that customize their cover letter will make the best impression. 

To aid candidates in submitting complete applications, we use an online application tied to our applicant tracking system. I can’t count how many applicants have entered their resume (a second time) as their cover letter to get past the form’s error checking, nearly ensuring they will not advance to the interview round. Even worse are the candidates that upload a document stating “Not applicable” or the like as their cover letter. How can I trust a staff member to work independently, follow instructions, and communicate with clients, if they are not willing or able to do so when they are trying to impress the hiring manager?

David Minton, Managing Partner 

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