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Looking for work as a designer can be an emotional process, but during interviews, you are learning as much about companies as they are about you. Let’s explore some ways you can start to interview like a researcher and use this to your advantage.
Whether you’re a multi-year veteran to the UX industry or fresh out of a higher education or boot camp style program, setting out into the job market can be a daunting task for any designer. From freelancing or working for a more boutique studio, doing agency work, or joining the enterprise, a myriad of positions, requirements, and organizations are available for a design practitioner who is looking to take the next steps in their career.
In this article, I’ll present a list of questions from my personal experience to consider leading up to and even during the interview process. I’ll also include the goal when asking the questions, basically what you’re trying to learn, along with responses I’ve received when asking them of prospective employers.
As with anything, your mileage might vary, but considering these topics before an interview may help you better solidify the perspective on what you are looking for from your next position. It is written primarily from the position of an interviewee, however hiring managers may also find them valuable by looking at their company through that lens and considering them for prospective designers.
Jared Spool and other UX leaders have written a few things about the design maturity of organizations and the ideal distribution of design resources. When considering taking a design position within an organization, how might we look at the company through this lens and better understand where they are on their experience journey? With numerous titles being thrown around (Experience Designer, Product Designer, UI Designer, Interaction Designer, UX Designer, and so on), what might provide additional clarity for the working relationship you’re about to enter into and the role you are about to assume?
Having a few years in various design roles, I’ve spent time on both sides of the interview table — both as a hiring manager and as a prospective employee. In every interview I’ve been a part of, be it part of the hiring team or as an interviewee, an opportunity was presented to inquire about the team or organization. “Do you have any questions for us?” is the most common phrase I’ve heard and this presents a golden opportunity to dig deep and gain valuable insights into the dynamics of the team and organization you’re speaking with.
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When I am applying, I’m on the verge of entering into a new relationship, and to the best of ability, I want to understand where we are both headed. Just as the organization is investing in me as an individual, I am being asked for a commitment of time, energy, passion, creativity, and least of all artifacts. I would like to understand as much about my partners as possible. Given that no prenuptials exist in the working world, we may eventually part ways, and our engagement should be as profitable as possible for both sides.
I’ve asked the aforementioned question many times of prospective candidates, and in some cases, the response has regrettably been completely passed over. The seemingly benign, “Do you have any questions for us?” opening affords any designer a wealth of opportunity to learn more about the company and design engagement. If design solves problems by gathering information, I propose we attend the hiring process as we would any other research effort.