Mastering Product Design Interviews

Demystifying the Product Design job search process

Interviewing for design roles can be tough. You’ve made your portfolio. You’ve applied to jobs. You hope for the best but no one calls back. Worse yet, you don’t even know what’s happening on the other end. Is the job still available? Did they already pass on me? What’s happening?

Getting a job doesn’t have to be this difficult. I’d like to share a process so that you can position your best self forward. This isn’t about getting a job in UX with no skills or faking your way in. Rather, it’s an opportunity to set the right context for your skills so that you have a good chance of finding a job that fits your skills and sets you up for success.

Over the last decade I’ve worked with various companies—from large corporations, lean agencies, to small and mid-size startups. As a designer I’ve been responsible for evaluating new talent and sat in on countless whiteboard interviews, app critiques, portfolio presentations and peer interviews.

Companies struggle finding the right candidate too. Finding an excellent designer who is a great cultural fit can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. It’s hard to gauge fit through an online portfolio alone which is why there’s an exhaustive (and at times exhausting) design interview process. Knowing what companies expect from designers will give you a better idea of how to prepare and what to present at critical moments so that no questions are left unanswered.

The Product Designer job search journey

This is a work-in-progress and we’re in this journey together. Each week I’ll cover a different part of the job search process and I’d love to get specific feedback along the way — what’s helpful, what’s missing, and what else would you like to see? Feel free to send me a message or comment. Most of all, good luck and enjoy the journey!

1. Managing your design career

Before diving into a flurry of activity it helps to step back and reflect on what kind of designer you are, your values and principles, what you bring to the table and where you want to grow next in your design career journey.

Assessing your design skills

Taking an inventory of your craft and collaboration skills, understanding your strengths and growth areas, thinking about your mindset

Nine things to look for in your next job

Finding a company that supports your growth and helps you reach your potential faster

Bringing your whole self to the product design job search

Standing out by highlighting your personality and superpowers

2. Preparing for the interview

Gather your deliverables, case studies and get ready for the adventure!

Jump start a design portfolio that gets interviews

Starting your portfolio with this template to land the phone screen

Five strategies for applying to UX and product design and jobs

Skipping job boards to make a strong personal connection instead

Networking for designers

Getting out of your comfort zone and connecting authentically

Putting you product design job search on autopilot

Making your online presence work hard for you while you rest

Waiting actively — publishing june 21, 2019

Moving things forward with e-mail and other channels

Acing the phone screen — publishing june 26, 2019

Leaving a good impression

Crushing the take home design exercise — publishing july 3, 2019

Giving it a unique spin and standing out from the crowd

3. Interviewing in person

Congrats! Your hard work and preparation paid off. Now let’s make an impression that knocks their socks off during your on site interview.

Getting ready for the interview

Preparing yourself mentally and physically for the big day

In-person portfolio presentation

Wowing them with your storytelling and facilitation skills

Whiteboard exercise

Showing your process, engaging your interviewers, and solving for people

Acing the app critique

Walking them through your approach and how you break down the experience into its component parts

Behavioral interviews

Demonstrating how well you work with product managers, designers, engineers and other folks

Wrapping up

Whew what a busy day! Close the interview on a high note that leaves them wanting more

4. Retrospective

This is an opportunity to step back and understand what went well during your interviews and what could have been better.

Post-interview retro

Applying lessons learned from your interview to future interviews

You got the job!

Continue interviewing, getting back channel data and rejecting offers

Negotiating salary

Negotiating your compensation and benefits

Quitting your job

Breaking the news and leaving on a high note

You’ve started at your new job!

Being so good they can’t ignore you — putting your job search on autopilot