46 Interview Questions for User Experience Researchers at Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook
A selection of inspiring and challenging questions (and a bonus presentation to practice them)
If you’re a User Experience Researcher looking for a new job or a Hiring Manager looking for inspiration to ask new questions to your candidates, the list below should give you with some food for thought.
The list contains 46 questions that Glassdoor and Quora users reported being asked during an interview for a User Experience Researcher position at Google, Amazon, Microsoft or Facebook (for brevity’s sake, I’ll refer to the 4 companies as “GAMF” from now on).
The list includes all questions reported by Glassdoor users excluding generic ones (e.g. “Describe your previous job experience”). They are reported exactly as stated by users (including grammatical errors), and are divided by company and ordered by most recently asked questions first.
Finally, at the bottom of this article you’ll find a free presentation to help you practise the questions, either by yourself or with your team. I’ve also included some reflections on the questions.
Questions asked at Google
- Describe p-value
- Suppose that you are using eye tracking on a cross-eyed participant and the calibration cannot be successful. What do you do?
- What is your best skill as a UX designer and what advice would you give to someone who is trying to learn this skill?
- How would you conduct user interviews if you were trying test a particular interaction?
- Imagine you have 3 different UIs and you want to know which one is best. What would you do?
- Imagine that a team of engineers want to know why certain users aren’t engaging with a particular push feature. They plan to conduct a survey with six yes/no questions and one question that can be answered via [a] text box. What would you tell them about their plan?
- If you had two products and had to ask one question of users to determine which they preferred more, what would you ask?
- What are the weaknesses of personas? How do you overcome those weaknesses?
- Think about an app you like to use. Suppose the product manager tells you that he wants you to find the top 10 UX issues. How would you go about this?
- How do you handle it when people are sceptical of the value of usability research?
- Suppose you come forward with a usability recommendation, and the engineers counter that with, “All the usage data we have from millions of people suggest that is not a problem.” How would you respond?
- What types of people (e.g. job types) do you interact with on a regular basis?
- Design a study for an in-vehicle phone keypad
- How would you determine a metric for engagement?
- Define metrics for measuring fun and satisfaction for a mobile maps product
- What’s the difference between a Persona and a Market Segment?
- How do you know if you are asking the right research questions for a project?
- How do you know when a project is “done”?
- How would you design an engagement metric for a job website?
- How would you conduct a user experiment centred on using email? And how would you protect a user’s content if they chose to use their personal email during the experiment?
- You’re working on a streaming music project that is getting ready to launch a new design. Describe how you would begin creating a plan to research the new design and what it would include.
- Assume you are an Amazon engineer. The review scores of Amazon items are sometimes biased, because people usually give a score only if they strongly like it or strongly dislike it. How would you know if the review score of a given item is biased or not?
Questions asked at Amazon
- What are the areas for improvement on Amazon.com?
- How would you improve UX on Amazon.com?
- How would you conduct a UX research study to improve UX on Amazon page with books?
- What is the most challenging part in your research projects?
- What is your experience with Amazon website? How will you improve it?
- What was a challenging problem you had to solve and how did you solve it?
Questions asked at Facebook
- Think of your favorite app. How would you go about studying decreased engagement for that app? What would you tell Project Managers about why you chose that research method?
- What would you consider one of the most difficult challenges you’ve had as a researcher?
- What would you tell someone if they came to you and said that they wanted a bigger sample size for interviews or a survey?
- How would you monetize one of the research projects listed on your CV?
- Pitch a new product and how you would research it.
- Why do you want to work for Facebook? What are some UX studies you would want to conduct?
- Name one feature/component of the Facebook interface that a competitor does better. Why?
- Pick a favourite app. Tell us how you’d evaluate it?
- Share a project you completed in which you feel you made an impact or [one] that had a “social impact”.
- How would you communicate your findings to different stakeholders?
- Propose a research question and research design. Explain how it is useful for Facebook and interesting to you.
Questions asked at Microsoft
- Explain a time that you had to persuade your manager [to approve] a particular design idea.
- Someone on the team has a strong opinion about how a certain feature should be designed, but you disagree that it is a good user experience. How do you approach the situation?
- What aspect of you[r] education prepared you for this role?
- How did you convince your team to follow your directions?
- What did you do when the team disagreed with you?
- Identify and explain a newly redesigned feature of the software that had a UX issue in the previous version…[and then] describe an alternative design plan for the same.
Reflecting on the questions
After reading the questions, these are my key considerations:
- Interviews at GAMF (Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook) seem to focus on both technical and behavioural questions.
Technical questions focus on tools, processes and concepts of user research (such as “How do you know when a project is “done”?” or “Describe p-value.”). Their purpose is to test a candidate’s familiarity with the tools of the trade.
Behavioural questions ask the candidate to describe past behaviour (e.g.,“How did you convince your team to follow your directions?”). Their objective is to evaluate his/her real world experience and if that experience fits the company culture.
Broadly speaking, Microsoft and Facebook questions seem to be mainly behavioural, while Google includes a fair number of technical questions too.
- Brainteasers, on the other hand, no longer seem to be popular at GAMF.
Interestingly, despite their popularity in click-bait articles, brainteaser (or “curve ball”) questions seem to be no longer asked at GAMF interviews. This is in line with Google’s policy to stop using brain teaser questions: “Our data showed that brainteaser questions didn’t predict how well someone would do on the job so we no longer ask them. Instead, we do work sample tests and ask structured interview questions.”
- Some questions may be recurring more than others.
Although it’s unlikely that a new candidate will be asked exactly the same questions that feature in the list above, some variants of questions may recur more than others.
For example, two users interviewed at Google reported being asked the same question about p-value (“Describe p-value”) in January 2014 and in June 2016. The same happened with a question about engagement metrics (“How would you determine a metric for engagement?” and “How would you design an engagement metric for a job website?”) in January and August 2014.
I wrote this article to share some inspiring and challenging questions with fellow UX professionals.
If after reading them you feel more inspired to learn, explore or revise some areas of your work as a User Experience Researcher or Hiring Manager, then its aim has been achieved.
(If you’re thinking “Oh, s**t, I’ve got no idea what half of these questions are about” that’s absolutely fine too, as Socrates pointed out.)
Finally, before we part, I’d like to ask you the same question my friend Mark James asked me when I shared the list of questions with him:
What did you find to be the most interesting or challenging question in the list? And why?
*BONUS*: If you want to practise the questions or share them with your team you can view (or print) my presentation on Slideshare.
It features the same questions as the list above, but in an easier to present and print format. Each slide contains one question and the font size is optimised so you can print up to 6 question cards per page on an A4 sheet. Hopefully this will save you some time!
A special thanks to my colleagues and friends Tom Nash and Frances Maxwell for their input and revisions.