3 Interview Design challenges

Job hunting can be quite an ordeal, and for designers this is especially true. Now we all know what to expect in the first interview with a variety of questions and a portfolio presentation, but when it comes to the second round interview, that can be a completely different story. Most of the time it involves a design challenge of some sort, and it can be difficult to prepare for as you don’t know what the challenge will be. I have recently concluded job hunting for my next UX role, and I thought I would share an overview of my experiences with design challenges.

“A smart phone displaying the Facebook page and scrabble tiles forming the words “social media”” by William Iven on Unsplash

Here are the 3 design challenges that I recently faced:

The Government Department (Whiteboard)

This interview combined a first and second interview into one, and it started with the design challenge which had a time limit of 15 minutes! I was given a print out of the challenge and I worked it through with one of the interviewers. The challenge itself was to design a clock for a persona of someone that was blind. Initially I started by asking a lot of questions, and I found out a lot more about the specific persona that I was designing for. I then also asked about that persona’s average schedule to create a timeline of their day. From there I did a rough sketch of a bedroom to visualise how this new clock would fit into the life of the persona, and then a sketch of the clock interface itself. Ultimately while I did feel rushed, I thought that the exercise was well thought out, and that every single aspect was covered.

The start-up (Whiteboard)

This design challenge was way more relaxed, informal and was quite the stark contrast compared to the previous challenge. Again I was given a print out of the challenge and I worked through it with the UX Design Lead. The challenge I was given was to create a system where teachers could send homework to students, and students could manage all their homework with reminders etc. The print out included very basic personas for a teacher and a student. I started by asking questions around the project, stakeholders, constraints, personas etc. We discussed many aspects of the project and I identified the use cases for this system, and picked out the most critical. I finished by doing some basic wireframes, and then I was asked what steps I would take after that.

The large Corporation (Take home)

I was asked to look at a specific part of their website, and to come up with ideas on how a section could be added to cater for bundling of services. I initially tried to ask a few questions to tease out more information, but only had one of those questions answered. I started by listing out all the assumptions/constraints and hypotheses, and then used the brief to come up with several interview questions. I then interviewed 2 people in person and was able to to get 7 responses from other people online. I then analysed the responses and pulled out my key learnings. I had wanted to do a competitor analysis, but had a difficult time trying to find decent examples from competitors and companies from similar industries, so I cut that and moved onto brainstorming. I came up with 3 main ideas, and then did wireframes in Sketch for the idea that I felt was the best. I put this all together into a presentation, and on the last slide I included a list of things that I would have done next, and what I would have done if given more time/resources. I then presented this to the UX Design Lead a few days after I had been given the brief.

How to prepare

Like I said, it’s very difficult to prepare when you don’t know what it is, but really it should be very similar to working on projects at your current job/course, but super condensed.

I read Whiteboard Design Challenge Framework as well as How To Tackle A Design Interview Challenge and they both gave me a lot of confidence to tackle these design challenges as well as some good ways to approach them. I definitely feel that you need to have an approach or strategy in mind before doing these challenges, otherwise your nerves may take over and you will be all over the place. Which isn’t going to give the best impression!

Final thoughts

I think that whiteboard challenges are definitely better than take home challenges as it shows whomever else is in the room how you design and think exactly when you are working on the challenge, and it respects you time more. When I did the take home challenge, I was lucky that I wasn’t employed so I was able to dedicate some decent time to it, so I’m not sure how someone employed full time would cope. I ultimately felt the best about the government department challenge as it was quite structured and organised — although I tend to prefer structure and organisation, so your mileage may vary.

What are your experiences with design challenges? Feel free to add your experiences and thoughts below :)

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