Ingeniously Simple
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Ingeniously Simple

How to prepare for a product design interview

As the well-known saying goes, by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. This might not be true of everything in life, but it certainly is true of job interviews. Whether you’re preparing for a product design interview at Redgate, or elsewhere, here are some key considerations to help ensure that you get your preparations right.

Find out about the interview

Before you can properly prepare for a product design interview, you need to know what the interview will involve. Will you be expected to run through your portfolio? Who will you be interviewed by? How long will the interview take? Will there be time for questions at the end? The more you know about the interview, the better you can prepare.

For example, at Redgate we typically carry out an initial 30 minute telephone interview and then a more in-depth portfolio review at the second stage. How you prepare for a 30 minute telephone interview will be different to how you prepare for a much more in-depth portfolio walkthrough and interview.

Do your homework

It’s important to do your homework prior to the interview. What can you find out about the organisation? What can you find out about product design within the organisation? Along with company websites you can use services such as Glassdoor to get information about an organisation and don’t forget to check sites such as LinkedIn and Medium for blog posts from product designers already working there. For example the Ingeniously Simple publication is a great window into the life of a product designer (or engineer) at Redgate.

Doing your homework not only helps you to better tailor your examples and answers, but also shows that you’re seriously interested in the role.

Prepare your portfolio

You should always come to a product design interview with a portfolio to go through, one which you have carefully prepared beforehand. Don’t just include your most recent work but think about what will best showcase your suitability for the role. For example, we have cross-functional teams at Redgate so we’d rather be taken through examples of working as a designer in a cross-functional team than as a solo designer. Similarly, we like to see examples of candidates tackling complex design challenges as these are the sort of challenges a product designer at Redgate will face.

Remember that when it comes to showcasing your work it’s not just the end result, but also the journey which is important. You should be able to talk about your design process, your design rationale and be honest about the contribution you made. Think about how you are going to tell a compelling story. What visuals will you need? What are you going to focus on?

To ensure that you don’t spend too long, or too little going through your portfolio it’s a good idea to practice so that you can get an idea of how long it takes to walkthrough a project. Ideally you should also get some feedback from a friend or colleague. How can your portfolio walkthrough be made even better? For more tips on putting together a compelling design portfolio take a look at Applying design principles to your UX portfolio by Jon Boardman, a lead product designer at Redgate.

Practice answering interview questions

You can’t prepare for every possible question that might come up during a product design interview, but you should certainly think about and ideally practice your approach to answering questions. Rather than talking very generally, try to use specific examples wherever possible. For instance, if you’re asked about how you evaluated the success of a design change you should be able to give specifics about how you did this, or at least how you would approach this. Don’t just talk generally about metrics, KPIs or success criteria. Rather than saying the first thing that comes to your head consider what will resonate given the role, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you don’t think you’ve fully understood the question.

Whilst you never know which questions will come up, it’s still useful to consider how you might answer common product design interview questions, such as providing an example of when you’ve had to influence stakeholders, an example of really good product design, or an example of when you’ve had to compromise on a design. Take at 11 Design Interview Questions and How to Master Them for some typical questions to consider.

Think about questions to ask

An interview should be a 2-way conversation. It’s not just an opportunity for an organisation to assess a candidate, it’s also an opportunity for a candidate to assess the role and the organisation. You should therefore always come to an interview with lots of questions to ask.

Think about what key information you’d need to know to consider the role. Great questions we often get asked by candidates include:

· What is the opportunity for career progression? (At Redgate we get asked this so much that we now have an online progression framework for product designers).

· What does a typical project look like for a product designer?

· What are the challenges of the role?

· What is the best thing about being a product designer at Redgate?

Plan your interview set-up

You’d be amazed at the number of times a candidate has turned up a few minutes late for an interview, or with a laptop that is just about to run out of power. It goes without saying that it’s imperative that you turn up on time for an interview.

If the interview is being conducted remotely don’t forget to install and test any software beforehand and to find a nice quiet spot for the interview. Having to shout over the background noise of a busy café does not exactly set a great first impression.

Be honest

In a weird sort of way interviews are a little like a first date (although whatever you do, don’t treat a first date like a job interview). They’re an opportunity for an organisation to get to know you, and for you to get to know an organisation. Whilst applying a bit of ‘fake it to make it’ is not necessarily a bad thing, you should not pretend to be someone you’re not, or be dishonest about the experience you’ve got, or the work you’ve done. Be truthful and be yourself, the best version of yourself you can be.

Recap

By failing to prepare for a product design interview you are more than likely preparing to fail the interview. To prepare for a product design interview you should:

· Do your homework — Research the organisation and product design within the organisation.

· Prepare your portfolio — Select the best examples and think about how you can best showcase your suitability for the role.

· Practice answering interview questions — Think about and ideally practice your approach to answering questions, including common product design interview questions.

· Think about questions to ask — Make the interview a 2-way conversation by asking lots of questions about the role.

· Plan your interview set-up — Make sure you have a good set-up for the interview beforehand.

· Be honest — Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.

If you’re thinking about your next career move or are looking for an exciting new opportunity take a look at Redgate’s current product design vacancies on the Redgate careers page. We’re always on the lookout for exceptional product designers.

See also

· Applying design principles to your UX portfolio

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Neil Turner

Neil Turner

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Former techy turned UX Jedi from the UK. Checkout out my blog (UX for the Masses) for more about me.