How to Create a UX Internship

By Brian Evans

With over 400,000 UX Design positions[1] in the marketplace and varied avenues to education available, hiring great UX talent at companies isn’t always easy. But it’s important! Internships can really help the talent and refine culture of your group. A few of the benefits include:

  • Creates a rich pipeline of potential future full-time employees.
  • Reduces strain on recruitment resources — many colleges and vocational programs will help with placement and recruiting.
  • Allows interns to test the company for fit, and vice versa, before making a more lasting commitment.
  • Enhances the companies’ perspective on projects by getting a fresh POV and hearing the latest and greatest techniques being taught in schools.

How do I start a UX Internship?

It’s not as hard as you think. We’ve put together a quick seven step guide to walk you through our process for building a successful internship experience.

Step One: Writing a Job Description

We write for that college student who may be going into a corporate environment for the first time — it addresses the burning questions they have up front. Here’s the rundown:

  • Describe “Ideal Candidate”
  • Explain what their role on the team will be
  • Highlight what they’ll learn during their internship
  • Promote some of the fun activities and benefits of working on the team
  • State necessary qualifications –in our case we also talk about our portfolio requirement

Step Two: Identifying Core Tenants

This is crucial — you don’t want to hire a candidate so fresh to UX that all they can do is shadow. An internship is a two-way street — the company should train the intern and the intern should provide real quality work for the company. Without identifying these types of core tenants for your team you may not end up getting the best results out of your internship.

Here were a few of ours:

  • Hire talent that shows a specific interest in a UX career
  • See at least one project before hiring; a portfolio is an absolute necessity
  • Give our interns real projects that a junior associate would get
  • Have frequent check-ins to assess progress and work with them to set deadlines
  • Spend the first week onboarding to get them familiar with our unique processes
  • Let the interns present their own work

Step Three: Recruiting

Recruiting can be a big effort. If you’re in a bigger company you may have a team to help you with this, whereas smaller firms may be on their own. Generally, you need to create a pool of candidates to then screen in the next step.

To fill the pool of candidates, you may want to:

  • Reach out to schools with relevant programs or go to area meet ups
  • Post on the job boards of vocational UX programs or on social media platforms (e.g.,LinkedIn, Indeed)
  • Go to various professional conferences to promote it (e.g., SHPE, IxDA, UXPA)
  • Sponsor collegiate events a potential UX designer may go to (e.g., a hackathon)

Keep in mind that some students may still feel intimidated to apply. If we had a large number of applicants from a certain school, we’ve hosted coffee chats to humanize the experience and get students excited about our program.

Step Four: Interviewing

Now you’re looking at a huge pool of candidates, right? We felt the best plan for the number of applicants we had was a three-step process:

  1. Resume check
  2. Phone Screening
  3. In Person Interview

We developed a quick rubric for the resume checks and had three team members review to keep the process impartial. We set a threshold to meet before bringing a candidate to the next round. We would only phone screen with one employee at the time, and asked portfolio questions during the phone screen to verify they knew their own work well.

The in-person interviews consisted of a circuit of four employees for the internship candidate to meet with. Each employee was given a specific topic to go over with the candidate. We asked about things like UX, Research, Accessibility, and we even gave them a whiteboarding session / design challenge.

At the end, we had the interviewers rank the candidates, and we made offers to those that came out on top.

Step Five: Onboarding

Think of all of the different stakeholders a UX designer deals with on a daily basis. Think of the different skillsets you have on your team. Consider all of the different tools and processes your team uses on a daily basis.

This will all need to be taught to interns…and it can be a lot to process. Remember, for some interns, this may be their first time in a corporate environment. For our internships, we tried to have onboarding meetings for the following:

  • Tools — Sketch and InVision
  • UX Design Process
  • Fireside chat with our UI Developers
  • Fireside chat with our Visual Designers
  • Designing for Accessibility
  • Using JIRA — how to process
  • Looking up analytics
  • User research 101

Having a week to spend going to these sessions was invaluable to get the interns on the same page with our tools and process.

Step Six: Managing

So now you have interns all ready to go and it’s time to start giving them real work. First, its crucial to start them with a strong kickoff meeting for their project. You will want to outline the features and processes of the project — what phase is the project in? What problem are we solving for?

Beyond the projects, it’s important to set goals with your intern. Their summer goals should be what they are measured against and this should be decided on within the first two weeks of their internship. Ensure their goals cover what they’re expected to accomplish, but also include something that they want to take away from this internship.

Step Seven: Retaining

Hopefully now, you brought in and managed a great intern who your team considers an asset. Maybe this intern is even starting to contribute more like a Jr. UX Designer. If that’s the case, you’ll want to make sure they get an offer letter to rejoin the company as a full time employee upon graduation. The offer should be presented as soon as possible after the internship ends.

One last thing, that should be thought about before you even get started recruiting: ensure there’s room in the budget to hire your interns as full time employees once their internship ends — expect the interns to impress you, ours have been awesome! At Prudential, we spend a lot of time making sure we fill our pipeline with the best talent.

[1] http://www.economicmodeling.com/2017/01/12/data-spotlight-fierce-demand-uiux-designers/


Brian Evans is a digital designer living in the flourishing downtown of Newark, NJ. With a B.S. in Human-Computer Interaction, he has become a defender of the user, advocate for the differently abled, and destroyer of churn and red tape. Passionate about designing experiences to help people get control of their financial lives.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views or opinions of Prudential. Prudential is not responsible, endorses or confirms its accuracy. All trademarks and other intellectual property used or displayed are the ownership of their respective owners. Unless noted otherwise in this article, Prudential is not affiliated with nor it endorses any mentioned company or any linked third party content.