Image via Columbia Pictures

The UX of Job Hunting

First appeared on my private User Defenders podcast email list.

I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that there’s more than a snowball’s chance you may be looking for UX work currently (especially since you clicked a link to get here). I don’t have to go out on a limb to know firsthand how challenging, frustrating and disheartening the interview process can be.

If that’s you, I want to take this opportunity to encourage you and give you some (hopefully) usable thoughts to apply during this process.

Show your design process

Take a good, hard look at your portfolio and don’t do what I did (only showing pictures of my finished works). Show your design process as that’s what potential employers in this industry are really looking for. They aren’t just looking for your solutions–they want to know the problem you were trying to solve, and exactly how you came to solve it. They want to know the steps you took, the obstacles you overcame and whenever possible, the results (lifts) your solutions brought to the project/company.

If you aren’t already, start asking those questions and documenting the answers for the future.

Don’t get too caught up with titles

I’ve talked a bit about this on my podcast. Yes, there’s tons of “UX ________” job listings out there (and that’s great…this “UX Designer” is not dissing that). I just think we tend to get so caught up in titles and buzzwords that it can sometimes overshadow the important work that we do. Totally agree with Brad Frost:

“Every person who helps make a product is a UX Designer.”

If you make products, you already are a UX Designer. However, maybe you’re more of a UI Designer. Perhaps you’re more of a Front End Developer. Maybe you’d rather just devour a full stack than develop one.

Try not to get caught up with “UX” titles, and remember to pursue what you love to do. Always look for that opportunity where your greatest strengths can be utilized.

Be yourself

Sweaty palms. Pungent pits. Cheek temp coming in at 101.3 ºF. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms…you’re in a job interview.

Be yourself. Even if it’s what seems like a dream job, don’t come off desperate–treating it like it’s the last opportunity on earth. It’s not. They can smell that almost as quickly as Old Spice’s futile attempts in that moment. Also, if you are not valued at your current place of employment (I’m sorry), better to start interviewing now than while in transition. “Married people” are more attractive.

Be confident. There’s a fine line between confidence and cockiness. Don’t cross it. Don’t pretend you know the answer if you don’t. Don’t try and make something up. Not worth it. Just be honest. Last thing you want is to get hired for a position that you really weren’t qualified for. Trust me, it happened to me early in my career and it almost cost me that dream job when I was found out!

Ask questions

You know that part of the interview (usually at the end after earning your George Foreman-worthy griddle marks on your caboose) where the interviewer asks you if you have any questions? Ignore Nancy Reagan (rest her soul) and “just say yes”. Since luck is where preparation meets opportunity, always go in prepared. Here’s some great questions to ask:

  • What’s the culture like here?
  • What’s the chemistry and collaborative spirit like between design and dev teams?
  • Who owns digital products?
  • Do project timelines typically include time for research, testing, iteration and creative QA prior to launch?
  • What’s the company philosophy on professional development (e.g. online training, conferences, etc.)?
Don’t settle for anything but an outstanding culture

Out of all of these, the first is the most important. You’re gonna spend more time at work than at home with your loved ones, and life’s too short to “call-it-in” or dread going to work because you are not valued as you should be. Been there, done that.

Ask Dr. Web

This was a great QA session with Dr. Web (Zeldman) and Sarah Parmenter answering design career questions.


Hang in there, keep your head up, and be confident–not only in the your skills and strengths you bring, but in the highly capable and unique superhero you are. Be more of who you are!

If you’re having a tough time staying inspired and discovering the latest and greatest tools and outstanding resources to keep you fighting on, I’d love to encourage you to check out my User Defenders podcast that’s all about inspiring interviews with UX Design superheroes.

Now, I just wanna say good luck…we’re all counting on you.

No, seriously…you got this!

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