My 3 Tips for Improving Your UX/UI Design Interview Skills

This story is about how I got over my nerves preparing for an interview and developed new-found confidence instead.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

Interviews used to be super nerve-wracking for me when I was in high school and even college — the fear of saying the wrong thing, saying too much or too little, or not being charismatic enough to win over my interviewer. The fear of rejection devoured my confidence. Nowadays, those nerves — that fear — hardly come up at all. I still get a bit nervous, but out of anticipation and excitement, surprisingly enough.

What helped changed this?

  1. Having a growth mindset
  2. Just being myself
  3. Self-care

I’ve wholeheartedly internalized the idea that we grow from making mistakes. Going into an interview doesn’t scare me anymore because I know that regardless of the outcome, I will learn something new and valuable to add to my arsenal. I think Co-Vid also had a huge hand in my changed perspective, especially when it comes to what I stress over on a day-to-day basis. I understood that it wasn’t going to be the end of the world if I messed up or if the company did not offer me the job. I was going to be fine; hell, I was going to be more than fine if I chose to learn from my experience. Plus, I stopped trying to be someone I wasn’t. No sleep lost and stress-levels at an all-time low.

Although I don’t have a full-time job as a UX/UI designer, I have at least developed a confidence that has pushed me to go for opportunities that I otherwise would’ve been too scared to apply for before. Receiving one rejection after the other used to get to me, and they sometimes still do. Still, once I began to reframe the meaning of these rejections, the better I became at interviews, and the more confident I was in myself and my abilities.

Prep, practice, process, repeat.

To be honest, I haven’t been getting interviews left and right, which is normal, in case you needed to hear that, nor would I say I’m a master at being an interviewee. Instead, I’m a living example that we learn through experience.

Something this process has taught me is that it pays to become more confident going into interviews. To give you context, I started the job hunt in March of this year. I’ve applied to roughly 100+ jobs, which is, on average, about 8–10 per week. From these applications I’ve sent out so far, I can single-handedly count the number of interviews I’ve landed. NOT job offers. Interviews.

So, if you’re wondering how I’ve gotten any significant practice with only five interviews in the past four months, well, stop and think about the alternative. I’ve undergone five real interviews, ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours long. I’ll take that experience over nothing any day!

Top Three Interview Tips!

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Tip 1: Prepare

I keep a document called “Interview Notes” that I go back and edit all the time. It contains cultural and technical interview questions. Before the start of my job hunt, I had an excellent career coach who guided me through some questions often asked in an initial interview. The following list is non-exhaustive, but I encourage anyone preparing for an interview for a UX/UI design position to answer these questions as a start:

Cultural questions:

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • How did you get into UX design?
  • What tools do you use?
  • Explain UX design in 10 words.
  • What intrigued you about this role or company?
  • How can your previous background add value to [this company/role]?
  • Tell me about a time when you successfully solved a problem/resolved a difficult situation and how you did that.
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • What questions do you have for me?

Technical questions:

  • Walk me through one of the projects of which you are most proud. (Explain your process, i.e., Situation, Task, Actions, Results)
  • What challenges did you overcome to create this project?
  • What further recommendations did you give the client?
  • What does your usual workflow look like on a project?
  • How do you validate or test the usability of a design?

I’ve learned over time that it’s best to list out some bullet points for each question instead of doing full-fledged paragraphs. You don’t want to sound like you’re reading from a script. Simply highlight the key points you want to hit — the more succinct your answer, the better. If you’re not sure how it will all play out, find someone you trust, whether that be a coach, a friend, or colleague, who can role play with you and provide feedback you can use to improve the content and flow of your responses.

Tip 2: Practice

Mock interviews

Like I’ve said before, find someone who can act as an interviewer and quiz you with a variety of cultural and technical questions. Ensure this person isn’t just critical, though — they should help provide you with some constructive, actionable feedback. Ultimately, you want to improve, not feel like garbage.

Shout out to my fiance for graciously accepting to interview me at any moment’s notice! :)

If you can’t find anyone who can do that for you, try recording yourself. I have done it before, and yes, it’s uncomfortable, especially when you hear playbacks of your voice! YIKES, am I right? Admittedly, it’s been an effective way to identify if: 1) I’m too wordy, and 2) I sound monotone as hell. I tend to say too much for a single question.

I also find myself seeming dull at times, especially if I’m overthinking how I wrote out my response instead of letting the words flow naturally. So, I implore you to play the recording back and take note of how you can improve!

Real Interviews

Practice also includes real interviews! View the experience as an opportunity to learn and grow, especially in your ability to communicate effectively. Whatever the outcome, you’ll be better for it! Now isn’t that exciting? In most of the interviews I’ve experienced so far, I’ve had employers ask me common questions, including how I got into UX design, what my workflow is like, the tools I use, and if I have any questions for them. Have responses ready, but know that they will evolve, especially the more experience you gain in your field of expertise and the more exposure you have.

Despite how many interviews you partake in, know that you can’t anticipate 100% of the questions they’ll ask. There may be times you will simply not know the answer to something. That’s fine! Just be honest about it. Better yet, let your interviewer know that you’re open to learning more. And that you would enjoy them sharing their thoughts about that topic, especially if it’s a topic they value.

In one interview that lasted a whopping 2 hours, the CEO of the company asked me if I was familiar with Oculus VR (a company specializing in virtual reality hardware and software). I didn’t know much about it. I was interested, though, and asked him to explain what their company was doing with VR to create innovative products. He was excited to do so, which made me excited to listen and learn more. It’s a great way to elicit enthusiasm without seeming fake, in my opinion.

In short, critique your responses and be succinct. But most of all, be true to yourself! I go into my interviews, keeping in mind that I just need to be myself because it’s not just about me being the right fit for the company, but the company being the right fit for me.

Tip 3: Process

The ultimate key for boosting my confidence when it comes to interviews is the processing I do right after. I take the time to think through and document how each interview — mock or real — went. What was good? Bad? What questions did they ask that I didn’t necessarily know how to answer? What would I have changed about my answers if I had a second go?

Doing this has helped me avoid being surprised by odd-ball questions, in case they arise in an interview again. Even if they don’t come up, knowing I have an answer puts my mind at ease and gives me confidence.

I consider the structure of past interview experiences and try to gather as much relevant information about the company I’m interviewing with — what they’re looking for, the tools they prefer to use, etc. It’s a great way to aggregate data about different employers, and get an idea for what areas I can improve in, especially when it comes to filling a gap in my skills.

Give yourself some grace.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at any point in your preparation for an interview, acknowledge those feelings and take a mental break. Depending on how long you have until your interview, go for a walk, drink a soothing tea, take a few deep breaths, or whatever fills your cup. I believe that’s what’s allowed me to go into an interview with so much energy. I used to dwell till the final second over what I was going to say, how I was going to say it, that I’d end up fumbling on my words and rambling during the interview instead. I was deathly afraid of failing that I overcompensated with non-conducive preparation.

Interviews are in part for you to sell yourself and the skills you have in your field, but in the same vein, it’s a way for the employer to get to know who you are as a person, and vice versa. So don’t overthink it, and do you! If you don’t get the call-back, that’s fine. It may have been the wrong fit, and there are other fish in the sea. Besides, you didn’t leave the interview empty-handed. You have new-found skills and knowledge that you can use to improve your abilities as an interviewee and overall designer.

Wherever you are in your job search journey, keep at it! I’m rooting for you :)

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash
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Teacher turned UX/UI Designer

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