What It’s Like to Interview as a Product Designer at Wayfair

This past holiday season found me in California scrambling to find a new job on the East Coast so I could be closer to friends and family. Come December 20th, I had applied to almost 25 jobs. As expected, no matter how much tasteful white space I had in my resume or to whom I addressed my cover letters, I didn’t get a response from most companies I applied to online.

Nearing the end of one of my LinkedIn benders, I saw a post from Wayfair for a Product Design position. I had heard good things about the company from my HGTV-loving parents, and after a cursory glance at the Glassdoor rating submitted my resume for review. One week later, on December 27th, I got an email from a recruiter to schedule a phone interview.

It was a belated Christmas miracle.

Part 1: The Phone Interview

The initial phone interview was informal enough that I was able to take it in my car parked on a Venice Beach side street at the end of a holiday road trip. The recruiter, Alex, asked me about the job I was at and my role on the team, and how I collaborated with product managers and developers. We talked through some of my previous experience and side projects, and he told me a bit about life on the design team to round out what was a pretty standard first round call.

Part 2: The Video Chat

The next step in the process was a video call with two hiring managers from the product design team. During the call, we discussed my resume and they encouraged me to take the reins and screenshare so that I could walk through my portfolio at my own pace. In contrast with other interviews I’d recently had, this one felt notably comfortable and relaxed. The managers were clearly friends with each other and brought that openness to our interview.

Alex called the next day for a debrief and to set up the details of my trip in for the next round onsite. Wayfair organized the logistics for my flight to Boston and planned for me to arrive a few days early so I could spend some time with family in the city.

Part 3: The Onsite (Dun, Dun, Duuuun)

The onsite interview started off a little rocky. I had been warned by Alex that finding the office would be confusing at first because it was up in a tower of the nearby mall, so I arrived a solid half hour before I was supposed to report to get my guest badge. After walking into the building and glancing at directions to the office, I brushed his concern off as trivial and headed to Starbucks for a drink.

This was a mistake.

I spent the next 20 minutes lost in a loop between the mall and neighboring hotel. Instead of arriving early, I missed the office tour and was launched straight into my first interview.

My onsite at Wayfair was set to last for 5 hours, with 8 different sessions led by a total of 16 people. My schedule was as follows:

9:45 AM — 10:00 AM: Introduction with recruiter

10:00 AM — 11:00 AM: Portfolio Review

11:00 AM — 12:00 PM: App Critique

12:00 PM — 1:00 PM: Lunch with the team

1:00 PM — 2:00 PM: Design Challenge

2:00 PM — 2:30 PM: Meet with team’s Associate Director of Product

2:30 PM — 3:00 PM: Meet with team’s Director of Product Design

3:00 PM — 3:15 PM: Debrief with recruiter

This did not strike me as an agenda for the faint of heart. At this point, though, I had already been sold on Wayfair’s mission and had genuinely enjoyed rounds one and two, so I braced myself and marched on in.

Ryan Breslin/Boston.com Staff

Portfolio Review and App Critique

We started off the day with a portfolio review and app critique, in which I met with 4 of the team’s designers — 3 design managers and one associate designer. The managers in my app critique had both been with Wayfair for years, and were happy to hang out and chat for an hour about the apps on our phones.

Lunch

Just as the app critique was wrapping up, 4 other designers met me outside the door of our interview room to take me out to lunch. We walked to a restaurant down the block, unanimously agreed that we should order breakfast for lunch, and chatted for the rest of the hour about our hometowns and fun spots in Boston.

Design Challenge

We got back to the office just in time for the design challenge. I was ferried into a room with two designers, an engineer, and a product manager to show how I’d collaborate on a fictional problem. Like in the second round video call, I was given the freedom to guide our team in planning and designing. The product manager and engineer were there to field feature requests and give engineering estimates, while joining in with the designers to give feedback and iterate as a group.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in one-on-one conversations and ended with a debrief with Alex.

So, What Happened?

As may be obvious by the section this article is in, I ended up receiving and accepting an offer to come work at Wayfair. Aside from a great product and a really talented crew, the onsite day showed me that Wayfair was an environment that I’d actually enjoy working in — the kind that made a 5-hour interview feel like hanging out with people that I’d choose to be friends with even if they weren’t in my desk neighborhood. All 16 people that helped to interview me had taken time out of their day to meet with me, and honestly seemed happy to do it.

In the days following the interview, I had received replies to almost all of my thank you notes with a ton of encouragement and thoughtful notes. My recruiter had been hands on during the whole process, and never left me feeling unprepared or worried for what was to come.

Now, months later, I’m fully entrenched in the team as a designer for the Wayfair Professional experience. The type of environment that fostered the encouragement I got through the interview process now pushes me forward in design reviews and team meetings. The interview process was certainly long, but I’d do it all again to be where I am.

Interested in joining the Wayfair product design team? Browse our open positions here.