These interview tips will increase your chance of getting a job by 21.43% I just made up that figure, but I’m sticking to it.
Let me begin this post by saying that I’ve bombed my fair share of interviews. I’ve experienced interview failures from all spectrums of the rainbow, from arriving late to trying too hard to impress everyone.
In fact, my failures feel even more painful when I’m sitting on the other side of the table, interviewing candidates who make the same mistakes I make. Hopefully I can pass on some goodwill and help someone with this post.
This is going to be a quick recap of what I’ve observed, from both sides of the table. Many of these mistakes apply to jobs/field beyond UX. Here we go:
Mistake #1: Skipping over your process
Process is the bread and butter of UX Design. What steps did you take to achieve a desired result? What was your thinking and justification behind a design decision? Remember to explain your process in the interview.
Your interviewers will also want to know…
- What parts of the design were you responsible for?
- How did you work in a team? Did you work alone or hand-in-hand with other developers, product managers and designers?
- What lessons did you take away from the project? What did you find enjoyable or difficult?
It’s important to note that different types of companies value different things. Come in to interview prepared for that environment. Read How to evaluate UX jobs at Agencies vs Startups vs Big Companies for more.
Mistake #2: Taking forever to get to the answer
No matter what job you’re in, a good part of it is made up of communication. Presenting your work. Emailing the engineers your wireframes. Talking to your boss about new opportunities.
You get it – communication is key, and so much of your interview will come down to how you talk. I’m no Toastmaster, so the best tip I can give here is to be succinct.
Try your best to answer questions directly, without dilly-dallying to get to the point. Your future coworkers will appreciate this.
2 related tips
1) If you ever don’t understand a question at the first pass, just rephrase it back to the interviewer.
“Just to make sure I understand your question, you’re asking if I do visual design work as well as information architecture?”
2) If you answer the question and are afraid it was too short, it’s totally okay to ask: “Did I fully answer your question?”
Mistake #3: Not being prepared to show your work
Outside of personal connections (which we’ll talk about in another post), your portfolio is the #1 reason you’re brought in for an interview. So be prepared to walk your interviewers through it.
The best thing you can do to prep for an interview is to practice live with a friend.
You’d be surprised how many candidates don’t expect to be grilled on their portfolios. So they stumble through their work and don’t really demonstrate the design process/thinking that UX interviewers are looking for.
Part of this preparation, as readers of Minimum Viable UX Portfolio will know, is to curate yourself and show a couple pieces of solid work, and leave out anything that won’t help you.
No sense in showing 2 cool projects then end with a dud.
Mistake #4: Not Showing Your Personality
Interview questions are tricky; sometimes the seemingly innocuous ones are the most important.
Question: “So, what do you do outside of work?”
Actual Question: WHO ARE YOU MORE THAN A WORKER DRONE? DO YOU HAVE A PERSONALITY? WHEN I’M STRESSED OUT ARE YOU SOMEONE I CAN TALK TO?
Obviously don’t make up hobbies you don’t have, but this is your chance to show you’re a real human being who has interests outside of work, and maybe someone others can chat over the watercooler with.
Remember, these are people who you’re going to spend most of your waking life with, and they’re looking for more than just an employee.
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Also, a quick note on staying alert. Interviewing is grueling. You took a sick day from work to drive an hour each way for this 4 four interview marathon.
Regardless, try your best to maintain a good energy level, which is demonstrated by the way you talk and physically present yourself.
Don’t risk appearing boring or “too cool” when really, your energy level has dropped.
It’s OK to ask for coffee, water, or a bathroom break to wake yourself up. I always ask for water because my mouth gets dry talking that much about myself.
Mistake #5 Forgetting to ask questions
My mentor always reminds me that interviews are a two-way street.
“Remember, you are interviewing THEM too.”
Thinking this way will also help deal with any nervousness – it’s not just them judging you, you are judging them as well.
The type of questions you ask can really demonstrate the type of thinker you are and how much you care about the job opportunity in front of you.
Some good questions to ask if you blank out:
- What’s something about the company’s culture that you really enjoy?
- What are the top 3 things you spend time on every day? Design work? Meetings?
- In light of X event, does this affect the company and the way you work?
(“X Event” could refer to news you researched on the company, like a recent merger, or a trend in the field, like flat design).
Bonus: honesty is the best policy
Being transparent with your strengths and weaknesses will help much more versus trying to impress interviewers on everything they’re asking for.
Saying “I don’t know” is okay. If the interviewer asks about specific skills you’re not good at, here’s a good way to get around it:
1) Tell them what level of exposure you’ve had with the skill, whether it’s visual design, user research or coding. It’s okay to say “I’ve
2) Tell them why you think the skill is important + Express your interest to learn
At the end of the day, interviewers often aren’t looking for the right answer so much as an honest answer.
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I hope that you will learn and profit from my own UX interviewing mistakes. If you’re interested in in related resources down the line (like a free UX interview guide), sign up with your email to be the first to know.