Top UX Interview Mistakes to Avoid


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?”


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.

Should You Take Time Off Between Jobs?


A few months ago, my mother advised me: “Don’t quit your job until you’ve got another job lined up.” Sounds sensible enough.

So I proceeded to do exactly the opposite and quit my job ~4 months ago. Without another job in hand.

In this article I’ll share with you some ideas that helped me make this tough decision, and why it’s paid off for me.


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Some of you reading this might be facing an important decision right now: should you quit your job when you have nothing lined up?

I’ve talked to various people who’ve been turning this question over and over in their minds.

Here’s an actual conversation with a friend:

I’m trying to gauge if I want to travel first or square away my next job. I’m afraid most companies wouldn’t want to give u 1-2 months in between jobs. I’m feeling restless and this transition to UX is taking forever, and if I get a new UX job, I’ll just have to start work right away.

Some people want to travel. Some can’t stand their current jobs. And some want to take time off to transition into another career, maybe even enroll in an immersive full-time program.

Regardless of your motivations to quit, I’ll share with you two ideas that have guided me well:

1. Important vs Urgent

In life, there are important things and urgent things, and the separation between them is dreadfully subtle.

Important things are things that you don’t want to regret not doing when you’re on your deathbed. They are the big goals of life. Examples include traveling, starting a business, creating a non-profit, spending time with loved ones, losing weight and getting healthy again.

Urgent things are things that often pose as important things. The report due tomorrow (which no one may ever read). Your coworker’s birthday party this Friday. Fixing the leaky faucet or cleaning your room. Urgent things matter, but they’re not important.

I borrow this concept from Oliver Emberton, who wrote an amazing piece called “How to Master Your Time.

This is also a theme throughout the classic book The Alchemist. The protagonist, a shepherd boy, is on a quest to search for a great treasure. But he had to quit his job first. During his journeys, the boy is constantly embattled with struggles and decisions that veers him off his original path. Finally, years later, he summons the courage to return to his goal and finally achieves it. And he gets the girl, too :)

At the end of the day, this is about priorities. If you’ve been dreaming of traveling for the past 3 years, I think your future self will forgive you for giving up a few months of steady employment.

2. Learning vs Earning

This next idea is borrowed from Mark Suster. It’s called “Is it Time for you to Earn or Learn?

The basic idea is to determine if you’re at the stage to focus on learning or earning. This doesn’t mean that the two are mutually exclusive; certainly you can learn a lot while getting paid.

But for those of you who are stuck in a job you don’t like, and want to make a career switch to UX, it may very well be worth it to take time off to learn, sacrificing your earnings in the short run.

I personally know someone who quit his job to do a UX internship. I know others who’ve had high paying (but soul-sucking) jobs, then quit to travel. They all eventually got jobs or started their own businesses. They all ended up okay. I’m betting that you will be okay too.

Personally, this helped me decide that forgoing a full-time income for a few months (EARN) was worth the knowledge and skills I might gain studying on my own (LEARN). When I asked myself: “Is it time for me to learn or earn?” The answer was LEARN. And I doubt that will change any time soon.

How It’s Paid Off

There are many benefits of not having a full-time job while your pursue other goals. I traveled. I’ve picked up some design skills I’ve been procrastinating on learning forever.

On the most practical level, not having a full time job can give you the focus to interview. (I know, it can be stressful to take a sick day off to take an interview.)

In the end, I found a full time UX job, which I’m grateful for. But the most surprising thing I discovered during this free time is that if I put forth enough effort, a consulting income can replace a full-time income too. This has changed my perspective about jobs: you don’t need to have a traditional job to make a full time income.

More on that last point in a future post. If you enjoyed this one, subscribe below!

Take Me Seriously: Establishing Yourself as a UX Designer


World Usability Day comes once a year, and the one this past Thursday was one of my favorites.

Someone asked the panel such a good question, I wrote it down in my notebook:


My chicken scratch notes

You can also watch a Youtube video of the conference (I was behind the camera). I paraphrase the question below:

I’m breaking into the UX industry, and I’m doing a career change. What’s your advice for employers and stakeholders to take me more seriously?

I feel like I can do the work, but sometimes they’re just not going to give me a shot, versus someone who has 2 or more years of experience than me.

The person who asked the question is from a finance background, and I can relate.

The panel gave some really good insight, which I’ll outline below along with my own bit of advice.

Our 3 Panelists...

Our 3 Panelists…

Panel Speaker 1:
Kathryn Campbell, CEO of Primitive Spark

Kathryn recommended that to be taken seriously, practice showing what you’re capable of, instead of just talking about it. This means:

On that last note, Kathryn outlines that a basic UX story/process should sound like this:

“This is a problem and this is how I went about determining the right solution. This is what I did, and how I did it.”

I like this piece of advice because regardless of what job you’re pursuing, communication is key. People remember stories, and telling a good story about your work helps elevate you to a professional who knows what he’s talking about.

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that you’re not only telling stories about your work, but about yourself.

I notice many UX Beginners preface their introductions with “Oh, I’m just breaking in to design…I don’t have much experience, but…” Or they might meekly refer to themselves on LinkedIn as “UX Student,” or “Recent Grad in UX.” Who the eff cares? If you’re doing the work that UX Designers do, and you want to become a UX Designer, just call yourself a UX Designer. Stop discounting yourself.

Panel Speaker 2:
David Lai, CEO of Hello Design

My advice is very simple, it’s just do one good thing. If you have one good piece of work, that’s really the starting point. I don’t need to see 20 things.

If you’re just getting into it, attitude is important. Try to express your willingness to learn and adapt. I’ve been doing this my whole life and I feel like I’m overwhelmed every day.

Do one good thing. I love this advice for it’s simplicity. Focus your efforts on creating something with depth and meaning, and it will stick better. Quality over quantity.

I’m a victim of not curating myself enough when it comes to my portfolio, and I recognize that having a few strong projects is better than watering it down with weaker examples.

Panel Speaker 3:
Jonathan Badeen, Co-Founder @ Tinder

Having experience on your resume…a lot of times it doesn’t explain everything. If you’ve worked on big companies on these big teams, I don’t know if you did any of that stuff. You could’ve been the one person who sucked. But if you have something that is YOURS, nobody else is responsible for it…I know you did that.

Jonathan follows up with David’s “one good thing” ethos and extends it to talk about the value of doing personal projects.

I can’t agree more. Have a side hustle. Personal projects are a great way to explore and apply what you’ve learned about design and UX how YOU want it, without the constraints of a supervisor, lack of budget, etc. Take advantage of the creative freedom and ownership you can have with personal projects.

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Are you struggling to stand out in the job search process? Have you just graduated from a UX or design program but not sure how to close that gap between you and other UX professionals? Take a deep breath and take in the advice of three executives:

  • Learn to tell a story around your projects
  • Do one good thing
  • Take advantage of doing personal projects

That’s all for now, subscribe below if you’d like to be notified of each new post I write: