10 Useful Questions to Ask in UX Interviews

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When it comes to UX interviews, it’s easy to feel like you’re the one getting grilled. But remember, you’re interviewing the company too. 

You may spend a third of your life (~8 hours) for years at a job. So you might as well determine if a company is right for you.

You can figure this out with some of the right questions, which help you to:

  1. identify if this is the team you’d like to work with, and
  2. ensure you come across as an interested, engaged applicant.

Most of the questions should be reserved towards the end of the interview, or when interviewers ask “Do you have any questions for us?”

As with any interview, feel out if these your question is appropriate in the context of where the conversation is heading.

At the end of the article, I’ll provide a strategy to ask good questions during the interview.

Let’s jump right into it, in no particular order:

1) What do you love about working here? 

Rationale: This is a general question but it helps you identify two things: if employees genuinely like the workplace, and what the perks are.

You want to avoid asking about job benefits and perks (it’s unprofessional), but with this question it’s likely that your interviewer will tell you about the culture & workplace perks.

2) What’s the team structure? Who does the UX manager (or team) report to?

Rationale: This question gives you a sense of the team dynamics and who will ultimately affect your work.

Do you notice that UX designers have a seat that the company’s table, or are they at the mercy of other teams? Does the UX director (if there is one) fall under the creative director, or are they equals?

3) Can you describe a typical day split up in percentages by activity? For example, 50% of the day is spent wireframing, 20% is spent on meetings and email…

Rationale: Productive workers are happy workers. This is best asked to someone in the role (e.g. Interaction designer) you’re applying for. Their answer helps you know how productive the team is according to what they spend most of their time on.

Most places will downplay how often they have (unnecessary) meetings. Still, this helps you get a sense of the job’s day-to-day rhythm.

4) How long do projects take to launch? Can you give me some examples?

Rationale: The portfolio is the designer’s bread and butter. And there’s nothing more annoying than working for a company in which projects don’t launch or take forever to launch.

Again, productive designers are happy designers, so you want to make sure you’re in an environment that’s actually shipping things.

5) Can you tell me about your design process? Let’s say there’s a new project and you have a kickoff meeting…what’s the UX process like until launch? Post launch?

Rationale: You want to know about the team’s UX process – or lack thereof. See if they have some sort of process set up. And it’s not always a bad thing that they don’t – some teams may admit they need a more rigorous product development process than what’s currently in place, and that’s where you come in.

It’s also a litmus test of the team’s UX maturity. Based off their answers, you can tell how advanced their skills are and if they can/can’t mentor you.

6) Let’s pretend I’m finishing up my first project here – what are the expectations of how design artifacts should delivered?

Helps you identify how the team communicates (or not) and how things are shipped. Do you need to annotate wireframes? Can you sit with developers and work out issues with them, or are they all remote?

The question also helps interviewers think of you as an existing employee.

7) What’s your management style? Can you talk about any management whose decisions will affect my day to day life?

Rationale: Your relationship with your manager will determine a large part of your happiness in the workplace. Get a sense of their managing style. Do you sense that he/she trusts her teammates, or is prone to micromanagement?

The second part of the question is to dig up people who can either be your blockers or allies. Sometimes you may be more actively managed by someone else than your official manager.

8) What do you wish the company did a better job of?

Rationale: Allows the interviewers to vent about problems in the company. This is important, because these will likely become your problems too if you join them. It also opens up the conversation to opportunities that you might be able to take on, or help the team solve.

9) What are some things that new designers could do in their first 30 days to set them up for success? What does onboarding look like for new team members?

Rationale: This question helps you gauge what qualities the team values, and if the manager has given any thought to how to prep new designers. Do they do any sort of onboarding for new employees? Will you be given the right resources or made to hunt for them yourself?

10) What’s your vision for the UX team? What about for the whole company?

Rationale: You want to work on a UX team whose members (or at least the manager) have passion for what they do. That means that they yearn to be better tomorrow than they are today – how do they do that? Is the team constantly improving itself, learning, and looking for new ways to add value?

The second part of the question identifies how the UX team sees itself in the context of what value they bring to the rest of the company.

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I’ve asked the 10 questions above during my own interviews (on both sides of the table) so they’ve been tested in real life. But use them with caution :)

Earlier, I said that the above questions are best saved for the end of the interview when the conversation opens up. What about during the interview?

Tip: When in doubt, mirror what interviewers are asking you, and make it a conversation.

If they ask you what your UX process looks like, ask them about their process. If they ask you about how you approach user research, ask them how they do user research.

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UX Job Tenures: Is Job Hopping Bad For Your Career?

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"Hmm...I don't know about this candidate. 
His design skills are good... 
but he looks like a job hopper."

I looked at the resume again. Was management referring to the candidate’s last position, where he stayed for 9 months? It wasn’t an awfully long time, but to me I wouldn’t have labeled someone a job hopper just for staying somewhere under a year. So I began digging around.

This is one question that’s been coming up a lot lately in the UX Beginner community…how long should you stay at a job?

When you find yourself in a design or UX interview, you may be asked to explain your tenure – or how long you’ve worked somewhere.

If you’ve ever been concerned about the stigma of short employment histories, this post is chock full of tactics that will help you navigate this tricky interview situation.

First, some interesting stats:

Did you know that the average tenure of Google employees is 1.1 years? Amazon employees stay for even a shorter duration at just an average 1 year. This data comes from a Payscale study looking at employee loyalty.

The first thing to notice is that there’s a high correlation between average employee age and average employee tenure. It kinda makes sense – the younger you are in your career, the more you’re trying to learn and grow, which mostly happens through switching jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms this correlation, as well as pointing out that the average tenure across the entire study (PDF) stood at ~4.5 years.

Yet it seems that we are approaching a new normal: 91% percent of Millennials (born between 1977-1997) expect to stay in a job for less than three years (FutureWorkPlace).

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That’s a lot of numbers, but what about the UX industry? That’s where things get hairy, because I couldn’t find solid data on this topic. Take the rest of the article with a grain of salt (as you should with any article), as this is based on my personal experience + anecdotes from fellow UX designers in the field.

What length of time do we define as job hopping in the UX industry? There really is no number, and it’s all about perception.

From what I’ve heard from recruiters, consistently staying at companies for under 1 year can raise red flags. There’s just a perception with time – there’s little difference between 10 months and 1 year, but the former just sounds much shorter.

Anecdotally, none of my friends (in their mid twenties) have ever gotten crap for staying at a place for  ~2 years. This is no magic number, but if you’re worried about being a hopper and you’re approaching your 2 years, just stick it out for a few months.

Unless… your job sucks the happiness out of your life, then let’s evaluate job hopping with a quick Pro/Con list:

Pros and Cons of Job Hopping
Pros Cons
Find a better cultural fit Can be flagged as “job hopper” by recruiter, flight risk by management
Diversify your design experience You want to enter an industry/company that values long job tenures
Add more projects to your portfolio Potentially lose out on bonuses/retirement incentives if leaving too early
Higher Salary by switching jobs vs waiting for a promotion Potentially lose out on stock options / exit, especially at a promising startup

Notice that the most of the good reasons for switching jobs centers around growth of some short. Personal growth and financial growth are hugely important, especially for those early in their careers.

Conversely, most of the cons on switching jobs deals with other people’s perceptions and potentially losing out on financial incentives.

So here’s a quick heuristic: if the benefits of personal growth heavily outweigh the cost of switching jobs, don’t hesitate to move on.

Oh wait, but you still might get grilled on your job history in an interview. Let’s dig into that.

How to Handle Short Job Tenure(s)

As I mentioned earlier, the stigma behind a short job tenure is an issue of perception. Thus we can handle perception with a few strategies:

Positioning Yourself  

There are countless ways to position yourself, but the main strategy is to focus on the experience you bring to the table, and offer a solid explanation as to why the company you’re interviewing for interests you.

If asked about job tenures or why you’re switching jobs, the best answers center around personal growth. Some examples:

  • Affinity for a certain industry
    • “I’m a huge gamer and working as a UX designer in this industry would be the perfect intersection of my skills and interests” 
  • Desire to work in a new work environment
  • Interest in a specific types of projects
    • “At my last job, I designed a lot of responsive websites, and I particularly enjoyed designing for the mobile viewport. This job would allow me more opportunity to work on mobile apps, which I’m very passionate about”
  • Desire for a certain team structure
    • “I’ve typically worked in small teams or as a solo UX Designer, so I’m excited that your company has an entire team of interaction designers, UX researchers, and beyond.”

There are also many bad explanations. In general, avoid anything that comes off as a complaint about previous employers, such as…

  • Bad-mouthing your superiors or co-workers
  • Talking about Interpersonal issues
  • Complaining about the culture (this raises red flags…was it other people who were bad, or was it you who just didn’t fit in with anyone?)

Show Them You Care

Another way to position your experience is to do a lot of research on the company you’re interviewing for. When you show up to an interview with a lot of knowledge about the company and can even propose suggestions, you position yourself as a serious candidate.

Suddenly, how long  you were at your last job doesn’t matter as much because you’re that much more knowledgeable than other candidates.

Side Projects

Job hoppers can further position their experience by doing and talking about side projects. Imagine going for a UX role at company that only has a web (not mobile) presence. Let’s say another candidate has 5+ years on you, but is coming from another industry as well.

If you do a side project doing an exploration of what a mobile version of that website looks like, your experience could become much more relevant than the other candidate, regardless of your job tenure.

Some Contrary Food For Thought 

In this article we went in depth dealing with the potential stigma of short job tenures…but can it actually hurt you to stay somewhere too long?

Long story short: experience trumps everything. Someone who’s been working at a company for 5 years, but don’t have that much work to show, can actually be hurt by their long job tenure.

Here’s a quote from Jobvite CEO Dan Finnigan:

It used to be that when you were looking at someone’s resume and they changed jobs more frequently than every five to seven years, they’d be labeled as a job hopper, unstable, greedy or selfish, unable to hold a job. Whatever it was, it usually flagged them and pulled them out of the stack. Now, in some regards, I think it has flipped. Now when recruiters look at someone who has stayed in a role for more than three years, the question is why? What have they been doing? … The world is changing really fast. There’s this intuition that if you’re doing the same job for more than three years and your job didn’t change, that means either your company’s not that dynamic or you are not that dynamic. I’m not saying that’s always the case, I’m just saying there’s this increasing perception.Jobvite CEO, Dan Finnigan
Takeaways and best practices
  • Unless you work freelance, staying at jobs consistently for less than 1 year raises red flags, and staying somewhere for 2 years is a very safe zone
  • However, experience trumps job tenure. When evaluating the Pros/Cons of switching jobs, choose what provides the best experience, especially if early in your career
  • When interviewed about short job tenures, root your answers in personal growth

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Survey Time: Give a little, Get a LOT

To get a better picture, I am putting together a short UX Job Tenures Google Survey

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Not interested in the survey? It’s okay – if you haven’t joined the 1200+ other subscribers yet, do so below to get the latest UX articles and resources I publish.

The 4 Types of UX Interview Questions to Master

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So can you tell me about KPIs you used to measure the outcome of this design?
I froze. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead. I didn’t know how to answer the interview question and stumbled through with a half-assed response.

_ _ _

Interviewing used to be one of those painful, tedious chores for me. That’s because I didn’t understand the underlying structure of interview questions.

But through practice and dozens of interviews over the years, and I spotted some patterns. Time and time again, I’ve found that the questions I was asked fell into 4 major question types.

Identifying this pattern not only helped me provide better answers, but it helped me understand the questions in the first place.

Note: This article covers only verbal questions, not design exercises nor portfolio-specific questions, which we’ll cover in-depth in the future.

For the impatient, these are the four question that I’ll explain in detail:

  • Basic screening questions
  • Technical (UX specific) questions
  • Behavioral questions
  • Curveball questions

This article won’t guarantee you a UX job. But for those looking to land their first UX gig, understanding these 4 question types can make a difference between offer and no offer. Let’s dive right in:

1. Basic Screener (Recruiting) Questions

aka Can you talk the talk?

Almost everyone goes through the typical phone screen, which includes a host of basic questions about yourself. These questions can seem deceptively simple because they’re so general (hint: never give just a general answer).

Interviewers may not have the most intimate knowledge about design, much less user experience design.

Imagine you’re a recruiter and a client just handed you a job description. You have 2 weeks to gather a pool of UX candidates. If you don’t know the first thing about UX, how will you evaluate candidates besides spam anyone with the title “UX” on their LinkedIn profile?

Given this situation, a recruiter would be looking for the following: 

  • Can you communicate clearly?
  • Culture Fit: do you seem like a normal, maybe even superb, human being?
  • Do you have the UX skills? Can you talk about UX confidently?

More sample screener questions

  • Tell me about yourself
  • What tools do you use?
  • What is your process and approach to UX Design?
  • How did you get into UX Design? What’s your interest in the field?
  • What do you know about the company and the services/products we sell?
  • Why do you want to work here? Why do you want to leave your current job?

The Approach

You’re basically getting asked “Who are you and why should we hire you?” in different variations.

Getting your basic story down is a necessary exercise, simply because you’ll use this pitch across networking sessions, email introductions, and of course actual interviews.

Practice a concise, 60-90 second summary, which should include some (if not all) of these elements:

  1. Your past experience leading up to you applying for this job
  2. The skills you bring to the table
  3. Your passions regarding UX
  4. Why you’re interested in the role / company

Pro tip: Study the job posting and the company. They keywords that recruiters are looking for are literally baked in the job posting. During phone interviews I always have the job description and a Wikipedia page of the company in front of me on my Macbook.

Have a clear idea of why you’d want to work for the company, because your enthusiasm (or lack thereof) will come through.

2. Technical UX Questions

aka Can you walk the walk?

This is where the rubber meets the road. Your knowledge of UX and your fit for the role will be tested with more technical and UX-specific questions.

The level of technicality will often depend on the UX maturity of the company. For instance, if the company you’re interviewing for has a strong design culture (e.g. big design team, there’s a Director or VP of Design/UX), you will get grilled.

Conversely, it’s easy to spot a company without a strong design or UX culture because they’ll ask you easier, basic questions. Like “what is wireframing?” lulz. Regardless, prepare to be grilled on any of the following areas:

  • General UX Knowledge: can you speak to the difference between information architecture, interaction design, usability and user research? When is it relevant to focus on one of these areas vs another?
  • UX Process: do you know what a basic UX design process would look like? Would that process be different depending on the scale or type of project (responsive website vs mobile app)?
  • UX Toolkit: what are the design tools in your toolbelt and in what situations do you use one tool or method over another? Do you sketch with paper and pen, and will you be ready to prototype something in Axure?
  • UX Research: How do you know what you’re designing is tailored for the user? Can you talk a little bit about personas, usability testing, or grounding your design in some kind of data (qualitative or quantitative?)
  • Industry and/or Design Trends: do you know why responsive design matters? Do you have an opinion on flat vs skeuomorphic design? If you’re interviewing for a publishing company, do you know some competitors in the space and have thoughts on their designs?

Pro Tip: Interviewing at low UX maturity companies gives you an opportunity to educate them on UX. And when you teach someone, you become a trusted authority in their eyes.

Even more sample technical UX questions

  • What kind of usability testing methods have you applied in your projects?
  • How do you know when your design is “done”?
  • Have you created personas before? How did they help you?
  • What kind of data have you used to validate a design?

The Approach

When it comes to technical questions, think about keywords or key themes. If you’re asked about the organization of a page, your interviewer may really be hoping you’d say something about information architecture or card sorting. If you’re asked about validating a design, they’re looking for you to talk about usability testing and/or user research.

So with technical questions, be ready to identify “Okay, the interviewer just asked me about X. They probably want me to talk about Y.”

It’s also worth noting that there’s no use faking technical expertise when your interviewers ask in-depth questions, or grill you on something you have no experience with. I’ve gone into some interviews confident and came out with my ass kicked. The best policy?

Be direct and honest. If you are stumped by a question, tell them you don’t know. You can try to take a stab at it, but being forthright about what you know goes a long way. Sometimes interviewers don’t expect you to know everything; they’re looking for someone who can admit with confidence “I don’t know about that, can you teach me?”

Take a mental note of the questions you’ve stumbled on and study them for next time. There is no failure, only practice :)

3. Behavioral Questions

aka How do you really work? And how do you work with other people?

Interviewers ask behavioral questions to figure out what real world experience you have, and if that experience fits the role + company culture. These questions almost always start out like so:

  • Tell me a time when…”
  • “What do you do when…”
  • “Have you ever…”

These questions can often be technical while asking you about a certain situation. In my experience, behavioral questions fall in the camp of problem solving in regards to either projects or people.

Project-Type Behavioral Questions

  • Imagine that we want to make our website responsive. How would you approach this?
  • Can you describe a time when the requirements changed in the middle of a project, and how you handled that?
  • Have you worked in a lean or agile process before? How so?

People-Type Behavioral Questions

  • If you design something and a developer told you “we can’t do that,” what would you do?
  • Have you given feedback on someone else’s designs before? What about receiving feedback?
  • How would your teammates describe you as someone to work with?

I’ll end this section with Jared Spool’s favorite question:

What’s the project you worked on that you’re most proud of?Jared Spool

Approach 1

Because these questions can be so open-ended, here’s an approach:

Use the STAR method. It’s a framework for answering questions that means Situation, Task, Action and Result. I simplify it even more by calling it SAR (I just combine situation and task together) 

  • Situation: Describe the situation and what the problem was. Who was involved, and what particular challenges did you face?
  • Action: Describe what you did. How did you approach the problem? What insights did gather? Did you use a certain process, tool, or understanding of people to achieve your goal?
  • Result: From the action you took, what was the outcome? What did this experience teach you? How does it inform how things might be done differently next time? Do you have data to prove that this result is a step in the right direction?

Approach 2: 

One “hack” to answering many project-type questions is to start off talking about the goals and requirements.

Using a previous question, let’s see how a goal-oriented response might look like…

Question: Let’s say that we want to make our website responsive. How would you approach this?

Potential Answer: I’d begin by identifying the goals of making a website responsive, because that’s going to anchor the project and keep everyone on the same page. For example, if the goal of responsive design is to better serve our customers as they access our site on more and more devices, that would inform the initial research and discovery phase of this project. Then I’d talk to engineers, developers and project management to evaluate requirements. In that discussion we’d discuss the number of breakpoints, because’s that’s going to affect how we display content, which ultimately impacts the design.

That potential answer is a bit long – and I don’t claim it to be the best – but it’s worth thinking through the goals and requirements when it comes to project type questions.

Pro Tip: Understanding the business, goals, and people can be winning factors that differentiate you from other candidates.

4. Curveball Questions

aka How do you solve problems under pressure?

The definition of Curveball: something which is unexpected, surprising, or disruptive.

Depending on the interviewing culture of a company (consulting companies are known for asking them), you may or may not get curveball questions. I don’t remember the last time I was thrown an extreme curveball, but I have UX peers who use them often.

Let’s start with an example borrowed from the technology agency Digitas.

Question: Describe the Internet to someone who just woke up from a 30-year coma.

Answer: I’d begin by anchoring what the world was like 30 years ago – which would be 1985 – and try to find an analogy that makes sense for that person given what technologies were common in 1985.

For example, a telephone is a machine that takes your voice – and let’s call it data – and transfers it over a line, connecting it to a central hub, then directing my data to someone else on the receiving end as a phone call.

Similarly, a computer (someone in 1985 would know what a computer is) would connect over such a line. The data someone inputs into a computer – text, for example – can be transferred over a physical line, connected to a central hub, then directed to someone else on the receiving end on their computer.

That central hub is the internet, and everyone can connect to it and share data with each other.

Then, I’d show the coma patient an example of email to demonstrate the analogy in real life.

The Approach

Love them or hate them, remember that there isn’t a specific “correct” answer to curveball questions. The interviewer is testing you on the following:

  1. Can you answer questions under pressure?
  2. Can you take a random problem and break it down into chunks?
  3. Can you think creatively?

I’m not the best at brainteasers and some parts of the internet explanation may be flat out wrong. The sample answer, however, illustrates how an applicant might break down a problem and come up with a solution. It’s not too different from a user experience process or even the SAR method mentioned earlier.

Pro Tip: The worst possible answer you can give is “I don’t know, I’d Google it.” Believe me, I’ve heard this as an interview response.

More sample curveball questions

  • Explain to a 10 year old what user experience design means
  • What are the biggest tech innovations or trends right now that you think we should apply to our industry?
  • Estimation questions like Can you estimate how many traffic lights there are in America?

You see that curveball questions can be anything. This is solely my own opinion, but I believe that interviewers often throw curveballs when they doubt the interviewees’ integrity or skills.

For example, if an interviewee seems too polished, fake, or arrogant, the interviewer may decide to “up the game” and throw curveballs to reveal an applicant’s true nature.

_ _ _

Now you’re armed with a way to handle the 4 major types of interview questions.

Looking for tailored, 1-on-1 UX help? I have a few slots open for the upcoming UX Job Coaching package:

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go head. click on the image :)

What does this include?

  • Building a solid portfolio in a short amount of time
  • Navigating job interviews, job offers, and making your job search not only efficient but effective
  • Crafting your personal brand to stand out from thousands of other UX Beginners

To join my next cohort, you can purchase through my Gumroad page here:

UX Coaching Mentorship Package

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If you’re not ready for coaching, you can start with the free, continually updated UX Interview Questions Bank by subscribing below! 

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UX Portfolio Case Study: Zach Kuzmic

This is the second in our series of UX Portfolio Case Studies, featuring Zach Kuzmic.

Today’s post is organized as follows:

  • Intro to UX Designer Zach Kuzmic
  • Case study of Zach’s UX Portfolio
  • Interview with Zach. In-depth portfolio and UX career advice here.

Intro

Click on Zach's Picture to follow him on twitter

Click on Zach’s Picture to follow him on twitter

Zach Kuzmic is a User Experience Designer who hails from Columbus, Ohio and currently resides in Austin, Texas. He currently works at SpringBox, a digital agency, and previously in-house at Pearson, the world’s largest education company and book publisher.

I stumbled upon ZachKuzmic.com and thought it was a great candidate for our second UX Portfolio Case Study.

The UX Portfolio Case Study

Note that Ed’s portfolio is responsive, so the case study uses image grabs of the mobile version of his site.

Click on the first image below to start viewing the entire case study:

The Interview

How did you become a UX Designer? Can you share some background about yourself and your journey into UX design?

Believe it or not, my plan wasn’t always to be a UX designer! I actually studied music production in my undergrad, and my plan up until 2010 was to make music for a living. Given the current state of the record industry and the fact that the best advice for starting my career was to “find someone in New York City who would let you crash on their couch for six months while you work an unpaid studio internship”, I decided I should take my career in a different direction. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved studying music production and certainly don’t regret doing it – it’s just not a career path I want to follow right now.

In 2011, I began my foray into the world of UX by enrolling at the Ohio University School of Visual Communication, with a  focus in Interactive Multimedia. I studied there for two years, learned a lot of great stuff from a lot of really smart people, and eventually got my first job at Pearson as an Interaction Designer. 

When and why did you decide to build ZachKuzmic.com?

From the very beginning, we were taught that your portfolio is what gets you a job – not your degree or even your resume necessarily. The most obvious location for my portfolio was ZachKuzmic.com, and thankfully it was available. For those who aren’t so lucky, you might need to get a little creative with the domain name.

How did you decide what should go into your portfolio? Why did you show what you showed?

It’s tough to decide what to include and what to leave out. My first reaction was to include every project I’d ever done, big or small, but I don’t think employers want to see that. They aren’t going to sift through fifty different projects to see if you’re a fit for them. They just want to see what you’re capable of. I ended up including only four projects from the last few years, and I consider it some of my best work.

How did you approach the presentation of each portfolio piece?

In most cases, I don’t think it’s enough to include just a link or a couple screenshots of your work. You have to provide context and describe your process. Talk about about some of the challenges you faced throughout the project. I think this goes a long way in showing your value as a designer and will help employers understand how your contributions can help them achieve their goals.

With that said, I do have a couple exceptions on my current portfolio. Two of the pieces on there now don’t actually have case studies – they are just external links to the actual projects. I did this for a couple reasons. The first was that I didn’t feel like they were big enough projects to warrant a long write up. They were projects that I did entirely by myself, and I thought they were relatively self-explanatory. The second reason was that I simply ran out of time. I was applying for jobs and had to get my work online quickly. At the time, I thought it better to include the work without a case study rather than not including it at all.

I noticed that you went into great detail about your process for SafeTime and Viscom. Can you tell us more about that?

As I mentioned above, I think employers want to know how you work and solve problems. The shiny end product is great to show off, but it’s important to explain how you arrived there as well. Employers want to see that.

What did you use to build your online portfolio (CMS, handcode, toolkits?) and why did you choose those methods?

This version of the portfolio is actually just a bunch of hand-coded static html pages except for the blog which is using the Ghost blogging platform. It’s not the most sophisticated setup, I will admit.Copying the same header/footer into each page is kind of a pain in the ass.

But it was fast to build initially. As I mentioned earlier, I needed to rebuild my website quickly since I was applying for jobs at the time, and circumventing a CMS like Drupal or WordPress helped facilitate that.

How long did it take to get your portfolio to the stage it is today? What was the most time-consuming part of it for you?  

Creating the current version of this site probably took about two weeks working evenings and weekends a few hours at a time. The most time-consuming part was coming up with content. Writing case studies, collecting deliverables/other artifacts from past projects, and blogging take time.

As I created the site, I chose to focus the majority of my (limited) time writing engaging content rather than creating a masterpiece of front-end/back-end code (but that’s something I’d like to start working on soon!).

How did your portfolio evolve over time? I see from LinkedIn that you’re currently working at an agency, previously at Pearson and you also did freelance work before. 

When I first started my portfolio, I lacked the focus I have now. I was into audio, video, photography, some visual design stuff… and I tried to include it all at first.

On my “Work” page I had tabs labeled “audio”, “video”, etc. to filter all of my work down to the different types… but this didn’t make sense for the jobs I would eventually be applying for.

Employers only really cared about my UX-oriented work. Now, I do see some value in showing an employer that you’ve been exposed to different media or other aspects of creating digital products, but you shouldn’t make that stuff part of your main focus.

Instead, highlight your most relevant work and downplay/remove the other stuff. For example, include a link to your Vimeo account in your footer instead of highlighting video projects individually in your main “Work” area.

How did your portfolio play into each one of the jobs that you held? E.g. was it instrumental to getting your first UX job, or does it continue to be a source of inbound leads?

My portfolio was instrumental in getting hired at Pearson and then Springbox, where I am now. It’s absolutely the reason I got both of those jobs. In interviews, we talked extensively about the work I showed in my portfolio.

Did you specifically tailor your portfolio for each new job you’re interviewing for? 

The portfolio I showed Pearson was the less focused one I mentioned above. It had good work in it, but there were plenty of extraneous projects that didn’t really help sell me as a UX designer.

I focused the portfolio and relaunched ZachKuzmic.com by the time I was applying to Springbox. I wanted to show them that I understood my audience (a design agency looking to hire a UX designer) and was providing the content they were most interested in seeing (my work!) up front with opportunities to dive deeper if they were interested (twitter, dribbble, LinkedIn, blog, etc).

Are there certain things you’re waiting to fix/improve on in your portfolio?

Yes. I cut a lot of corners from a development standpoint, and I would love to fix those things soon. For example, the footer on the blog doesn’t match the rest of the site right now (the blog is in Ghost and I just never got around to fixing the footer within it).

From a content standpoint, I want to add some new work soon (and then remove some of the older stuff to keep the number of projects to only four or five). I’d also love to blog more. Everyone says that, though.

What are your top recommendations for UX Beginners (those just breaking into the field) when building their first portfolio?

A few things:

HAVE ONE – This is far and away the most important. No matter what it takes, get it on the internet, as soon as you freaking can. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Mine isn’t. Don’t feel like you need to make something from scratch either. Using Squarespace or a WordPress template is totally acceptable. Whatever you have to do, get it online. Now. You can fix/iterate/improve on it as you go.

Quality over quantity – It’s way better to have two awesome projects with case studies than to have twenty mediocre projects with screenshots.

Show your personality – Give them a glimpse of who you are on a personal level. You have to work with these people after all, and it’s to both your and their advantage if you are a good fit from a personality standpoint.

Bonus question from UXB Reader: 

How different should it be when you interview and talk about this project v.s. simply having audience browse your portfolio. I’m afraid if I put everything in my portfolio, when it comes to interview, I have nothing new to tell them

In my interviews, I’ve talked plenty about projects that they had already seen and read about on my portfolio. You can’t include everything in a case study, and they will always have questions for you about your process or other details surrounding the project.

If you still think this may be a problem, you could always save some of your work for the interview itself and not include it in your online portfolio.

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That concludes our case study and interview with Zach.

Make sure to follow Zach’s Twitter @zkuzmic and subscribe below to be notified of the next UX portfolio case study