Top UX Interview Mistakes to Avoid

ux-interview-mistakes-to-avoid

A collection of UX interview tips to increase your chances of getting a UX job.

I’ve bombed my fair share of UX 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 recap of what I’ve observed, from both sides of the interview table. Here we go!

UX Interview Mistake #1: Forgetting to research the company

Why do you want to work for us?

That, perhaps, is one of the most common questions candidates will be asked in interviews.

Interviews are like dating. Each party wants to be wanted. The best partnerships come from a sense of mutual respect.

The best interviewers demonstrate knowledge and passion about the company, like…

  • Using the company’s product, or at least checking out their website & app. This gives you the dual benefit of being prepared for the interview question “How would you improve our product?”
  • Enthusiasm about the company’s industry. Perhaps you’ve long been interested in designing for government services, and this company is a recognized leader in that space.
  • The company’s reputation and culture, perhaps through inspiring blogs they’ve written or interviews the founders have held.

Doing your research will really pay off in the interview process, and it doesn’t have to take more than a half hour browsing the company’s “about us”, Angelist or even Wikipedia page.

UX Interview Mistake #2: Skipping over the 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. A startup might expect more speed and collaboration, whereas an enterprise might expect more specialization and presentation skills.

(Read How to evaluate UX jobs at Agencies vs Startups vs Big Companies for more context on this).

Come in for your interviews prepared for that company’s environment.

UX Interview Mistake #3: Taking too long to answer questions

Communication makes up a HUGE part of any job. Presenting your work. Emailing the engineers 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.

Here are my best 3 tips on answering questions, especially if you’re not sure about the questions themselves:

  • Try your best to answer questions directly, without dilly-dallying to get to the point. (Your future coworkers will appreciate this.)
  • If you ever don’t understand a question at first, try rephrasing 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?”
  • Afraid your answer was too short or incomplete? It’s totally okay to ask: “Did I fully answer your question?”

UX Interview Mistake #4: Being unprepared 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.

UX Interview Mistake #5: 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?

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. (Do offices still have water coolers?)

These are people you might end up spending most of your waking life with, and they’re looking for more than just an employee.

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Also, a note on staying alert. Interviewing is grueling. You took a sick day from work to drive an hour each way for this 4-hour 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 so much about myself.

UX Interview Mistake #6: Forgetting to ask questions

Interviews are a two-way street.

Remember, you are interviewing the company 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.

UX Interview Mistake #7: Pretending to know everything

Being transparent with your strengths and weaknesses will help much more versus trying to impress interviewers on everything they’re asking for.

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.
  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.

Have good UX interview advice to share? Comment below and help other designers out!

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