The UX Designer’s Guide to Informational Interviews

ux-informational-interviews

Where do I start in UX?
How do I know if UX Design is the right job for me?
What do people do to get a job at Google or Facebook?

My answer to all these questions is to talk to somebody.

Specifically, hold informational interviews.

Not only do informational interviews help you get your bearings when first starting out in UX, but they’re also a great way to practice critical user research + interview skills. Double win!

What’s an informational interview and why should I care?

Informational interviews are informal conversations with someone doing something that interests you, whether it’s a technical skill or a job they have.

Informational interviews are effective because they…

  • Help you get advice from someone who’s doing what you want to do
  • Are casual and low pressure
  • Can lead to referrals and job opportunities, if done right (more on this below)

It’s also a great way to find a UX mentor.

But, one big caveat: manage your expectations when you ask someone for an informational interview.

While it’s okay to ask about any opportunities that might be a good fit for you, never assume that your guest owes you anything.

If you’ve ever had a friend who invited to “hang out,” but ended selling you multi-level marketing products…you understand. Don’t be that friend.

What transpires during your meeting should not be misinterpreted as a job offer or anything more than a conversation. that Informational interviews are focused on being just that – informational.

The best approach I see UX interns and students take is to be curious, show their best side possible (occasionally hinting at your work and skills), and then be open to any potential opportunities that come from these meetings.

Who should I interview? Where do I find them?

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably wanting to find designers doing what you want to do, whether that’s an interaction designer, visual designer, etc.

Something that’s not mentioned often is the seniority of the person you should interview. At first blush, it may seem like a good idea to connect with someone who’s “high up” on the design food chain, like a UX manager or VP of Experience Design.

That’s fine, but consider this: the most useful people to talk to tend to be those who recently accomplished what you want to do.

Looking to transition into UX design? Talk to someone who just got their first UX job.
Want to improve your skills? Talk to someone who just got promoted to senior UX designer.

These people have a closer pulse on what’s happening in the job market. A Senior VP of Design who hasn’t interviewed for years can still give great information, but they’ll probably be speaking to a point of view much different from where you are.

Where to find UX designers for informational interviews

Meetups, online forums, tech events & hackathons are all great places to meet UX designers.

LinkedIn makes this particularly easy.

> Go to the search box and select “People”

Then, select “All Filters”

Finally, input your specific filters, like title (“UX Designer”) and Location (“Los Angeles”)

There you have it – a curated list of designers (including local ones) to reach out for informational interviews.

How do I reach out to someone for an informational interview?

Nothing annoys busy professionals more than those who waste their time.

When reaching out, provide the following: a bit about who you are, why you’re reaching out, and suggested plans for meeting up.

Here’s a template:

ux-informational-interview-template

Notice how in this example, the person emailing is focused on providing value and not asking for any favors besides meeting up.

I’ve been asked by well-meaning designers to review their entire portfolios or resumes without having met them, and it does not come off well.

Hey, I don’t know you. But can you do all this work for me?

In lieu of meeting up, defer to phone call. If even that’s hard to arrange, follow up with a question over email.

Alas, sometimes connecting to busy professionals does not work out, and that’s OK. On to the next one.

What should I ask?

The best questions come from research.

Let’s say you found a UX Designer on LinkedIn, then checked out their portfolio. You noticed some interesting projects, as well as a swath of helpful UX articles. All of this is great conversational material.

  • I noticed we attended the same school. Was that a big part of you getting into UX Design?
  • I stumbled upon your blog and enjoyed the article on AI and UX. What are you most excited about in this growing field?
  • Your case study on dating apps inspired me, since I’m working on one myself. What was the biggest challenge in putting your portfolio together?

Be curious about the work they’ve done, and the conversation will follow.

Finally, consider some of these questions towards the end of your conversation:

  • Are you looking for an extra hand on any projects you’re working on?
  • Is there anyone else you think I should connect with?
  • Can I follow up with you in the future over phone or email?

_ _ _ _

You can rely on informational interviews for anytime you’re making a career transition or seeking practical advice.

If you’re just starting out in UX, aim for 2-3 informational interviews to quickly grow your network and get the perspectives of designers working at different levels in the field.

Liked the informational interview template? It’s just one of many exclusive bonuses, templates and resources for students of UX School.

 

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