How to Ace a Design Interview
The rise of the digital era has led to a boom in demand for designers and developers. These career paths offer a lot of job opportunity in an ever-expanding industry. With these roles in high demand, there is an abundance of competition and expectations designers need to face to stand out from the crowd. So what are employers looking for from new design hires? In this blog, we are going to discuss some tips on how to ace a design interview and land your dream design gig.
1. Be Hungry
As a designer, it is important to be up to date with the latest design trends and tools to keep your design skills fresh. Employers want to know that you are passionate about what you do and that you want to excel at it. Showing a desire to learn and adapt your skills to different workflows, company cultures, and design trends assures employers that you will be a great asset in the short and long term. It also shows your drive and motivation towards your skills and the company cause as a whole. Seeking knowledge and wanting to do more than the bare minimum is an important trait that design agencies look for, as working with a variety of different clients requires the ability and desire to go above and beyond for each of them consistently. Working in a fast paced environment is for the hungry designer eager to get things done.
2. Show Relevant Experience
Although experience may not be the end all be all, it is important as a designer to make sure that the job you are applying for and the work you have completed aligns in some way. Employers want to see that you have examples of work that reflect your competency as a designer. It does not necessarily mean that you have to a long list of experience, unless it is required for the position you are applying for, but making sure the few you do include convey a lot of meaning would help you stand out.
Experience that shows your capacity for taking on projects independently and spinning up projects from scratch are great standout items that show employers your ability to design in accordance to what you offer specifically, rather than as an extension to someone else’s efforts. Displaying non-profit work or work done with larger companies, are both great ways to show validation of your design skills from larger entities, but also show your capacity to shape an organization from the ground up through work done with non-profits or startups. Make sure that you show the programs and tools that you are proficient in and how they relate to the experiences and projects you present. Employers want to not only see your skill proficiency, but how they translate in the context of specific projects. They want to know your capacity for creating or working within design systems, building out UI/UX, iterative work, organization, and general extent of your proficiency in these tools. Context matters, and although mock-ups and images are nice to look at and do present your work well, they do not tell the whole story of your process as a designer. The journey from the idea to the end product tells more about how you take your design skills and methodology and apply them to real world and hypothetical examples, while the end product shows how that all translates to a pretty package.
Employers want you to make nice looking products, but what is more important is being able to apply your design expertise to a wide range of UX problems, as that is the foundation of a great user experience. It is easy to create a good looking UI, but developing a well thought-out UX is what ultimately is the selling point. This is where showing your work, and not just the solution, comes into play.
3. Show Proactivity
Another key tip in acing a design interview is to also show work you do on your own free time. This may be related to your chosen job, but could also be completely different. When it comes to design, having outside hobbies show your dedication to your craft but also ability to multitask and branch your creativity to other avenues. It also showcases any additional talents you might have that could be beneficial to a design team. By having outside hobbies to add to your expertise, you present yourself as a well-rounded, total package and as a designer in today’s competitive market anything you have that makes you stand out is key. With these extra skills, an employer would be able to better imagine how you’d fit into the company as a whole and may see you as a key asset to projects within the company that may not be client related.
These extra skills bolster your image and help an employer get a better understanding of how you think, work, what your needs are, and what kind of designer you are—even if these hobbies are not related to your design job. For example, showing that you play a sport in your free time may show employers your ability to work in a team as well as your capacity to think fast and adapt, as certain sports require a certain level of strategy and defense to maximize the team effort. Employers want designers that are self-starters and self-motivated to lead design efforts, as they make for better products and client success stories.
It is easy make things look pretty, but it is difficult to be a good thinker. Acing a design interview has less to do with what the final products look like, but more to do with how you take your process and back up your design decisions in your designs. Showing that there is a technique and methodical approach to your designs is key in designing good products. Of course, making a good looking UI is not negligible, but with lots of inspiration and templates out there it is easier to make something that looks good—but you can’t steal UX decisions. Show how your mind works and why the solutions you design work. Show that you are open to learning and adapting to new systems and methods. Hopefully these tips give you a better understanding of how to enhance your designs skills and portfolio. Good luck in your next interview, you got this!
Sarafina Kamara is a UX/UI designer at Lithios. She enjoys leveraging her creativity to create unique user experiences. In her free time she partakes in meditative plant whispering.