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Guide to getting your first UX Design job

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On my spare time, I work with aspiring designers to prepare for job applications and design interviews. After hearing about the interview experience from dozens of UX designers, I got a good sense of the common user experience design interview process and what to expect at each step. Below is a summary of my learnings.

The phone interviews

Most interviews begin with the phone screening. You will either speak to either a recruiter, designer, hiring manager or all of the above.

Speaking with a recruiter

Most recruiters ask about your design background and try to get a sense of what you are looking for in your next role. You may be asked to talk about your career history, elaborate on the specific role you had in the past, or clarify your level of skill proficiency.

To prepare for the initial call:

Speaking with designer(s)/hiring manager

This is the call that you will need to dig into your design background as well as the design process.

What to expect:

Design challenge/exercise/take-home assignment

Some company may choose to give you a design problem to solve as a requirement to advance to the next stage. Without getting into whether this is a good practice or if you should take it on, I want to briefly touch on two general tips to excel at this stage.

Aim higher than the minimum

Pay attention to the scope of the project, the timeline, and the deliverables. The direction may asked you to only do a few ours of work but you probably need to put extra time in if you want to do the job well. Make sure you submit your final designs

Document your process

Your deliverable should explain your design process and decision without you narrating over it. It means that you need a well documented deliverable to communicate your project effectively. In addition, there is a pretty good chance that if you advance to the next stage you will be asked to discuss or present your work. Therefore, you should be capturing relevant artifacts as you work on the design.

The on-site visit

This is the most stressful part of the interview process for most people but it is also the last stage so you can take a big breather afterward. There are a few possible components to the on-site interview including the design presentation, the 1-on-1 interviews, and the whiteboard challenge.

UX design presentation

You will typically be given 30–60 minutes to present a few of your projects. It’s up to you what to present and in what format but most people opt in for a presentation deck and talk about at 3 projects to show some variety.

Tips to prepare for the presentation:

1-on-1 interviews

For this portion of the interview, you will be talking to individual team members and each person may have a different background (product manager, designer, researcher, engineer, etc..)

Whiteboard challenge

Most designers are very nervous about this part of the interview, which can takes place during one of the 1-on-1s. The idea of the whiteboard challenge is to put the designer under pressure and access his or her problem-solving skill. To prepare for this, there are plenty of resources online from general tips and tricks to sample design problems. Many people I spoke to also read and found the Solving Product Design Exercises book to be very helpful.

Post-Interview

It’s a big relief to get through all the previous interview steps. Just to make a note that your work is not done after you walked out of your on-site interview. It is a good practice to send a thank you letter to the team (ask the recruiter to relay the message) to end on a good note. In addition, you may also consider reaching out to the people you met to ask for feedback as a way to identify what to improve on for future interviews.

Conclusion

I hope this post helped you gain a better understand of the UX design interview process and therefore can be better prepared for your upcoming interviews.

If you have more questions about the UX design interview process, feel free to post a comment here or reach out to me on Twitter.