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What to ask in a UX / product design interview?

This article was originally published on Medium on July 19,2020


 

I have seen and read many great articles which deal with how to prepare for a design interview, what exactly to expect during the process, and how to tackle the many difficult questions thrown your way by interviewers. But knowing what to expect during an interview is only half of the equation. Once you start your design career and experience different work environments well enough to know where you really fit in, interviewing your interviewer becomes critically important in order to determine if the position you are interested in will also be the right fit for you. Here’s what I have learned to ask from my experience giving multiple design interviews and learning from hiring managers.


 

A good interview is more than just artful answers to any questions a prospective employer throws your way. Before you sit down for any interview, it is important to understand that an interview goes both ways. You as an interviewee need to make sure that the role you are interviewing for is right for you, and show a genuine interest in the company, and in taking their products to the next level.

Remember #1 An interview is meant to be a two-way discussion session, and not a one-way question and answer process.

Hiring managers are always looking for opportunities to identify forward-thinking designers, and one of the best ways to do so, is by carefully listening to the questions YOU ask them during the interview. On the other hand this helps you to get a better understanding of the culture, team, and work ethics of the company.


Below is a list of sure-fire questions, classified into categories, that I have personally used to keep my interviewers engaged, and to get a complete picture of the potential new job. The first two categories are some generic questions to start with and warm up to your interviewers, often useful in the early rounds of your interview process. I won’t be going into much detail here. The last two categories are the heavy hitters, questions meant for having a good insightful conversation and dialogue with various stakeholders in the interview process. I’ll try my best to explain them in depth. Let’s dig in.



(1) Build a relationship first.



I like to get to know my interviewers and their career journeys that brought them to this company, and what keeps them inspired enough to stay here. Even though you might have researched their backgrounds on LinkedIn, etc. it’s great to know their interests and motivations for their current positions personally. This also helps in indirectly prompting them to talk about the same things you might enjoy about the work or the company if you decide to join their team.

Remember #2 People, in general, love to talk about themselves. Plus, if you have similarities, it instantly creates a bond between them and you!

These are not only good ice-breakers, but interviewers, in general, are more than happy to answer these questions because it also allows them the opportunity to incite some excitement around working on their team. Try questions like-

  • What do you enjoy most about working here?

  • I saw that you have worked at (x,y,z) before, what made you join this company?

  • What is your favorite part of working as a (xyz) in this company?



(2) Clarify your uncertainties. Remove their doubts. And keep uncovering Red Flags.


Photo by Headway on Unsplash


Now before you get into the more complex discussions, let’s get a few initial things out of the way first. Specifically speaking, the details of the role that might not be covered in the job description you read online while applying.


It’s important to understand all your duties and responsibilities, gauge what skills you might need to learn while on the job in order to succeed, and the opportunities you’d have to learn these skills throughout the design cycle. At the same time, you also need to uncover red flags, if any, tactfully. Asking questions about turnover, daily job responsibilities, and growth opportunities can prevent unpleasant surprises down the road.

  • How did this position come into being? Are there any immediate projects that needs to be addressed?

  • Can you describe a typical day for someone in this role?

  • What skills and experiences are you looking for in an ideal candidate for this position?

  • Is there anything that concerns you about my background being a fit for this role?

  • Could you tell me more about the team I’d be joining? And how do you see me working with them on a daily basis?

  • What are my career paths and growth opportunities in this department / company?

  • What does success look like for this team and this company in whole? What metrics would you use to measure success in this role?

  • How does the company acknowledge individual and team accomplishments?

  • What is the management style like? And how does the team / department deal with setbacks?

  • How many projects do designers usually work on simultaneously?

  • What traits make someone successful in this company / on this team?



(3) Understanding the design maturity of an organization



By now, you might have reached the 3rd or 4th round of interviews with the company, and may as well be on your way to the onsite level. This is where you usually meet the whole extended team of designers, engineers, product managers, prototypers, or even exec-level employees who would be working with you on a daily basis. And depending on multiple factors like the type and size of a company, the product, the size of the team, the respective backgrounds of your team members, design can have little to substantial value in the company’s functioning. Hence understanding the design maturity of the company is extremely useful, and you need to make sure it aligns with what you are looking for in your next job.


The following line of questions provide invaluable insights into the organizational maturity of your prospective employer in the product space. It also paints a more holistic and honest picture of the design process of a company, as well as the value a talented designer might bring to an organization. Below I’ll share questions I’ve asked, along with their intent, and things to specifically look out for (if any). Let’s dive in.




Question #1 What are the 3 biggest challenges the company / department / team is facing today? How do you plan to address them?


Yes — Before a company goes hunting for a new designer, there must be a problem or challenge they need to solve. Otherwise why would they need to hire another expert? Maybe they need more hands on deck because of too many backlogs, maybe they need someone with new ideas for making better design decisions, maybe they need to do some task shifting to enhance their performance, or maybe they are building a new team and looking for fresh talent. Whatever the case -

Remember #3 The team is always trying to solve a problem. You should know what the problem is before you start working there.

Framing the question in this manner gives valuable insight into how far ahead the team is thinking, and how proficient their plans are. Plus it gives you the chance to quickly bring value and insights to the team. Once you ask this question, be ready to talk about how your expertise and experiences can solve some of these problems.




Question #2 How does product / UX design contribute strategically to the success of this company?


This is a great question, especially when focused towards people from non-design backgrounds in the company. You need to understand specifically how design is critical to the mission. Even though the value placed on design might be quite obvious from the interviewer’s questions, listen carefully to their answers. You will understand how your discipline is viewed across the company, and the value of design to the business’s greater mission. For example — How does design improve their sales matrix? How does design help to differentiate them from their competitors? How does design help in connecting with their larger target audience, etc.


Good signs:

  • If designers, PMs, engineers, and founders have similar ideas about the role that design plays in an organization. Alignment across different groups is important for the design team to be successful.

  • If the interviewers across disciplines recognize design’s value in connecting with the target audience.

  • If they identify UX as an important competitive differentiator.

  • If they can explain how design improves tangible metrics like closed sales, UI efficiency, signup conversation, onboarding, etc.

Red Flags:

  • If leaders and founders cannot sufficiently articulate the benefits of design or how it adds to the bottom line. If this is the case, it’s likely that you won’t be treated with much respect in the team and might not be paid well too.

  • If other employees — especially higher ups — don’t understand how design helps them achieve their goals, then most likely you’ll be seen as a glorified pixel-pusher. This is a very common problem that designers face.



Question #3 What are the current strengths and weaknesses of the design team? And where do you think I can make the most impact?


It is easy to proudly list down your strengths and achievements, and explain it to anyone. And this is also true for hiring managers or any interviewers for that matter. In order to impress a candidate, most managers will disclose the strengths of their team during the interview session, even though they understand that exposing their weaknesses would help them find the right candidate for the role. This is normal human behavior.

Remember #4 The company needs you as much as you need the company. It’s always a mutually beneficial relationship.

Asking this question allows them a better opportunity to open up to you, and you will understand exactly why you are being brought in, and what they would require from you in the future. Also pay close attention to the replies to this question especially from the non-designer folks. Look out for ‘Red Flags’ in their answers. A designer’s one of many superpowers is to understand a problem from multiple perspective!


Good Signs:

  • The interviewer’s answer is introspective, honest, thoughtful, and self-aware. We are all humans, prone to make errors time to time, but the biggest threat to innovation is if the identifiable problems are constantly ignored, denied, or constantly swept under the rug. So it’s a great sign if the whole team is constantly looking for ways to improve.

  • Non-designers have positive things to say about the design team. Asking PMs, engineers, developers, etc. gives you a good idea of the perception and reputation of the design team throughout the organization.

  • There are a few identifiable gaps in skills or abilities that the team is looking to fill in. For example — you come to know the team is a bit weak in prototyping, or needs better communication to happen with engineering, you have identified a solid place to position yourself as a new hire and fill in those gaps.

Red Flags:

  • If the design team’s answer is fluffy or egoistic. Good designers and managers are always humble and have a clear vision on how to improve the team. But if their answers sound something like — “our biggest weakness is we are too empathetic …” or just egoistic like — “what weaknesses?” then we have a problem.

  • Abundant feedback from non-designers is also not a good sign. If that’s the case, it usually points out to a lack of communication and negative tension between the teams.




Question #4 What part of the design process does the team spend the most time on? Why?


Before joining any team, you need to understand where exactly they focus their efforts. Is most of their time spent in defining the problem, or product design? Or is visual design a key emphasis? How much time is spent on research and usability testing? This particular question not only demands to know where you will be most needed when hired, but also indirectly reveals what the product manager believes is the most important area to focus on.


Good Signs:

  • A healthy team is always a multi-disciplinary team having a diverse set of skills and backgrounds. If you find a design team with individuals experienced in product design, visual design, user research, and prototyping, that in itself is a good sign. Make sure all these topics are covered, or hiring you will fill in the gaps.

  • There are others in your role. Having colleagues with similar skill sets and background you can collaborate with and reach out is a good sign. It also means the team / company values your role, considers it mission critical, and invests in it.

Red Flags:

  • The role ratio is off. For example — If the ratio between researchers & designers, or that between designers & software engineers is unusually skewed, it might reveal the company’s priorities or it might even indicate some underlying problem like they having difficulty in attracting and retaining talent in certain positions.

  • Also look out for the breakdown within the design team. For example — If there are twice as many product designers as UI designers, and only one researcher, then you may presume that the level of importance here is product design > visual design > research

  • Visual design trumps all. Something is very wrong if looking good and visually attractive is more important than solving design and/or business problems.




Question #5 Who has the final say on the design? And how do they decide what gets shipped, and when?


When evaluating a company, or starting a new project with a new team, it’s smart to get the lay of the land first. Who are the key stakeholders? Who are you going to collaborate with on a daily basis? How do these groups of individuals communicate with each other? Who initiates the change if needed, and who has the final say in a project? Is every decision a collaborative process? If not, why?


Good Signs:

  • If you find out that there is always a communicative and collaborative relationship between product management and UX. It is important that PMs — who usually own the product features and manage the engineers who build them, are not the ones who solely determine what to ship, but Design and Engineering also have equal part in those conversations.

  • Another thing to look out for is the involvement of leadership in various decisions and feedbacks. Always make sure that leadership is involved early on in conversations, and trust the product team to make the best decisions.

Remember #5 Learning about the decision making and approval process will give you the ability to communicate with stakeholders who can support, build, and launch your designs.

Red Flags:

  • If design, PM, and executives are usually not aligned. If this is the case, then design’s ability to create the best user experience might often get overruled by different priorities from PMs or executives, to such an extent that you might find yourselves designing the same deliverables over and over again while those groups constantly reevaluate and negotiate their priorities.

  • If user research and analytical tools are not considered critical to the design making process. In this case if research findings and metrics are nice to have, but not necessary when evaluating designs, you might end up shipping the personal preferences of whoever is the most senior.

Remember #6 Design should always be informed by data.



Question #6 How does information generally flow between the teams? What are some of the communication tools being used for daily collaboration?


Teams use different ways and tools to collaborate with each other on a daily basis, and it’s good to know how they do it. This also gives you an idea of how coordinated and organized they are on a daily basis, and how often design and tech reviews happen. Do they have weekly all-hands-on-decks? How often does design and engineering check-ins happen? Is design involved in the conversations of defining product strategy and roadmaps? Are PMs and executives involved in weekly or bi-weekly meetings with design? It’s good to understand how and when information flows, and if anyone or any team is unnecessary hoarding information. This is especially important if you are interviewing at smaller companies or start-ups where teams are still being defined and people might still move around after you join.


Teams also use different communication and collaboration tools for daily talk, and quick share of data and assets. These tools also give an individual additional support and resources to reach out to, for help, at any time if needed. Slack is extremely popular among teams for daily communication and quick shares, as well as forming different channels and communities. Other might use tools like Miro, Figma, Google Meet, Hangouts, etc for various reasons. Larger companies like Facebook, Microsoft, etc. might have their own well established business tools and platform for these purposes. It’s good to get to know these small details beforehand, and familiarize yourself with these tools if you aren’t already.


Good Signs:

  • There are regular all-hands, team meetings, check-ins, planning sessions, design shares, and tech reviews planned and assigned into the schedule. Organizational transparency is visible and there are multiple opportunities for team alignment, feedback, and getting personal questions answered.

  • There are abundant and easily accessible resources at your disposal. You have great peers, team mates, buddies, mentors, etc. who are open to help and approachable whenever needed.

  • There are tons of extra-curricular activities, volunteer opportunities, and events etc. to participate in, and many diverse channels and groups to join online within the company social platforms for positive support, healthy discussions, quick info shares, and constructive criticism when needed.

Red Flags:

  • There are no daily, weekly, or bi-weekly check-ins, reviews, etc. planned into the schedule. This surely results in people working in their own silos and unnecessary guarding of information over time.

  • There are too many infrequent hand-offs, and multiple last minute change requested from the design team. This points to a bigger problem of organizational transparency and trust between the teams, PMs, and executives.




(4) Dig deeper and interview like a Researcher.



By now you must have a good idea of what exactly you are getting into, if you decide to join this company. The above questions are good enough to get an insight into the strength and shortcomings of your team, the work culture of the company, and the gravity of design’s value and reach within the organization. But they are also expected to a certain degree based on the hiring level of the employee, and any good design manager or PM would be well prepared to address them in a very efficient way. Once you have identified a good company with a great work culture, I believe that an excellent designer should ask a deeper line of questions targeted to touch on topics which can help you better solidify the perspective on what you are looking for from your next role.

Remember #6 One of many superpowers of a designer is to ask the tough questions at the right place and right time.

The following set of questions stem from my personal experience to consider leading up to or even during the interview process. They are a great way to get into the nuances of the everyday work life of your team, and sheds light on the various decisions that they make collectively for increased productivity. But remember, there is no right or wrong way to answer these questions, in fact the answers will often vary depending on what kind of company you are interviewing at, or with which team. As with anything, your mileage will vary, but I’ll also include the goal when asking these questions, what you’re trying to learn, along with some responses I have received when asking them to prospective employers. Let’s dig in.



Question #7 What is the most challenging part of leading the design team?


This question is especially for your future manager. This is a very self-reflective question for them, and usually prompts them to be very honest about the strengths and shortcomings of the current team. How they approach and answer this question is more important than the specificity of the answer here. You might also get a good insight into the nuances and daily tensions of their responsibilities and get to be a part of a very meaningful discussion.


Good Signs

  • The answer is honest, humble, and very introspective about what challenges them personally. This question is more about self-reflection and personal exploration than asking about the team’s weakness.

  • They have lots of great ideas for improvement. An experienced manager would have opinions on what works, doesn’t work, or could be doing better. He would be engaged in spending his time reading and thinking about management, and it will be visible in their answer.

Red Flags:

  • They tend to list out external factors as main challenges, like blaming other teams — “engineering doesn’t execute in time” or “marketing is always asking for something”.

  • If the hardest part of leading a team is hiring new talent, then the manager might be too focused on getting new employees versus keeping the ones they already have.



Question#8 What is your management philosophy?


Getting to know your future manager is super important, because this is the most important relationship you’ll have at a company. And that automatically makes this one of the most important questions in your arsenal. Your goal here is to evaluate who exactly are you reporting to on a daily basis.


What kind of a manager he or she is? What do they consider to be the most important part of your job? How do they manage the team and their daily tasks? How do they encourage the growth of their employees? How do they strike a balance between providing support and autonomy? What steps do they take to ensure that their direct reports are successful inside and outside the company? Don’t forget, your manager will have a huge role to play in your success and growth as an employee in the company, and will eventually determine your job satisfaction as well.

Remember #7 Your relationship with your direct manager will make or break your experience at the company more than what product you work on or how well you like your coworkers.

Managing others is a huge responsibility, especially when it comes to managing and leading young designers who are just starting their careers. You would want your manager to lead by example, and always be supportive, and have your back in times of difficulty.


Good signs:

  • Mentorship is a key focus. If your manager considers mentoring new hires and young designers as a top priority, they will automatically invest in getting to know who you are, your ambitions and interests in life, where you want to be as you establish yourself in your career, and help you grow accordingly.

  • They encourage outside learning. It’s not possible to learn everything about the entire industry and the company from staying inside the company. Your manager recognizes this, and in-fact will encourage you to take up additional training, join meetups, attend conferences and symposiums, and taking up classes which are good for you and the company.

Red Flags:

  • The person you directly report to is not involved in your hiring process. This can be a really bad sign, because not interviewing you themselves at some point in the hiring process means that they are not fully engaged with staffing their team.

  • Internal promotions don’t happen frequently. If the company always relies on external hires to fill in every position instead of promoting from within, it might indicate that the management is not actively training employees to succeed.



Question #9 Should you be moving fast and breaking things or moving slow and fixing them? Why?


This question is a gold mine for open and honest conversations, and often reveals a ton from a top-down perspective of the entire product development process, for example — how the teams interact, when and where handoffs happen, and a whole lot more like — How comfortable is the team with the idea of shipping a rough Minimum Viable Product (MVP), to gain insights quickly? How risk-averse is the company or even the design team? How is the UX debt identified and managed? Are tech debts frequently refactored? This question surely provides additional clarity into what you are stepping into.


It’s also a very thought provoking question for lean / agile organizations which affords an honest reflection on the current state of business. And again, there are no right or wrong answers here. This question generally tends to be contingent on individual teams or parts of the company. The most common response I have received has been, “That’s a really great question” and the ever popular, “It depends.” But the conversation that follows has always been fantastic. The design team usually has an opinion on whether they are moving too fast or too slow, and if they should behave a bit differently.


When a team / company is moving fast —

Moving fast can be very advantageous for the company as long as it’s coupled with a willingness from the design team to show work that may not be perfect but is functional to the point of being useful. This is where moving fast is great, learning can be realized quickly and new product directions can be identified early. Many large companies like Facebook, Samsung, etc. follow this philosophy at times in an effort to fail quickly while continuing to grow from what was learned. In this case you can dig deeper to learn about how data and research is collected and distributed to other teams or the larger organization. And if this is not happening, it could indicate a larger opportunity for change or an unmitigated disaster. Try asking follow up questions here like —

  • Are you looking to gain mindshare in a new market?

  • How is growth being managed?

  • What plans are in place for documenting and circulating learning and insights that has been gathered?


Moving fast can also be exhilarating, and it may not always result in productivity. Keep in mind that while fostering a culture of continual growth is extremely valuable, it is also true that not all problems can be solved by creating completely new products. Many organizations are held hostage by successful products they designed which continuously keeps adding features, so much so that innovation is completely stifled. Continuing to cover up technical debt through a constant barrage of new features can be catastrophic in the longer run. Hence it’s very important to understand both sides of this question, and the value it brings to a product’s design.


Note — Just be aware this can start to get into uncomfortable territory for your interviewer and possibly backfire a bit, because it’s easy for someone to become defensive of their organizational behavior. But the way your interviewer answers this can also speak volumes about the team or the leader in how they manage their responses!


When a team / company opts to move slow —

Any good software engineer will tell you that the code base of sites and applications are like rose bushes: If you fail to periodically prune them, it gets unruly — and eventually — downright ugly! Likewise, the continuous addition of new features to any code base without sufficiently refactoring and paying down the tech debt can create a very fragile product.


Now most designers would likely not give a second thought about the state of the tech stack, because — “that’s an engineering problem,” right? Well, no! In fact, getting an upfront look at the state of the product from a technical perspective is invaluable, even to design. Because many a times, the biggest gains in experience are not necessarily from the design system or improved onboarding of a product. But the company may actually need to update and modernize the tech stack to focus on improved performance and/or application up-time. And this often means that the team may have to make changes to their delivery mechanism, and put into place some form of ‘Continuous Integration Continuous Delivery (CICD) system, something that would allow designers to more easily explore, prototype, and implement user testing in order to better understand where the most impactful changes can be made and prioritize them.


Hence understanding where the company is in upgrading their systems, what frameworks are being used, and how willing they are to invest in the infrastructure of a legacy product provides a glimpse into the company or team priorities. Some very insightful follow up questions to ask here are as follows —

  • Which parts of your product are the least effective? Do the company usually retire them, or reinvest in them? Why?

  • What’s the general process used to identify the efficiencies of different parts of the product?

  • How might these upgrades impact day-to-day work?

  • How will these changes impact customers? And how is this being communicated to them?

Note — As a designer, you don’t need to understand the details of your team’s API end points, but you should understand something about the health of the product you will be working on. This line of questioning was usually handled offline, as design managers I’ve spoken to usually didn’t have all the answers handy during the interview. They were typically answered by an IT or Dev manager, who was surprised but more than happy to see this level of engagement from a designer.



Question #10 What KPIs / OKRs are used to measure the success of a product or MVP? Who determines these metrics? How often are they updated?


This is another excellent question which shows your maturity as a designer, someone who knows how to measure and monitor the success of their designs, collect feedbacks and data, and do timely improvements when needed. KPI, or Key Performance Indicator, is one of those 3 letter acronym that seem to be used by every organization on the planet. But many companies are also actively starting to use OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), since OKR is a system which forces you to separate what really matters from the rest, and define clear and better priorities. So before you ask this question, make sure you know what you are asking, and how to set KPIs/OKRs for your deliverables. In layman’s terms, both approaches are how organizations usually track results.

Remember #8 If everything is a priority, nothing is.

Setting these metrics are usually the responsibility of a product manager or the person who owns the product or a part of the product. But it is usually supposed to be a collaborative discussion among management, and design and engineering should always be included in these conversations. And this is necessary for creating sustainable changes in performance. But these metrics might mean different things to different people. But let me give an interesting analogy to explain this better. (hat tip to the folks at Booking.com and Perdoo for the original version of this analogy)


The Road trip analogy for understanding Strategy, OKRs, and monitoring KPIs —

Imagine you stay in Los Angeles and you want to go on a California road trip. The first thing you need to do is decide where you want to go. After some extensive search, you decide to go to San Francisco via the Pacific Coastal highway.

After you have decided where you want to go, you get into your car and input the destination on your GPS, which will help you track if you are on the right path and course correct if necessary.

Finally, as you drive to your chosen destination, your car also has a dashboard that tracks lots of other metrics and will tell you, for example, the amount of fuel that you have. As long as the dials on the dashboard are within certain thresholds, you don’t care about them — what matters, after all, is getting where you want to be. But if the dashboard shows that you are running out of fuel, then you have to adjust your course and find a gas station.

This analogy is a great way to understand the difference between strategy, OKRs, and monitoring KPIs:

  • Strategy is the process of deciding your destination. It helps you decide where you want to go.

  • OKR is your GPS, the navigational system of your car: it will help you track if you are on the right path, and course-correct if needed. And just like a GPS, OKR does not help you decide the destination, and it will not help you formulate your strategy.

  • Monitoring KPIs are the dials on the dashboard of your car — they tell you if everything else is OK.

An organization or a team might have to update their OKRs from time-to-time to adjust their productivity and ways to achieve the targeted goals. KPIs are mostly revalued and updated every quarter depending on the progress made.


Good Signs:

  • There are team meetings scheduled monthly or quarterly to revisit these metrics and update them on a timely basis. Your manager is pro-active in keeping these metrics updated.

  • This is always a collaborative discussion between the teams and the management. Executives are also invited when needed.



Question #11 How do you see the design team growing?


Now that we have a decent idea of the playing field and the environment you are getting into, it’s also good to know how this environment might change in the future. What plans does the manager have in regards to the future of the team? Does the management want to keep the team small? Or will they be hiring anyone else into the team down the line? What’s the biggest challenge to growing the team? Is it possible for your position to grow in responsibility?


Good Signs:

  • The management is open to grow the team if needed. Unless your company is keeping on hiring and moving people, it’s a good thing to know that they are willing to add new designers when an increased workload requires it.

  • The management has plans to strategically fill in the gaps in skills and expertise if and when needed.

Red Flags:

  • Inability to hire more talent when needed. There comes a point when increased workload can no longer be distributed to the current team without causing massive backlogs or negative productivity. Buckling down for a specific launch, event, project, or deadline, but being constantly overloaded is not a healthy sign, especially if there is no end in sight. Be on the lookout for small teams who seem to be trapped under a ton of work, or just too eager to hire new talent to relieve the pressure.



Question #12 Do you have a customer I might contact to get their thoughts on your product or service?


This might be the boldest question on this list, and honestly, I have only used this twice in my career till now. Once while I was evaluating a freelance gig, and second while interviewing at an early stage startup company. It provides so much amazing value as an incoming designer, especially if you are looking to step into a chaotic early stage start-up.

I believe as a designer and as a practitioner of a human-centered approach, you should be comfortable talking to users and your employer should be comfortable ensuring you have access to them. Granted, you may not yet be a member of the team, and they’re not yet your customer. But putting a willing foot forward in this area speaks confidently that you would love to get first-hand access to customer feedback. This is also a strong play in expectation setting for a human-centered design practice.

With free user research on the table and an opportunity for the marketing team to gain additional positive feedback, asking this worked out in my favor, but that won’t always be the case. Be gracious and understand if someone’s not comfortable providing this access to you.




(5) Wrap up & what to avoid asking.



There are millions of questions that you can ask your potential employer to get more clarity on the opportunity, and have an open conversation. But as a rule of thumb, avoid asking these things -

  • Never ask any question that you should already know the answer to. You must do your homework and research about the company, their products, their customers, and your interviewer before any interview.

  • Salary / benefits is another taboo. Never ask about the salary, benefits, holidays, pay, etc early on. As a rule of thumb, never bring these up before your employer does so.

  • Finally, don’t bombard your interviewer with a laundry list of questions. Learn to read the room, and ask only if they seem to be engaged in the conversation and encourages you to do so. It’s best to pick a handful of good questions that are important to you, and leave on a positive note.


But at the end of the interview, don’t forget to ask about next steps. First, reiterate that you’re interested in the position (assuming you still are, of course!), and ask the following non-presumptuous questions about what’s next in the hiring process:

  • What are the next steps in the interview process?

  • Is there anything else I can provide you with that would be helpful?



 


Final Thoughts.


These are just a few types of discussions a designer could have during a UX or a product design interview. Of course there might be tons of other things to discuss like — excellent visual design and elegant UI, research methodologies and analytic data, motion design, user flows, journey maps, design systems, and culture fit. These are all part of the design playbook of any strong design candidate!


You may not be able to always ask all these questions in a face-to-face discussion, but they make a great follow-up email after an interview if needed. Or perhaps they’re questions you keep in the back of your mind as they’ll inevitably come up in your first few months on the job. They could prove very useful to guide a longer-term, strategic vision that empowers you to improve the business by crafting glorious engagement with both your teams and your customers.


All the best! And punch today in the face.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and whether you have other tough questions you’ve asked during interviews. I would love to know how they’ve been received and continue adding to my own list!


 

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