Getting into UX: The Interview

Interview season can be both an exciting and nerve-wracking time for many — especially for those of us who are new to the design and don’t know what to expect from an interview. As the first post in our blog series “Getting into UX,” the following guide by UW/UX serves as a baseline for your next user experience or product design interview as a student! We will cover:

  1. How to prepare for your interview
  2. General questions you can expect
  3. How to approach a portfolio presentation
  4. Questions to ask your interviewer
  5. Summary and tips

📌 How to prepare for your interview

Research the company and role

During your interview, you will be expected to know a bit about the company and role, and expressing this will show that you are engaged and excited! This can be done by reading up on the company’s website, LinkedIn, or even reaching out to previous interns to learn more about the company’s product, values, and goals.

Know your story

To start your interview off strong and leave a great first impression, it’s important to nail your introduction by prepping in advance and knowing your story well. To do this:

  • Let the interviewer know your name and program
  • Touch on your UX background or your motivation for pursuing an internship in design
  • Express your interest in the role and give 1–2 reasons why you think you would be a good fit

Remember to keep your story concise and short (1–2 minutes at most). Now when you hear, “tell me about yourself,” you’ll be prepared! Here’s an example:

“My name is Sally and I am currently studying Computer Science. I learned about UX design through an event at school and started doing some research in my free time to learn more about it. I started doing some side projects to apply my knowledge and joined a few clubs doing ABC as a designer where I helped do EFG. I applied to be a UX Intern at XYZ Company because I’m quite interested in the product XYZ Company is working on, and I’m always eager to learn, so I think this could be a meaningful experience for me.”

Have a project to share

It’s one thing to say you know something and it’s another to show it — and interviewers know this. In almost every UX interview, at the very least, you will be asked to share about a project. Therefore, it’s important to have a project you’ve worked on that will showcase your technical design skills (visual design, interaction design, etc.) and your understanding of the design process. If you do not have any professional experience, this project does not have to be perfect and can even be something you’ve spent a few days on! You just need something to show your interviewer that you are capable of taking on the tasks they may expect from an intern.

📚 Questions to expect

Every interview process will be different depending on the company and the role, but the following are some design-specific questions that you can expect from a UX interview:

  • What is UX design? How is it different than UI design?
  • What would you consider as “good design” vs. “bad design”?
  • What is your favourite app or website? Why?
  • What is a project you are proud of?
  • What are some design tools that you use?
  • What are you looking for in your next internship?

🖌️ Types of Interviews

After answering some general questions, design interviewers may require you to present a project or participate in a challenge to assess your skills. This could include a portfolio presentation, a whiteboard challenge, an app critique, or a design challenge. In this post, we will go into detail explaining how to approach a portfolio presentation, but more tips and advice for other types of design interview can be found here!

Portfolio Presentation

This is the most common design interview you will receive, and it’s a great opportunity for you to showcase your user experience design, visual design, product-thinking, and communication skills. You will be expected to talk through a project from beginning to end and explain your design decisions along the way. Therefore, it’s super important to have a slide deck prepared and practiced! (Remember: online portfolio ≠ portfolio deck.)

Here are some things to include in your deck:

  • An introduction (Who are you? What makes you personable?)
  • Problem definition (Who are the users? What was the goal?)
  • Your role for this project (What did you do?)
  • Tools, team size, and duration of the project
  • 2–3 design iterations/explorations (Why did you choose one over the other?)
  • Learnings and next steps (What would you have done better?)

Tips and advice:

  • Prepare by practicing with others and time yourself
  • Focus more on your designs and results
  • Craft your presentation like a story — make it engaging, succinct, and easy-to-follow!
  • Have your notes handy, especially with interviews being remote
  • Be prepared for questions
  • Practice, practice, practice!

Some useful resources:

🗒️ Questions to ask your interviewer

Asking questions at the end of the interview will not only benefit you by showing that you are an engaged and caring candidate, but it will also give you a better idea of whether or not the role is a good fit. You will be able to get a clearer understanding of the type of work you’ll be working on, processes or skills you’ll learn, and insight into how a professional in the field advanced to their position.

Some questions you can ask:

  • What types of projects will I be working on?
  • What are the types of skills I will learn at the end of my term?
  • How did you get started in design?
  • Why do you think XYZ Company is a great place for an intern to learn about design?
  • I saw that your company’s mission is XYZ; how does design play a role in that?

Whenever your interviewer is explaining their product and company throughout the interview, make sure to take note of details you want to learn more about, and don’t be afraid to ask them. This will make you sound interested and attentive, and you will also learn more about the company and get a sense if it’s also a right fit for you. Do not be afraid to express what you are seeking in an internship. If you are looking for mentorship, ask how much mentorship you will receive. If you are looking to improve your user research skills, ask how much user research you will get to work with.

💡 Summary and general tips

  • Do your research. Make sure you know the company and role and have a good understanding of what user experience design is.
  • When answering a question, be clear, concise, and confident. Communication is an important skill to have in the workplace, especially as a designer!
  • It’s okay to take some time to think about an answer. Saying something coherent and succinct after a short pause can be better than simply rambling. Interviewers will remember you for what you say, and not what you don’t say.
  • Have a project ready to present and know it well. You should always expect to be asked about a project, so make sure you have one prepared and practiced, even if you do not end up presenting it.
  • Do not be afraid to ask questions. Doing so will make you sound engaged and attentive, and you’ll also learn more about the company and get a sense if it’s a right fit for you.
  • Relax, relax, relax! It may help to think of your interview as just a conversation with someone from the industry and to remember that at the end of the day, that conversation is just one of many more opportunities that will come your way!

We hope you found this post helpful and we wish you the best of luck in your interview season! Continue to practice your skills, apply your learnings, and, above all, take care of yourself :) Our team is excited to support you in your design journey, so keep your eyes peeled for more posts from our “Getting into UX” series and for our upcoming events, like our first ever designathon in March 2021! 👀

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UW/UX is a student organization committed to growing the user experience and product design community at the University of Waterloo.

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UW/UX Waterloo

UW/UX Waterloo

UW/UX is a student organization committed to growing the user experience and product design community at the University of Waterloo.

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