Participating in job interviews can be one of the most draining and nerve-wracking situations you'll encounter.
Just imagine getting ready to venture into the world of UX Design, going through an extensive process that involves presenting a portfolio, discussing experiences you haven't even had yet, and completing a practical test.
And, after all that, sitting face-to-face with your prospective boss, fully prepared to tackle any question they throw at you.
No doubt, this can be an anxiety-inducing experience for everyone, regardless of whether you're just starting out in your career.
Is there some sort of secret sauce to acing interviews? Are all job selection processes the same?
It's difficult to claim there are any foolproof tricks. However, there are some valuable insights and important information that can significantly improve your chances of success in interviews.
We've gathered a few tips, insights, and even common interview questions to lend you a hand! How does that sound to you? Let's dive in!
What are the stages of a job selection process for UX Design?
Job selection processes can vary significantly depending on the company, the team, specific requirements, the hiring manager, and the position you're applying for, among other factors. Thus, there isn't a standardized template for what a selection process looks like. However, we can outline some common stages that typically occur:
- Initial contact with HR or a recruiter.
- Review of your portfolio, resume, and other relevant experiences.
- Initial interview.
- Practical assessment.
- Final interview.
Let's explore each of these stages in more detail!
First contact with HR or a recruiter
Typically, the recruitment process is initiated by the HR department or an external consultancy based on the needs of a team or manager.
At this stage, the HR team selects various resumes and assesses whether the candidate's profile aligns with the company and the specific job opportunity.
Your technical skills and competence are not yet evaluated at this point; rather, the focus is on determining if your profile and experiences initially meet the company's needs.
Therefore, it's important to have an updated CV and LinkedIn profile that present information in a clear and concise manner. Highlight your previous experiences or any UX courses you have taken.
If you are transitioning into UX Design, explain how some of your past experiences relate to the field. It's also beneficial to mention your career goals, what you are seeking, and where you intend to go in your professional journey.
Reading tip: 7 Mistakes to Avoid In Your UX Design Portfolio
Review of the portfolio, resume, and other experiences
After the initial screening process conducted by HR, your resume and portfolio land in the hands of the UX Design team manager.
At this stage, the manager will assess the skills showcased in your portfolio and evaluate your previous experiences.
A portfolio is a crucial tool in the life of a UX Designer. It allows you to showcase your technical skills, your thought process, and even a glimpse of your personality.
Remember that building a portfolio goes beyond including every single project you've worked on. Quantity doesn't always mean quality.
Moreover, the person reviewing it may not have much time available to go through every project. Therefore, focus on highlighting the key projects in your career that are relevant to the specific UX Design position you're applying for.
Include the entire process involved in each project, not just the final screens. Utilize storytelling techniques to explain and illustrate the different stages.
Always adapt your portfolio to align with the job requirements you're applying for. Every company has different needs, and you should demonstrate that you can meet them.
Are you a beginner without previous projects? You can work on redesign projects to build your portfolio.
Also, if you're a MID student, use the exercises from the course to build your portfolio. We set high standards for these projects so that you can use them in this type of situation.
Reading tip: Redesign: Adding Case Studies to Your UX Portfolio
Resume and Other Experiences
Try to tailor your resumes specifically for each UX Design position. As mentioned, companies have different needs, and you should emphasize the skills that meet those specific requirements.
Be concise and avoid including experiences that are irrelevant or don't add value to the opportunity. In other words, refrain from listing your karate skills or the piano lessons you once taught to make some extra money (it's amusing, but we've seen resumes with this type of information before).
Additionally, include any UX Design or related courses you have taken. These may hold more significance for entry-level professionals. If you have more experience, focus on your previous roles, responsibilities, challenges, and projects.
First interview with the UX Design team manager
Certainly, this can be considered the most important stage of the entire selection process. During this interview, you will have the opportunity to meet the person who may become your manager, learn about the company culture, and understand your role and responsibilities within the team.
There is no standard script followed by interviewers. Each interview is different depending on the person conducting it. Some prefer to approach the interview as a casual conversation, while others have a set of specific questions and conduct a more traditional interview.
The best tip we can offer is to stay calm and take your time in responding to questions. It's perfectly fine to pause for a moment, reflect on the question, and provide the best possible answer instead of blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.
Don't worry or expend energy trying to impress the interviewer. Respond directly and clearly, providing all the requested information without unnecessary embellishments.
Don't be afraid to ask about the company, the team, and your responsibilities. It's a two-way street. The company should like you, and you should like the company. This interview is an opportunity for you to demonstrate both your hard skills and soft skills.
Be prepared to answer these types of questions and have confidence in who you are. It may seem obvious, but self-awareness is crucial in this moment.
Familiarize yourself with your portfolio and be able to present it effectively. The interviewer may ask you to discuss it.
If you bring your personal computer, ensure that all files are saved on its hard drive, and have additional works at your disposal, such as prototypes, wireframes, and redesigns.
Be prepared to showcase work beyond what is included in your portfolio. The conversation may take unexpected turns.
Is it an interview for an international position?
Although some companies may sponsor travel for candidates to conduct in-person interviews, chances are this conversation will take place remotely.
If so, ensure you are in a quiet location during the conference. Use headphones to minimize any background noise that may interfere with the interview, and be prepared to showcase your English or other language skills.
Generally, a company that hires internationally understands that you might be speaking a language that is not your native, and they won't mind your accent or minor mistakes.
However, it's essential that you can express yourself and your ideas, as good communication is indispensable.
Reading tip: UX Design: How to Work Internationally
Not all companies administer practical tests for UX Design candidates, but it's important for you to be aware that it could happen, so be prepared.
Like the other stages, these tests don't follow a standard format. You may be asked to:
- Conduct a heuristic evaluation of a website;
- Solve a hypothetical problem;
- Analyze a feature of a product or website;
- Create a wireframe or prototype;
- Demonstrate your skills with specific software/tools.
Tests usually have a specified deadline for submission, allowing you to complete them comfortably from home.
Alternatively, you may be asked to complete a live test during the interview.
The objectives of these tests typically include:
- Assessing your problem-solving abilities and understanding your reasoning process;
- Evaluating whether your ideas and solutions align with the company's objectives, not just user needs;
- Gauging your analytical skills, creativity, and contextual understanding.
Prepare yourself to undergo this type of evaluation and test. Keep in mind that practical applications vary based on your background and experience.
Remember that recruiters not only focus on your technical skills but also on your mindset and other soft skills. Therefore, make your reasoning process clear and demonstrate how you think, solve problems, and handle adversity.
Your skills may be put to the test through these assessments. Thus, it's crucial not to lie about your abilities and competencies. In the end, you may end up embarrassing yourself.
It is common in a selection process to have more than one interview, sometimes reaching up to 3 or 4 interviews.
Usually, the final interview takes place with the company director or a senior leader in the department or team. Furthermore, the final interview may involve multiple representatives from client areas or team colleagues to assess your fit, sociability, and ability to work in a team.
At this stage, the evaluation will be more focused on your goals and alignment with the company's profile and department rather than solely on your technical skills and experiences.
For the final interview, the same advice applies: stay calm, think about your answers, and address any remaining doubts you have about the company, processes, opportunities, etc.
Does every UX Design selection process follow the same steps?
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the processes can vary depending on the company, the team, the recruiters/interviewers, and the specific job opening, among other factors.
However, some processes deviate from the norm.
Networking as a facilitator in the selection process
We emphasize the importance of networking in UX Design. Networking helps in various ways, such as finding job opportunities and facilitating certain stages of the selection process. Knowing someone who can recommend your resume/portfolio within a company can be a great advantage.
A professional recommendation provides the company with more confidence in your experience and skills, as someone from within the team/company is familiar with the candidate.
Networking can open many doors and even replace or streamline the selection process.
We have heard from several students who obtained their first UX Design opportunities through their networking connections, which expedited the process. For example, we interviewed:
- Luka Vasconcelos, who was hired by another MID student to join their UX Design team at Indra.
- Alyson Ambrósio, who became a UX Designer at a startup without going through a formal selection process for her first achievement.
- Rodrigo Guilherme, who received a phone call from a recruiter offering a UX position without even having applied, thanks to his LinkedIn profile.
These are just a few examples of students whose networking efforts facilitated their initial opportunities in UX Design.
Therefore, it is highly recommended that you establish a network of contacts to pursue such opportunities.
Engage in UX Design communities, attend lectures and conferences, and maintain good relationships in your professional endeavors. Aela, for instance, has a community of Bootcamp MID course alumni that has helped numerous students find opportunities in UX Design.
Being the first UX Designer in the company
Another exception to the traditional selection process is when you have the opportunity to be the first UX designer in a company and be responsible for building a team and developing the area from scratch.
Many companies are realizing the importance of UX design in their strategy and are maturing their UX culture.
As a result, it is possible for an experienced professional to be called upon to assemble a team for a company. Because of this, the selection process tends to be somewhat different since there is no other professional in the company to evaluate your experience and portfolio.
However, this does not mean that the recruiter will be less meticulous. On the contrary, it is an extremely strategic hiring decision.
Our student, Diogo Alvarez, implemented the UX Design department at Indra and ended up hiring other MID students to join his team.
"…the person in charge of hiring was a student from the Master Interface Design Bootcamp. He asked for recommendations from the Aela mentors, who passed along my name and praised my work." – Luka Vasconcelos
"I ended up getting an opportunity as a UX/UI Designer at Indra. In fact, Diogo Alvarez, also a student from the MID Bootcamp, works here at Indra. He was the one who implemented the UX department in the company, and we now work together."– Gabriel Bezerra
What are the most frequent questions in UX interviews?
The Nielsen Norman Group conducted a study on Careers in UX Design. In this report, participants share a bit about what they ask candidates in interviews. The most common questions were:
- Critique something.
- Explain methods and processes.
- Conceptual questions about UX and User-Centered Design.
- Reasons for pursuing a career in UX Design.
- Reasons for wanting to work at the company.
- Recommended books.
- Who are your references in UX Design?
- How do you stay updated?
- Tell the stories of the projects you have been involved in.
Of course, an interview is not solely based on the above questions, but they provide a good foundation for understanding what to expect in most interviews.
What are recruiters looking for in a candidate?
In addition to technical skills (Hard Skills), companies are also looking for candidates who possess Soft Skills, which refer to behavioral skills.
According to the 2019 Product Design Hiring Report, the most valued Hard Skills are:
And the most important Soft Skills are the following:
- Collaboration/ Teamwork;
In addition to the InVision report, the NN/g Careers Report also consolidates some important insights about what recruiters are looking for:
- Analytical profile;
- Good communication skills;
- Inquisitive nature;
- Strategic thinking;
- Knowledge of Design Thinking and Agile Philosophy;
- Business knowledge.
Therefore, don't limit yourself to learning and acquiring Hard Skills. Soft Skills and business knowledge are essential for a UX Designer.
Examples of selection processes for MID students
In conversations with our students, we often ask about their experiences in the selection process for the UX positions they currently hold.
Here are a few examples below, highlighting how one process is different from the other.
Alyson used networking to secure her current UX Design position.
"Through one of these contacts, I received a referral for a position at Alfred Delivery startup. The person in charge of the position asked others about me. The interview was a very informal conversation because I already knew the CEO of the startup. We had met at one of the events I attended, and we had already talked a few times. He tried to fill the position with other people, but they were often already established and ended up recommending others until it reached me."
Rodrigo landed a position through a process that did not require a practical test.
"The selection process for the position I'm in now was simple and surprising. I was in São Paulo when I received a call from someone at the company saying they liked my LinkedIn profile and portfolio. In fact, my portfolio only had two UX projects at the time, which were developed during the first two levels of MID. We scheduled an interview, and this time there was no test phase that many processes have; I only needed to send my resume. He asked me many technical questions and inquired about my experience. I was very honest. If I knew the answer, I would respond, but if I didn't know, I was honest and said I was willing to learn."
Daiane got an opportunity with Mercos, and her process included a practical test and multiple interviews.
"The process with Mercos was quite fast, taking about a month. I think there was also a good match of profiles, which is important too. I answered some questions by email and then also took a technical test – they sent me some user research they had done and gave me options for a problem to solve. From there, I had a week to present a solution. I also had a video conference interview with the Product Design team and later with the company's HR to make sure everything was in order."
Daniel lives and works in Canada. He landed his current position through a UX/UI community.
"In my current job, I saw the position in a UX/UI community here in Canada – they were even looking for someone who could do animations. I talked to the responsible manager about the position and went for two more interviews – for those, I brought my portfolio and explained all the processes involved in the project development. After a short time, I was offered the position."
Juliana's process also included tests and interviews.
"I was called for the first interview, and at the end, there was a test to complete. I already knew this is a common practice in the market. In the meantime, we had a lot of conversations, and I was very honest. I mentioned that I was participating in other processes and made it clear that I had no prior experience in Product Design. They liked it, and on the same day, after the test, they told me they would send me an offer, and I ended up joining as a Mid-level."
Israel got an opportunity at a company in Portugal. The process was long and exhaustive, but what stood out was the reason he secured the position.
"… after a while, I found out that Seedrs hired me not because of the quality and complexity of my portfolio projects, but because of the storytelling I applied. Since I have a background in Graphic Design, I decided to create my own identity for my portfolio. From that idea, D-Hero (Design Hero) was born, which is the character I use along with storytelling in my portfolio. It was very interesting to see that the company considered storytelling more important than the actual projects themselves."
How to prepare for interviews?
As we have observed throughout this article, there is no standard for interviews or selection processes.
However, there are some common stages that appear in almost all processes. To be prepared for interviews, you need to practice.
Just like your own experience in UX, practicing is key to improving your performance in interviews.
In addition, we have seen that various recruiters ask technical and conceptual questions. Here are our tips:
1) Never stop studying
Read books, articles, and watch videos. This is a way to stay updated with market trends and learn more about UX/UI concepts, usability, and User-Centered Design.
We even provide book recommendations to help you expand your knowledge of UX.
2) Engage in communities, events, and networking
As we have seen, a strong network of contacts is important for opening doors and job opportunities. So, don't stand still. Seek to meet people and participate in communities. This will make a significant difference for you.
3) Seek mentorship
Mentoring is a process through which you can learn from a more experienced professional. With mentorship, you can enhance both your hard and soft skills, which, as we have seen, are highly sought after by recruiters. You can find a mentor in your own workplace or, if you enroll in our Bootcamp, you will have exclusive mentoring sessions for guidance.
4) Consider joining the MID Program
If you are looking for a comprehensive course that will guide you from the basics to advanced learning, you must explore our Mastering Interface Design Program.
In addition to practical classes and exercises, you will have access to a student community—a great place for networking—and exclusive mentorship with professionals working in the international UX Design market.
By following these steps, you can better prepare yourself for interviews and enhance your chances of success in the UX Design field.