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Preparing for your next UX Interview

After having interviewed numerous candidates for the position of UX Designer, I discovered that most of the candidates misjudged what’s expected out of a UX Designer. It looked like they had a very vague idea of what we look for while hiring for a UX Designer. While this is not a skill-set that you could develop overnight, there are a few things that could certainly help you rise over the edge, and hence I thought of listing them down.

Develop your own definition of User Experience Design

Definition of UX can be very abstract, yet very concrete. Defining it in your own words would give a great insight into where you’re coming from, and what’s your perspective about design. It is a two sided sword and could easily hurt you if your definition is too abstract or too shallow. So beware! Sometimes your definition might go too technical, which would defeat the purpose of defining it in your own words. So I’d say, try to explain it in a way you’d explain it to a 50 years old woman (or your mom!) that what is it that you do for a living?  Every now and then I keep revisiting my definition, as my understanding evolves, and I keep rephrasing it.

Takeaway: Develop an understanding, put it in words.

In interview: You’ll be able to answer “How do you define User Experience?” 

Detach yourself from your tools

Everyone can hold a flute, but only a few can actually produce a melody, others just produce noise! To become a good musician, you must be able to produce (and reproduce) melodies! Mastering Photoshop or Sketch won’t make you a good designer. What tool you use is irrelevant, but what you do with your tool is what makes the difference. Let the tools just be the tools to achieve your end goals, and be ready to embrace the changes that come your way. Not all the organisations for instance, are a big fan of Sketch, and they won’t even provide you license to use Sketch. Being flexible will always help you adapt to the need of the hour.

Takeaway: Stop saying “I’m a Photoshop Guy”.

In interview: You’ll be able to project yourself as a designer, rather than merely a tool operator.

Play your part in the big picture

We know they want unicorns and mermaids! An all-in-one guy. A Jack of all trades. And so, we start running around, acquiring every skill-set that is even remotely linked to a designer – from graphic design to coding. Well, we need to stop right here! Take a step back and analyse what’s going on in the big picture. Take a good look at your current setup. Who owns what in the team and start owning and disowning stuff. If you are being asked to do everything, trust me, you are going to be in a soup! It’s time to focus, own something solid in the team, be responsible for connecting the input and output for same. eg. Own visual design, be responsible for driving on time delivery of wires to yourself, be responsible for your visual design, be responsible for providing output to the next guy (say interaction designer). Make your position solid, and start clearly identifying your contribution to every project. Become indispensable.

Takeaway: Focus on one thing, and own it completely.

In interview: You’ll be able to define your role and contribution.

Step up your game

There are two ways you could step up: be disruptive, or be incremental. Being disruptive would mean something like this: Today you are a graphic designer who creates banners using Photoshop, tomorrow you learn how to code in PHP and become a developer who writes the backend code for an e-commerce website. To me, it sounds pretty scary! When it comes to my career, I like to minimise risks, assess competition, assess my caliber and then make a move! Hence I like to go incremental: 1 new thing in every new job! This is how my timeline looks, that has helped me rise from an individual contributor to something more than that:

timeline12x

I suggest you should spend some time figuring out what you want to take up next and start preparing for same. I have always found lynda.com useful and have been a premium subscriber for past 9 years.

Takeaway: Identify your next step. Prepare for it.

In interview: You’ll find yourself ready for the challenge.

Do your homework

I specifically remember this incident when I interviewed this guy from Amazon (for the role of a Graphic Designer) who turned up for the interview without his portfolio. My bad, I shortlisted him just based on the resume and didn’t think taking a look at his portfolio was necessary at that stage. Poor guy ended up wasting his time and a trip from and to the other end of the city. No matter how good a designer you are, going unprepared is the best way to ensure that you don’t get the job. I’d suggest you spend time building a good resume that stands out, and a portfolio that showcases the breadth and depth of your work.

Following resources are useful:

When going for a job interview, I always like to carry a color print of my resume printed on a thick sheet with a glossy finish 🙂

Takeaway: Prepare your resume and portfolio.

In interview: You’ll know what you want to talk about.

I wanted to title this article as ‘How to become a better designer’, but then I had to sell it as well! Nonetheless, if we follow the above, I’m sure as the time passes by, we’ll find ourselves becoming better designers!

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Udit Khandelwal