What interviews with designers and UX professionals look like in top IT companies

In our blog we write a lot about careers in the IT field, but we usually cover topics related to job search engineers and programmers. Today we will talk about how the process of interviewing designers in top IT companies – the FAANG level (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) is arranged. Go!

How the process works

In most cases, the process of interviewing for design positions is a lot like interviewing developers. That’s how describes Former Google designer Tony Aube (he also interviewed Apple, Amazon and Facebook) stages:

  • first contact;

  • phoned a recruiter;

  • design challenge;

  • on-site interview;

  • making a decision on a job offer.

As in the case of developers, it is a big plus for designers to have acquaintances in the company. Aube describes his experience as follows:

I have dreamed of working at Google ever since I moved to San Francisco. I sent in a lot of their jobs every year, but never got a response. This time, I contacted a former colleague who was already at Google. He gave me a referral link to send my resume – and the recruiter contacted me the very next day. So dating is the best way to kick-start the interview process at these companies.

Also, at this stage, the designer will need a portfolio, resume, ideally a personal website where all this is collected.

Using the bot g-mate (@g_jobbot) you will be able to get access to design vacancies of top IT companies in dozens of countries around the world. Just indicate your desired salary, location and profession to receive jobs that are right for you directly in Telegram.

What is the Design challenge

This is the name of a test task, which can take up to several days. In the case of Tony Aube, Facebook and Amazon did not offer to do such a task, and at Apple and Google it was a requirement. In both cases, payment for the task was not expected. Google was given a week to complete it.

The designer could choose one of three design problems. Each of them concerned the reinvention of things around us every day, that is, there was no connection directly with the company and its products. In the beginning, the designer received a three-page PDF document describing the problem.

At Apple, the task was more specific – it was necessary to come up with a redesign of one of the company’s applications.

The main tips for completing such a task:

  • It’s important to try really hard… If the recruiter says that the task takes 8 work hours, spend all 12. If only wireframes are asking, submit a completely finished UI. If asked for a UI, provide an interactive prototype. Exceeding the minimum requirements of the assignment shows motivation, as well as the fact that the candidate will be able to grow in the company.

  • Main quality… If the interface turned out to be bad, the fact that it took 30 working hours to create it will rather be a big disadvantage.

  • Interviewers want to see how the candidate handles the process inside and out… At Google, for example, even choosing one of three problems to solve is already part of the design process. Tony Aube conducted a baseline study of all three of the proposed, chose one – and included the rationale for the choice in his decision. Then he did user interviews, mockups, UI, prototype, a couple of user tests, and even some branding elements, including a logo.

  • The solution must reflect the culture of the company… Aube says that while completing the assignment for Apple, he was thinking about how this company treats details. After the UI was ready, he spent twice as long polishing the interface. The candidate even made a fully animated prototype.

In each of the two cases, the recruiters told Aube that they were impressed with the quality of the solution. He passed the design challenge stage at both Google and Apple.

In addition, another UX professional from Netflix on his blog on Medium shared Useful links for interviews for design positions in large IT companies:

How personal interviews go

According to Aube, the on-site interviews lasted almost an entire day from 9-10 am to 15: 00-17: 00. The day included:

  • Portfolio presentation (~ 1 hour).

  • General interview (45 minutes).

  • Communication at lunch (~ 1 hour).

  • Technical interview (45 minutes).

  • Design review (45 minutes).

  • Whiteboard exercise (45 minutes).

It is important to understand that the order of the stages may vary from company to company, and some of them may not exist at all.

Portfolio presentation

Portfolios are great for presentation tips Shengjie Zhang, who interviewed on Google, Facebook, Twitch, & Slack and ended up working for Google.

  • Listeners can get bored easily, it’s important to avoid this.… An approach that allows you to avoid this: describe the context of the project, talk about the difficulties – this causes empathy, explain how you managed to overcome them. At the end, it is important to tell how exactly you influenced the product, to share some interesting insights.

  • You will be asked questions… It is important to be ready to answer them in as much detail as possible, but not to go on the defensive. The question may sound like this: “Why did you choose this particular method? Have you considered other options like xxx? “

  • It’s very important to show the impact on the product… Designers love to influence the product, so when they see how your work has produced results, they will love it. It is worth dividing the influence into 2-3 different levels – design details, product development direction, what benefits the stakeholders received.

  • No need to hurry… There is not much time, but there is no rush. It is important to have time to discuss all the important aspects that you have prepared. At the same time, it is worth taking into account the state of the audience – if you see that you are starting to lose it, you need to speed up and move on to the next slides.

Designer Kirill Zima, who lives in Amsterdam, works at Verifone, and previously worked at Booking.com and interviewed a number of FAANG listed companies, adds questions worth preparing for:

  • How did you come up with this design solution?

  • How was the research conducted?

  • What metrics do you use when making a decision to highlight good and bad?

  • Did everyone on the team agree with him, and if not, how did you convince them?

  • Give an example of your unsuccessful decision, how did it happen?

  • What lessons have you learned from this?

Many designers and UX specialists often do not prepare for this particular stage of the interview, which brings them down. The ability to present design is very important, as is the ability to explain your decisions – the so-called stakeholder management will then be actively used in work.

Bonus tip from Tony Aube:

  • Use Google Slides for interviews on Google, Keynote only on Apple.

Technical interview

In a technical interview, company representatives want to understand how a designer can work with his hands and understands the technical aspects of implementing his own ideas. Here are the questions they might ask:

  • What software do you use in your work?

  • How do you communicate the result of your work to the engineers?

  • How well do you understand the technology you will be working with? (HTML / CSS, Swift, iOS, Android, Unity …)

  • Do you have any additional skills like 3D, animation, illustration, photography, etc.?

  • You may also be asked to open your laptop and show how the files for the current project are stored – this shows the applicant’s organization. Can he easily find the file he needs? Does it group and name the layers correctly?

Design Review

During the design review, interviewers will find out how good the candidate’s taste for design is. To understand this, for example, they may be asked to open or download some application on the phone, and then they will ask many questions:

  • What’s your first impression of the design?

  • Do you like onboarding?

  • Is the design of this app good or not?

  • What do you think about the color palette? How do you like the logo and icons?

  • What would you improve here in terms of interface and UX?

  • Why do you think the app developers made X this way? How would you improve this solution?

Tip: you need to prepare for such an interview. To do this, you can develop the skill of mentally evaluating every interface encountered in life.

Whiteboard exercise

The final stage of the interview is Whiteboard exercise. This is where design thinking is evaluated. The interviewer will give you an assignment, for the solution of which you will need to use a board and a marker. Here are some things to keep in mind during this phase:

  • No need to rush… As with developer interviews, it’s not the end result that matters, but the thinking process. No one expects you to come up with an ideal solution without weaknesses in a stressful situation.

  • Don’t rush to paint right away… It is a trap. The task will be formulated too broadly on purpose. In order to offer a more or less suitable solution, it will be necessary to narrow it down with additional questions (this approach implies model STAR). For example, you may be asked to design a “superior gift-giving process”. Here you can ask who will use this function, what gifts can be given, who are they intended for, what are the main problems in the process now? And only then you can proceed, for example, to the solution of one of the problems that will be named to you. And the solution is not necessarily a mobile application, it is not necessary to think in rigid frameworks.

  • Explain your train of thought… The problem will have several solutions. The choice will be difficult – so think out loud. Tell us about the pros and cons of the solutions you see. Explain why you lean towards one of them. Tell them that you would run tests for all of them at work, but right now this option seems ideal.

  • It’s important to research the company’s culture… Even within the framework of FAANG, the culture is very different, it is important to understand the differences, immediately correlate them with your wishes. Then, already at the interview, the chances are higher not to experience negativity, but to gain useful experience.

Use the g-mate bot (@g_jobbot) to receive vacancies in your profile from IT giants and startups directly in Telegram. Companies can post the first 3 vacancies for free – go link

Our other articles on interviewing and finding a job in IT companies:

  • [Личный опыт] Amazon vs Microsoft: how the interview process is different in large IT companies

  • Netflix in 45 Minutes: A Quick Story of a System Design Interview, What to Expect + A Selection of Useful Links

  • What are soft skills for an engineer in 2020, why and how companies test them in interviews

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