Your first product design interview: what to expect

A friend who's looking for their first project design job recently got in touch asking for advice around the first interview. A general interview, plus time to go through a portfolio case study. This was my reply…

What's the purpose of a first interview and portfolio review? It's an opportunity to talk the company through a case study of a project you worked on, talk through the process you followed and decisions you made. The people hiring will probably have a bunch of questions in their head such as:

  • Do they have a good sense for what makes a good product?
  • Can this person solve tricky product problems?
  • Can they work well with other designers?
  • Can they work well with developers?
  • Will their work be up to a visual standard, or can they learn to do this?
  • Are they comfortable iterating on their work, and changing it until it solves the problem?
  • Can they give/recieve feedback well?

...And other questions like that. Your job is to show them you're capable of these things by talking them through how you've done it in previous projects.

If you haven't done one of these things in the project, it's good to be honest I think... I've had good feedback where I've not done any research in a project, but talked openly about how I wasn't happy about that and would do it differently next time

In most interviews I've done, we've only had time to run through 1 project, but we've had time for 2 in a few.

In the past I've usually just taken them through the case study from my website, but if you have more work that's not on your website it might be better to make a pdf or keynote or something to take them through the work. Whatever you think will make it easiest for you to tell the story of the work. It's probably worth taking the time to make sure these look polished too so they make a good impression.

Probably the most useful thing you can do is practice talking through the project. Time yourself so you get a feel for how long it takes - so you can make sure you get through it all during the interview.