Responsive interviewing techniques: How to be a UX Chameleon
A key part of my role is to ensure that the various interviews between hiring managers and potential employees run smoothly. Candidates often ask me: why is it that when you are looking for a job in user experience, you’re often requested to attend an average of three interviews? You’re asked exactly the same questions in these interviews.
In this article, I explored individual motivations in detail with three people. The people I spoke to have extensive experience interviewing and hiring user experience staff into digital agencies and creative and technology focussed businesses.
- Leslie Fountain, Managing Director of Foolproof
- Lewis Milford, Head of Global Resourcing at Nokia
- Craig Le Grice, Head of Technology and Strategy and Director of BIMA
I focussed on key points that may be discussed at interview and have documented their thoughts;
“Talk through a project that didn’t go so well”
When answering this question, it's important that you can address issues that have come up, and to show that you can reflect and offer solutions. Lewis says that he has seen applicants under pressure say everything is fine, but this raised questions about their ability to be self-critical, something Leslie also looks for.
Leslie looks at attitude and values, much more than skills, in the response to this question, as well as evidence that they learn from each experience. She likes to see how candidates communicate and think on their feet. Clients can be demanding at times, and this is a skill often required to instil confidence and demonstrate your capabilities. You may be an excellent practitioner and designer, but if you aren’t able to communicate your work, clients won’t see the value in it.
Equally important to Leslie is how a candidate handles potential issues with clients, internal teams and stakeholders. Are they able to be open and demonstrate a broad understanding of themselves and their teams? Listening to clients I work with, the creative and production processes rarely goes to an initial plan, and the best-laid concepts and ideas often evolve and change. It’s important to assess whether the candidate can manage this without flapping, and demonstrate positively and calmly why this is a good thing.
Craig notes that this question isn’t about having the right answer, but having the right process to get to the answer.
“Give us an example of when you over achieved, or something you are really proud of”
Craig talks about using this sort of question to look for entrepreneurial insight or innovation as well as how you work with other people. Some of the best work candidates talk through is very personal and individual, but Creatives also need to demonstrate their ability to work within a team.
Leslie thinks this type of question is a good way to assess passions, motivations and ambitions. Lewis agrees that it's important here to see a rounded picture, and extra-curricular activities, but also talks about how, from an HR point of view, this type of question will come up less. He uses a technique called behavioural interviewing. He will look at the situation, task, assessment, and results (STAR). He feels that creative teams can sometimes be guilty of hiring candidates based too much on cultural fit. He’s keen to ensure that a process of looking at skills and objectives for the role are met before looking at whether the interviewer and applicant get on well with each other or have similar interests.
Leslie argues that cultural fit (not to be confused with personal similarity) is important, specifically from the angle of philosophy. She advises that it’s important to research your perceptions of a company culture as you may have built that perception on anecdotal evidence.
“Talk through a recent project”
I have seen the same piece of work in a portfolio more than a few times; this in itself doesn’t concern me because Creative and UX people are nearly always working in teams. However, it’s important that you have absolute clarity and honesty about which parts of the project you delivered. Craig agrees here that if you worked in a team, you need to explain the division of responsibility and how you were able to collaborate, as well as what your direct impact was.
Leslie is keen to see how you present and articulate a project to stakeholders when she asks this. She wants to know that you can demonstrate your thinking around the approach, your understanding of the client’s problem, and what went well. Specifically, she wants to know how the client’s and users’ KPIs were met and balanced.
However, Lewis says for him, this question is all about attitude. Most Creative and UX people will have already shared work, and for him it’s about seeing if they can credibly talk through the process; where and why decisions around layout, navigation and design were made.
My conclusion? There are no hard and fast rules with interviews.
An internal recruiter will often be much more process driven about how they assess an applicant. They may be keen to dot the i’s and cross the t’s with due diligence. High quality qualifications are likely to be more important to them, as well as understanding the strategic decisions behind why you chose certain modules and specialisms.
A managing director may be looking at the overall culture and philosophy of a candidate and how that chimes with the values of the business. This could mean they’re looking for more emotive answers around passions and interests in a creative environment.
The line manager has a leaning towards talent and how that is delivered on a day to day basis- what the mechanics of the team and work look like with this person on board. In smaller creative environments are given limited training to hire and interview, so that leaves a lot to personal style. Be prepared that your “creative” line manager may also have a more metric driven approach to recruiting and vice versa. It’s important to prepare for all of these types of questions.
Think about why the interviewer is asking the question before you respond. Think about why each of the people above might be asking, and prepare and articulate your answer fluidly. Prepared and relaxed interviews are always the best; they leave more time to create rapport between you and the interviewee, and leave time to listen hard, digest and then respond.
Good luck getting that job.
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