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How to nail your UX interview using design storytelling — 3 essential tips

Design Recruiter at Facebook Carl Wheatley explains why proactive storytelling in a UX design interview is one of the most powerful techniques for demonstrating your expertise and communication skills. Read on for three essential tips for telling a compelling story around your design work.

What would you do if you were sitting right in front of your interviewer and a moment of silence occurred? Would you sit and wait for them to break the silence, or speak up and make the moment interesting?

Most of the time, UX designers preparing for job interviews forget to put in the effort when it comes to driving the interview sessions. Instead of proactively participating in the discussion, they leave everything up to the interviewers. Well, this might be one of the worst mistakes ever. While your portfolio could be engaging and interesting, that’s not always enough. Usually, what matters the most is your active interactions which reveal your expertise and interest in the position you’re applying for.

So, how do you become the leader of your interview session?

“Hiring managers, like most people, are more captivated by stories than facts or data alone.

I’ve understood something from my many years of experience with UX interview sessions, which is the difference between telling your interviewers about you and showing them something about you. Which do you think is more powerful? I choose the latter because it’s been my greatest weapon in winning interview sessions and landing the job.

There’s no better way to shine during an interview than sharing a few compelling stories about your best design work. Your interviewers are always interested in learning about your past experiences, especially when you share them through captivating stories that help them make informed decisions faster. Anyone can tell an interviewer “I know how to run a usability test.” Instead, share the story about how you once ran a usability test and what the outcome was.

Hiring managers, like most people, are more captivated by stories than facts or data alone. Just remember not to go off tangent by sharing stories that aren’t related to the position you’re applying for. You don’t need to share stories about your degrees, family, or whatever. Focus on your working experiences, awards if any, your ultimate roles, the changes you’ve enacted, and the teams you’ve worked with.

Here are a few steps to follow telling compelling stories during a user experience design interview:

1. Scope out your story in advance

First, determine the goal of your story and practice telling it out loud. This helps you determine the right length so you don’t go overboard with the details.

For example, if you want to show your interviewers your skill in usability testing, you don’t need to talk more about the prototyping or architecture phases. Instead, focus on how you moderated the usability test and what results you achieved. Although you can mention these other phases to prove to your knowledge of the entire UX design process, don’t go deep into discussing them.

Keep the goal of your story in mind. Avoid sharing so much detail that your story loses its focus and interest.

2. Start with a concise & engaging summary of your story

This technique is also called the Bottom Line Up Front approach. Pick out the most engaging part of your story and lead with this. Then summarize the whole story in a few words before going into discussing the details.

Not only does this help your interviewers understand your story better, but it’ll also give them a sense of good communication abilities — one of the most important skills product managers look for in their candidates. Here’s an example of how to introduce your story:

“I moderated four usability sessions during one of our design sprints where we used our findings to validate the design idea, and then moved forward with building new features for effective functionality.”

Leading with strongly-worded context like this will effectively intrigue your interviewer.

3. Don’t talk about the actions alone: Explain the results

Your story should be more focused on explaining the results of your project, not just the actions taken in the process.

What were your findings? How were you able to help your team members participate fully in the project? What were some critical design or usability issues you uncovered during the project that were unknown to your team beforehand? How were you able to handle five design projects or moderate five usability tests a day to meet a tight schedule?

Your interviewers are more interested in discussing these results which is why they should be the focus of your story. Remember, it’s often not enough to talk about what you did, but explain in few words how you helped your team and solved a problem for the company and your users.

Conclusion:

Next time you go into a UX design interview, don’t underestimate the power of compelling storytelling. Just remember to prepare what you’re going to say beforehand and avoid going into too much detail. Lead with the most interesting part of the story, and don’t forget to explain the results. Using these pointers, you’ll be well on your way to nailing your next UX role.

Carl Wheatley — Product Design Recruiter / Coach

Carl is a Product Design recruiter at Facebook. Before recruiting, he was a UI/UX designer working with many tech startups to design mobile apps. Carl is also the co-founder of a Meetup called Global UXD where he helps connect designers with each other and create new opportunities. Having completed Bloc and Designlab bootcamps before becoming a recruiter, he’s an expert at helping designers land their first design roles. Find Carl on carlwheatley.com and LinkedIn. Need your Design Portfolio Reviewed?? Check out Design Portfolio Review.

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