Back in January, alumna Nicole (Flores) Errico’21, Senior UX Designer at Deloitte, hosted UX Tools & Portfolio Tips, a fantastic presentation in which she shared time-saving shortcuts, best practices for portfolio creation, and how to put your best foot forward in your career—particularly for UX professionals just starting out.
On Thursday, June 2, Errico followed with another stellar session, which focused specifically on UX interviews and portfolios. Errico—who has significant experience recruiting, interviewing, and hiring candidates— gave valuable tips for how students can best present both themselves and their work.
“I know what employers are looking for because I was someone who was hiring [for positions] last year,” says Errico, who started off by sharing ten critical interview tips, moved to portfolio tips, and then concluded with a review and roundup of popular design tools. “It’s all still fresh in my mind.”
The UX interview process can vary depending on the company and specific role for which you apply.
- Not all roles are created equal. A UX research role is very different from a UI design role – even if they both fall under the UXD umbrella. You must tailor your answers and your portfolio specifically to the role(s) for which you are applying.
- Research the company/organization to which you’re applying to determine if it could be a cultural fit for you. If you are interviewing for a major bank and expect it to be product-focused, you may be disappointed.
- Keep your answers short and sweet. Any response over two minutes is most likely too long.
- The first thing an interviewer will typically ask is, “so, tell me about yourself.” This is your chance to take about one to two minutes to give a concise response!
NOTE: need help practicing interview Q&As? Visit Google’s Interview Warmup, which will take you through common questions related to your industry. BONUS: Unlike a human “practice” partner, Interview Warmup has no limit on time or patience – so you can practice as many times as you like.
- Make sure to clarify whether the role to which you are applying is team-based or not team-based. Some UX roles require a large amount of experience because there will be only one designer working on the product. If you are seeking more of a team environment, the “lone wolf” role may not be for you.
- Be prepared to answer the famous “why do you want to work for this company?" question. Sometimes, if you cover the answer to this question earlier in the interview, it will not be asked again. However, it is a common question that requires a very unique response to get right.“This answer needs to be very unique and tailored to the company,” says Errico. “You need to express your own view of why you want to work there, and a generic response is just not going to cut it.”
- Even if the interview is virtual...it is important to still dress and act like you are interviewing in person. Ensure that your audio and webcam are working well ahead of time, and make sure that you have proper lighting.
- Be prepared to share your thought process. If you are presented with a problem statement and must produce a solution, the interviewer wants to see your thought process and problem-solving ability. There is never a right or wrong answer; it is more about how you outline your thoughts in an organized manner in order to reach a conclusion.
- There may be instances where you will be asked to share your work on the fly. Make sure you have your résumé and portfolio ready in case the interview wants to refer to it.
- Remember: UX design is not graphic design/product design/marketing/animation. Some companies blanket designers into one bucket, but it is your job to be clear about your skills and what you can bring to the table for your role to reflect your skills.
UX PORTFOLIOS: Showcasing Talent
Portfolios, says Errico, “are such a big part of being picked for an interview in the first place.” However, “you don't need a ton of work to show that you can do your job,” she says ( see Tip #1, below). “Pick maybe three key projects where you can say, ‘Okay, this is my best work. This is what I did, and this is how I showed my process.'” Below are her “Do’s and “Don’ts
- Less is more.
- Illustrate a process for each project. Start with background/goal, discuss steps taken, tools used, lessons learned, and project impact. What was significant about what you did?
- Include working prototypes, if possible (links, videos, etc.). It's a quick ways to showcase your work without having to upload multiple images.
- Avoid distracting colors/graphics and flashy animations if they do not serve a purpose in obtaining your role.
- Be concise! A recruiter will not have enough time to read your full portfolio. It will be skimmed.
- Quality over quantity. Always. Three (3) to four (4) key projects are more than enough to impress an interviewer.
- Showcase work across multiple devices if you are able mobile app, desktop, etc.
- Always include information architecture/process flows, since requirements are often vague and you need to show that you can go from vague thoughts to working designs
- Be yourself! Your portfolio should show who you are as a designer — make it unique.
Errico pointed out that portfolios—just like a resume and cover letter—should be individually tailored for each company and position. “If you’re applying for a role at Spotify where you're going to be working on mobile apps, then I’d better see a mobile app somewhere in your portfolio,” says Errico. “Because that interviewer is [going to] ask if you have ever worked on a mobile device before…and it’s very hard to convince interviewers you can do [the work] without actually showing them the work.”
UX Design Tools – Hints, Tips, and a Roundup
Errico concluded the presentation by reviewing popular design tools that help with everything from collaboration to portfolio creation to wireframing, prototyping, and video animation—creating a handy visual (of course).
CONCLUSION …and ENCORE!
Errico says she’s more than happy to share her expertise, and is looking forward to presenting more sessions in the future. “I did a complete career change because I started off as a consultant within strategy and consulting, and then I transferred into being a UX designer—and the MBS program helped me a lot with that—so this is my way of giving back to everybody.”
“I think it would be great to bring in more designers to get different perspectives,” said Errico in January, and as the UXD program continues to grow, there is certainly no shortage of topics to cover!
Huge thanks to co-host and facilitator Rupa Misra, Ed.D., director of MBS’s User Experience Design (UXD) concentration and the brand-new Product Design concentration for making possible such a great event!