Cracking every UX design internship interview
How I managed to get 6 design internship offers in 6 months.
Before we begin, I’d like to state few foundational pieces of information to form a better base point and context for this article.
1. About candidate
My educational qualifications at the time I applied for these internship:
1. Bachelor’s of Technology in Computer Science Engineering
2. Master’s of Design in Information Design (ongoing at the time of internship hunt)
I applied for these internships from November 2019 to June 2020. You could say I started pre-pandemic and finished mid-peak-pandemic. Companies were backing out from offers, had hiring freeze and took on an average 6 months to get back to you during this period.
Internships stated here include campus placements and well as individual recruitment drives by the companies.
I was interested in User Experience Design internship role, which across companies could be synonymous to Product Design or Interaction Design internships.
UX Design Internship
Step by step walkthrough. Each step of the following process is of immense importance but for the purpose of this article, we’d be talking in detail about the ‘interview’ part of this journey.
I applied to the following companies, I’ve added some context about the nature of the company to give you an idea about what it has to offer:
Two key factors in getting shortlisted are:
3. Statement of purpose (Required by some companies)
A good resume and a robust portfolio takes you a long way.
3. Design Exercise
Most design interviews are proceeded by a design exercise or tasks. Your performance in the tasks determine if you qualify for the interview round
UX internship interviews usually have multiple rounds and each round is an elimination round where you only get to the next round if the previous interviewer recommends you to go forward.
Usually interviewed by: A senior designer or a team of senior designers
About: Usually is around your portfolio
Intent: Understand your body of work, skills, motivations and background
Usually interviewed by: Design lead or manager.
About: Contains on the spot tasks and questions around the earlier design exercise submitted by you
Intent: Check your problem solving, design and technical skills. Check how your mind works
Usually interviewed by: Design head or director of design
Intent: Understanding your skills, mindset, what you bring to the company, if you are a good fit for the org as well as your problem solving abilities
Interviewed by: Human Resource Manager
Intent: Salary negotiation, personality filtering, Communication skills, offer negotiations and setting expectations as well as establishing communication for further contact.
The order or intent of the above rounds varies from company to company, usually the same is communicated to you before each round. If not, feel free to ask your point of contact about the intent of the interview, if any specific material should be kept handy, etc.
Rules of thumb for a UX design interview:
1. Do not lie
This probably holds true for all interviews, but about a million times more for a design interview. They’ll know. They’ll always know that you lied, even if they are generous enough to not call you out — they always know. And since you’d have a deep dive discussion about everything you say in the interview, the chances of you getting caught in the lie are a 100% and more.
Everything you say is a reflection of your mind and your mind is what is interviewed as weighed during these interviews.
2. Don’t stretch a lost cause
This picks up from the first point, defending your designs is one thing but if you catch yourself realising a potential mistake or a gap, don’t throw unrealistic explanations at the designer. It only makes you look super foggy with your thought process.
3. Know your company
Research who you are interviewing for and this does not need to be a 30min thesis course. Take 5–10 mins to research the company, visit their website. You don’t have to know everything, but it is good to know the basics. The company is also selling themselves to the candidate but it is always better to know what a company does before starting an interview.
4. Curate your portfolio for the company
Gauge what aligns with the work you are looking for, the work that the company offers and the work you have in your portfolio and try to align the three when presenting your portfolio
5. Work on your portfolio
About 90% of your preparation for the interview is putting your best work into your portfolio. A good portfolio may not necessarily have a ton of projects, even 1 project done right can take you to every place you desire. But ‘done right’ is the keyword here. Put work into what you believe, so that when you show that work to people, your passion is evident and the work is bulletproof.
6. Communication Skills
Yes, they are important. Not because it is a fancy skill to have but because you have about 60 mins to communicate what you intend to, to an interviewer who probably sees 10 candidates per day — miscommunication or a communication gap is a mistake we can’t afford. You need not be a fabulous orator but you need to know how to put across your point and one should do whatever helps to reach this goal- learn your lines, script your speech, mock interviews, record yourself, do what works for you best but do it.
7. Back up your work
Don’t just rely on the internet to power up your work ad-hoc. Be prepared- have a pen drive, saved documents or even preloaded pages to avoid any last minute hiccups. Time is of the essence and every minute we waste during an interview is every minute the interviewer knows lesser about you than the other candidates.
8. You do you
Don’t push your work style to fit into what everyone is doing around you. You are an individual candidate and your faults and cons and passions and skills make you the correct candidate for a job. No one is looking for clones especially in the design business. Stick to your way of things, your curiosities, your roots, your experiences as they create they most unique permutation there ever has been or will be.
9. Do not under value yourself
If you know someone is offering an underpaying position to you compared to your skill, don’t hesitate to politely mention the discomfort and expectation. It is a two way street, you need to work at a company and companies need employees and establishing a mutual communication with transparency will take you a long way and help you both enjoy your work and sleep peacefully at night. The design community is very vocal about expectations, now you are a part of it, don’t shy away from communicating your worth.
The above is the synthesis of my 6 months of experience, I will continue to put myself out there and learn and share from my experiences.
I finished my graduation project internship at Walmart in Jan 2021. It was an immensely overwhelming, humbling and refreshing experience to work with the brilliant design team at Walmart. They trusted me with responsibilities and helped shape me into the kind of designer I am today, for which I am forever grateful.
Hope this helps you achieve whatever it is you wish for. Thanks for taking the time to read through my experience and learnings.
Regards, a user experience designer ❤