Interview checklist for interaction designers

Monday, January 26, 2015

So many possibilities (Look, you have so many possibilities)

Doing good work as a designer depends on a lot of other things.

Whether you’re joining an agency or going in-house it’s a good sign when people understand what you do (not everyone does!), and that you’ll work closely with developers. It also helps when you understand how the business works, their priorities and interests, and that you feel excited about working with them.

Some of the items on this list are luxuries, but most of them are essential (I think) for doing good work as a designer.

Let’s imagine you’re interviewing with a company or lots of companies. Before accepting an offer, I want to check the following things off the list:

They understand my job

This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised. Startups in particular aren’t really sure what designers do. What they really want is someone to come in and wave a magic wand.

I’d try to find out what they would expect from a designer on a day-to-day basis. Early stage startups are exciting but often insecure and chaotic, and might need a designer to act more like a consultant.

If they have no established design team, I might need to remind them I’m not a graphic designer, and I’m not a programmer… even though I might code my prototypes.

Having to explain what an interaction designer does is usually a red flag.

On that note:

Becoming a unicorn isn’t an expected career path

“Yeah, but we’ll teach you how to do __ and you can do design as well…”

That’s cool, but no.

I have a positive impression of the leadership team

Liking the leadership team (and your future bosses) is important. They hugely influence the company’s culture if they’re doing things right.

I think this is even more important if they’re a startup or a small company.

I sit next to developers

Agencies don’t normally have their own in-house devs (some do, and that’s great), and can send you to work with the client’s developers. Or you might work with developers a bit, but mostly talk to the a client’s product owner.

Sitting next to developers generally means doing better work. You can communicate design details, see demos of work in progress. Also, it’s just much more fun. It’s a big plus when I can work directly with developers.

I understand the business

Understanding the business is helpful because you can uncover their priorities, and often things that are going or could go wrong. If they’re an agency or consultancy, who are their clients?

They can pay me

It also helps to be sure they can pay you, so you can eat. If they’re a startup then it’s good to know how they’re funded and how they plan to make money. How much runway do they have until they can no longer pay you?

They have a HR department or person

I’m not sure I’d work for a company without HR. HR is there to understand employment law and protect employees. Early-stage companies and startups might not have an HR department or person (or there might be some of the common problems described in this article on HR antipatterns).

HR is usually part of the hiring process and help everything to go smoothly and on schedule, and without HR, interviewing is often disorganised and dispiriting.

I feel well-treated during the interview process

If a company is flaky about getting back to me or doesn’t do something when they say they will, it’s a red flag.

I’m careful to watch out for poor behaviour from companies during an interview process. If they treat their potential hires badly, how do they treat their full-time employees?

I feel like I could do good work here

In the end, your gut matters.