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37 Questions to Ask When You're Interviewing for a UX Design Position

Interviews are supposed to be conversations. As the interviewee, you’re supposed to be able to decide whether you want the job equally as much as the company decides whether to hire you. The problem is, in my experience on the interviewer side of the table, people don’t really ask good questions about what they’re coming into.

You should know enough about your own discipline to ask good questions about the work you would be doing and the environment in which you would be working. This way you can decide on your end, if you would be happy at a new company.

The following questions are grouped based on areas of issues within the enterprise environment. Many of them could be used for interviewing in a customer UX situation, too.

The State of UX at the Company

Knowing where the company is at in their journey towards user-centered design will tell you how well you will be supported in your job role and whether or how much you will have to fight to do the entire spectrum your job, i.e. doing more than visual design. Having support is very important.

  1. How big is the UX team within the enterprise?
    And work in somewhere this question –  how many employees does the company have – in case you haven’t found that answer already. Do the mathematical calculation of designers / employees to determine the designer to employee ratio. If the answer is:
    • In the 10s to low 100s, UX is generally well supported. There are enough designers to go around.
    • In the mid- to upper 100s, they’re getting there. They see the value of UX and have hired enough designers to support the base of their applications. It also means you may see some UX specialists on your team.
    • 1000s – there won’t be a lot of support and there will be few UXers at the company. This will likely mean you will support more than one project team.
    If you will be the only UX, in a new or old position, you should consider this situation seriously. While it might be a fun challenge to establish the UX beachhead in a company, unless you have upper level management championing your position, it will get old quickly.
  2. Who is the UX champion in the company and how far removed are they from the CEO?
    The best UX companies to work for are the ones where UX has permeated the top levels of the company. The lower the UX champion is in the company, the less support you will receive and the more teaching you will have to do to make headway.
  3. How is the UX team configured across the enterprise?
    You want to know how the team is setup. There are 3 types: agency, completely siloed, and a hybrid between the two. In an agency setup, you will work as a group with other designers. As a new designer, this or hybrid is an excellent way to see the many different types of work done by different UX specialties. In a siloed situation, you often will be a UX designer of one. No one has your back, you are often a shared resource and will likely have to work across multiple projects as the sole designer. The advantage of working in this situation is that you do learn all the UX specialties and become the famed unicorn.
  4. How many projects will I be working on at one time?
  5. How does this position fit within the greater UX team?
  6. If the team seems big enough: what specialties are represented on the team?
  7. What is the enterprise UX community like?
    • How often do they meet?
    • What kinds of things do they do at their meetings?
    A well-developed community will come together to discuss issues, for training and to do peer reviews of each other work often on a regular basis.
  8. What kinds of enterprise level tasks and projects is the UX team working on?
    • Will I be expected to participate in these?
  9. What kind of training exists in the company to teach people about UX?
    • Is there any required training of new technical team and business employees to learn about UX?
    • If nothing exists, will I be able to create training to teach people as part of my job?

Tools and Process

  1. What technologies are your applications written in and which ones will I be working with?
  2. What tools and applications do the UX designers work in?
  3. Is there standardization across tools or am I able to bring in those I’m familiar with?
    Be prepared to describe the tools you normally work with, especially anything you may have found that are small one function applications or websites.
  4. Am I able to use 3rd party web tools or save files to the cloud?
    It is not uncommon to not be able to use these kinds of tools in enterprises, even the free ones.
  5. Do you have an enterprise level style guide or pattern library?
    • Who is responsible for maintaining it?
    • How are patterns added or updated?
    • What guidelines do you follow for pattern inclusion?
      I believe patterns should be included in a pattern library based on psychology, user needs, models and research, not on one or more designers’ whims or tastes. It means that the style guide may become politicized and those with the most political power determine what’s in it. This means you’re not always able to do the best design for your user.
  6. What does the typical UX process look like on a project?
    Beware of a place that can’t describe this or the process is dependent on the project team. This will tell you whether they just want you to create pretty visual designs or be more involved in the total project design.
  7. Is my work considered part of the technical work or part of product ideation?
    This question will tell you how much upfront you will ever be included in a product. If your work is considered technical, you will likely not be included on discussions about the entire scope of product development. If your work is considered product ideation, you should be working with business to help determine process and do serious user research. (This assumes the position is siloed. On a hybrid or agency team, it’s likely a user researcher and upper UX management would be involved at this stage.)
  8. What are you UI specs like?
    This question will tell you how much time you will spend documenting. If you haven’t already discussed whether projects run on agile or waterfall, this is a good time to ask.
  9. Do your developers read UI specs or do they prefer to work from screens or prototypes?
    This is one of the questions designed to help you understand how much power the development team has within the company. If they don’t look at specs, they aren’t worried about what business wants.
  10. What does a business analyst do here?
    There are two kinds of analysts, at least that I’ve come across: a systems analyst and a business analyst. A systems analyst will build business object models and be focused completely on how the system should be built from a data structure point of view. A business analyst is interested in business rules and process. If the company defines a BA as a system analyst, you may find you will also need to do the work of a business analyst as well as gathering user requirements and design.
  11. How do business analysts usually work with UX?
    BAs who understand UX will have you working with them as close to the beginning of the project as possible and invite you to most, if not all, meetings with business and development.
  12. If a problem comes up in a project, who has the final say in how it is fixed?
    This is the second question designed to find out how much power development has within the company. Business or product representatives should be the first answer with an exclusion for technical issues.

Access to Users

Despite having a known quantity in the enterprise, access to users is almost always limited. These questions are designed to understand how limited or broad that access is.
  1. What kind of access will I have to employees and/or customers to do user research?
    • Do I have to get permission? Or will there be a pool of people I can work with?
    • Will I be able to contact people as I need or will I need to set up regular meetings with business or product representatives present?
  2. What kind of access will I have to employees and/or customers to do user research?
    • Do I have to get permission? Or will there be a pool of people I can work with?
    • Will I be able to contact people as I need or will I need to set up regular meetings with business or product representatives present?
  3. What kind of user research exists on employees and/or customers right now?
    • Who did it? (Do they have a UX researcher?)
    • When was it done?
    • What types of methods were used?
    • Do you have any personas?
  4. Are you doing usability testing or walkthroughs as part of projects now?
  5. How is user research shared across the company?
  6. What type of follow up is done with users after a project does a major release?

Projects

  1. How are projects conceptualized and by whom?
  2. Who decides the scope and priority of projects?
  3. Are projects kicked off on a regular schedule or do they mostly happen at the beginning of the year?
  4. How is my time accounted for? Are the business units/product areas billed for a project team’s time?
    This question will help you understand how responsible the project team is to business. Another one to understand who holds more power in the company – development or business.
  5. At what point will I be involved in a project?
  6. What type of benchmarking is done for existing processes and applications before a project is started?
  7. What’s my involvement in writing user stories?
    A question designed to understand at what point you will be engaged in a project.
  8. What kinds of projects will I be working on? New or existing?
    For any existing projects:
    • How long has the project been under development?
    • Has it ever been released?
    • Were there prior versions of this project and were they released?
    The last thing you want is to be stuck on a project that has been in development for 10 years and never released.
  9. How long is your release cycle?

The “How Long” Questions

I’ve gone to companies where I’ve sat doing nothing for way too long and I don’t enjoy it. So, I want to know that I’m going to be put to work right away.
  1. How long will it take for me to be on-boarded onto a project team?
    • What will I be doing on my third day here?
    • What will I be doing during my third week here?
    • What about my third month?

Bad Omens

These are a couple things I would consider bad omens if they happened to you in an interview:
  • You are not asked to show and discuss your portfolio.
    The people who are interviewing you do not understand UX or UI design and/or there is little to no support for UX. They think a designer just placards input fields on a page.
  • You show your portfolio, but they only want to talk about the visual design.
    The expectation of you is that this position is for visual design only and you will not be invited or involved in the deeper more strategic areas of UX design.
  • You are asked deep HTML, CSS or JQuery questions, especially by any developers at the table.
    Most back-end developers are trying to shove off front-end work onto just about anyone if the company doesn’t have front-end developers. If you have a development background, make sure you make it clear you don’t do development work anymore or you will get pulled into the development team.
  • You are not interviewed by a UX designer or a UX design team.
    You are replacing someone who either was fired or let go; the UX designers don’t care enough to participate indicating bad moral; you’re the first designer at the company; etc. It generally indicates a bad situation you want to stay away from. The only exception would be if you are interviewing with a startup.
  • You are interviewed for a position and passed around to multiple people who are unprepared for you, whom you were sprung on or who can’t tell you what you’ll be doing in your 3rd week there.
    It’s possible you’re being interviewed for some non-existent position that a manager is trying to fill more for political reasons.



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