UX Designer Interview Questions or How Eleken Hires the Best Talent

Masha Panchenko

People who have ever had to hire a team member on their own would never underestimate the work of HR managers.

Many startup owners face difficulties in finding new team members and they need to dive deeper into the hiring process. The situation is particularly uncomfortable because there are two challenges at the same time: first of all, HR, second, evaluating the expertise of a person in a field where you don't have any expertise.

How do you know if a designer is really skilled? What questions to ask a UI/UX designer in an interview? What should you pay most attention to? Or, simply put, how to hire a UI/UX designer?

HR managers know answers to all these questions without having proficiency in product design. However, many emerging products have not grown yet to have an HR manager, and this task is not something you can outsource 100%. Most teams find hiring to be a rather personal issue — and they are right.

Here at Eleken design agency, we are a team of UI/UX designers, both seniors and juniors. We are constantly looking for new talent to join our agency. For years, we have established a simple but efficient hiring procedure. Let me guide you through our standard interview process so you have an idea of how to hire a UX designer yourself.

First step. Before the interview

Designers, whom we invite to the interview, are those who successfully completed the test task, and those who got the task are the candidates who had passed the initial CV and portfolio check.

An interview is just one part of the hiring process, and it starts long before the meeting. Let’s say you have already prepared a job description and received a bunch of applications.

Take as a rule to answer all the candidates. It may be too much work to send personal emails, but making two templates for yes and no answers is doable. A generic response is better than no response. Companies that make an effort to answer all applicants get many points for their employer brand.

In case you struggle with understanding the responsibilities of a UX designer well, we have an article explaining what UX designers do.

What should you be looking at in the CV of a UI/UX designer?

The first impression of the candidate happens when an employer takes a glance at their CV. It is undeniably true for any profession. Sometimes HR would try to ignore the clumsiness of the CV, bad layout, illegible fonts, and extra-long answers. 

For UI/UX designers, the most important thing is to understand users and create designs based on their needs. A person who can’t make a CV that’s easy to use for HR has little chance to be hired for this position. So feel free to trash any CV that does not look neat and clean (and don’t forget to answer the candidates a polite “no”, of course).

ux designer CV layout example
Image credit: Reux studio

Among the candidates that made a good first impression, choose the ones that have the appropriate working experience. This is the principal quality that we look for in the CVs. However, for a junior designer little experience is acceptable: portfolio is what matters.

Test task

As mentioned above, at Eleken, the test task goes before the interview. That way we give more opportunities to people with little experience.

The test task shouldn't be too long. Big companies that hire UX designers like Facebook or Google can have test tasks that take a week of work, but there's no need to demand so much work to see if the candidate is competent. The benefit of a small company is that we can make the hiring process fast and therefore get the best talent before they're taken by others.

Also, we have an opportunity to involve all the key team members in the hiring process to ensure the best fit of the candidate with the corporate values.

Here is an example of our test task:

Create a UI for a mobile AI Messenger App (at least 3 screens)

Imagine you’re a very busy person but your partner/family/friends want to get your attention and message you pretty often. You need to keep working but still be able somehow to pay some attention to your family and folks.

You need to create a UI for a messenger with an AI + chatbot which analyzes your previous replies and responds instead of you.

UX designer interview. The start

  • Tell me about yourself

All candidates expect that question and most of them have an answer prepared. To make the conversation more natural and less of an interrogation, start with telling a bit about the company first.

From the very first questions, we focus on the main: evaluating how the person thinks and expresses themself.

Technical questions

Technical questions are a very important part of the UX designer interview, while also being one of the most complicated to evaluate properly when you are not a professional in this field. To be able to speak the same language, check out our short vocabulary of UI/UX terminology.

You want to know what kind of methods and tools candidates use. You can ask them directly but chances are that you'll hear the same things that are written on their CV. To understand what skills the applicant has, the best thing is to ask them to tell a story from their work. Here are UI/UX interview questions for experienced designers:

  • Tell me a case from your experience when you had a challenge and how you dealt with it.
  • Tell me about this project from your portfolio. What was your part of the work?

The latter question is important when the projects presented in the portfolio are a result of teamwork. From this question, you can continue asking more about how the candidate collaborates with fellow designers and developers.

Ideally, you would already have a general understanding of the candidate’s skills by seeing their test task. You can ask some detailed questions about technical skills, but for us, the approach to design is what matters, even more than skills and tools. Here are some questions that can be asked about the test task:

  • Please guide me through this flow.
  • What happens if the user does this?
  • What made you choose this solution?
  • What is the logic behind this decision?

The same questions can be applied to any project in the candidate’s portfolio.

ui/ux designer interview
Image credit: KOBU agency on unsplash.com

It is important for us to see that UX designers base their choices on research and users’ needs rather than on aesthetics. Creating a sleek UI is easier than understanding and explaining what lies behind it.

Couple more common UX design interview questions that help to understand the approach to design:

  • What is your research process?
  • Guide me through your design process.

Another option is to pose an imaginary task and ask to explain the possible way of solving the problem. In this way, you evaluate the way of thinking and expressing rather than the solution itself.

  • Imagine you have to create an education app for kids under 10. How would you run the research process?

The best option is to offer examples of real challenges that your company is facing. Task-based UI/UX designer interview questions work great for freshers.

“Tricky” questions

Big companies are notoriously known for asking strange questions at the interviews to confuse prospective candidates. For instance, Google interviews may contain questions like “Can you mention the weight of the Empire State building?” or “If I open your browser history, what will I learn about your personality?”. (No, nobody knows the right answers for sure).

The objective of these challenging inquiries is to get away from the standard questions and well-rehearsed answers to see the candidates’ thinking process in unexpected situations.

However, there are easier ways of getting the “surprise” effect. Here is how the founder of Eleken design agency makes UX designers feel uncomfortable:

  • What is design?
  • What is interface?

These simple questions can confuse even experienced designers, being basic and unexpected at the same time.

As always, there is no single right answer. (Though you can get a hint by reading our articles on UI vs UX and product design). 

Personal questions

There are different opinions on whether the personal questions should go at the beginning or at the end of the interview. We believe that the best is to follow the natural flow of the conversation instead of sticking firmly to the script.

Personal questions are something that should be tailored more to the company than to the position. Here are some questions that we use:

  • How do you see yourself in 2 years from now?

The classic question adapted to modern times. Because who knows if UI/UX design will even exist in 5 years, as our director Ilya says.

People want to hire those who have their plans in life clear, but let's be realistic. Try to remember what your plans were 5 years ago and whether everything went that way.

Few other old but good personal questions asked in UX interviews:

  • Why did you decide to become a UX designer?
  • What makes you want to work in our company?
  • What are your weaknesses/strengths?

To sum up

Before preparing a list of questions, think of which ones you really want to hear answers to. You may find lists of the top 50 UX interview questions, but do you really need to know all that to hire UX designers? Do you really need to know where prospective candidates see themselves in 5 years? Do YOU know what you’ll be doing in 5 years?

Placing yourself in the candidate’s shoes helps to make interviews both efficient and relaxed. Our style of interviewing is rather minimalistic, however, it works pretty well for finding the top talent. Curious to meet some of them? Contact us to get a free trial!


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