A strategy for designers and a handful of tips when they walkthrough design case study during the interview
I started taking interviews in 2012 when I became design manager. Since then, I'm sure I would have taken a few hundreds of interviews until today.
Lots of companies have started eliminating design tests and started focusing on detailed portfolio walkthroughs. Sometimes the expectation will be that the candidate should present at least 2 detailed case studies, which helps interviewers understand the candidate better before deciding.
When it comes to walking through the case study, everyone has their way of communicating the project story—some come up with a beautiful narrative and some with broken descriptions.
After 2020's slowdown recently, I started retaking interviews for product designers and, after a few rounds, I observed a pattern. The pattern is that designers are focusing more on 'what' they did in the project. I understand that interviews are like selling yourself, but they shouldn't be at a superficial level. When you show your case study, focus on each stage and justify each step you took in your project.
Recently, a designer with 10 years of experience was walking me and my colleague case study, and she/he showed us a slide with some post-its that said s/he did user research and explained why s/he did user interviews. Guess what the next slide was? It was Paper sketch concepts that s/he started explaining.
I was excited that s/he explained why s/he decided to do user research, but s/he didn't explain these, which I was expecting:
S/he missed crucial parts of the case study at the starting while walking us through.
The focus was on what she did, not why, how, outcome, and how it translated into the next step. These are crucial parts of the case study which interviewers want to see.
Explain the design phase in detail and focus on rationalising.
While walking through designs, try to connect back to research findings or insights.
Show the final outcome (show important flows/features etc which will solve the problem you are trying to fix for business)
If possible, show data (how numbers have increased if the solution is live, if it's not still try to explain how the adoption will be)
Share learnings/challenges/failures (don't be shy to share failures, showing that you have an open and growth mindset). You can keep this for later if you wish to. You might want to wait for a question around this and then answer. It's a call which you need to make.
When explaining challenges and how you solved them try to use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result)
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Think multidimensional and show that you can think and explain at multiple levels.
Do a dry run before you present.
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Finally, if you carefully craft your case study, you can predict questions that an interviewer might ask and prepare in advance.
- William Rushton
Simplifying life through owning less and how I achieved it. Something which you can follow.