The Best Interview Question for Hiring UX Designers

by Jared M. Spool

What if you could ask one question during an interview that would tell you everything you need to know about the candidate you’re thinking of hiring?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of Lou Adler’s Hire with Your Head recruiting strategy. A big component of how Lou approaches hiring is the interview conversation. While Lou isn’t thinking of hiring designers specifically, it turns out his approach is perfect for the folks who will thrive in your environment and produce great work.

The question is a simple one: “What’s the project you worked on that you’re most proud of?” Now, this isn’t the only question you ask during the interview, just the first one.

Once the candidate tells you their project, you ask them to explain what it was they were trying to do. Then you ask them how the project started.

You can then ask them who else was involved. Design is a team sport and I love having candidates draw org charts of their projects. Then I ask them to tell me who else was involved and what everyone’s contribution was. It helps identify how much of a team player the candidate is and how they dealt with whatever people issues arose.

Anything you want to know about their skills, talents, and contributions can come from that first initial question. Because it’s starting with something they are proud of, I’ve found candidates are more open and honest about what they did.

It also becomes easy to see where a candidate has depth and where they are only skimming on the important qualities. A great candidate can dive into details of their best accomplishment and show what it was all about. Someone who wants to say “I was involved” when they really weren’t starts to stumble and pause when you get to the followup questions.

This one question gets to the core of behavioral interviews, where you look at the past behavior of the candidate to best predict how they’ll work out on your team. Because designers repeat the work habits they learn throughout their career, understanding the details how they’ve worked in the past can tell you a ton about how they’ll work with you.

About the Author

Jared M. Spool is a co-founder of Center Centre and the founder of UIE. In 2016, with Dr. Leslie Jensen-Inman, he opened Center Centre, a new design school in Chattanooga, TN to create the next generation of industry-ready UX Designers. They created a revolutionary approach to vocational training, infusing Jared’s decades of UX experience with Leslie’s mastery of experience-based learning methodologies.

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