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3 skills I look for when interviewing designers

By Vlad Zinculescu on 14 Mar 2022

Over the past years, I interviewed 100+ mid-level or senior UX and product designers. I always look for these three skills during a portfolio review or a design exercise.

3. Craftsmanship

Of course, I start by looking at your design process without putting too much emphasis on the aesthetic qualities of your work. Like most companies with a mature design org, we have a robust design system that you'll be using almost all the time. Because of this, I look for a basic understanding of color, typography, and the ability to produce coherent designs. I'm mostly looking out for red flags.

Ideally, I'd like to see someone asking the right questions, proactively searching for insights into their audience, and not limited by available tools.

When working on the solution, intent is central to everything you put in, or leave behind. I expect to see a clear reflection of the insights gathered before. It's a plus if you bring in relevant learnings from past experience to influence the design and speed up the process.

I believe no one can guarantee the right solution from the first attempt. Because of this, I expect to see that you consider validating your assumptions and try to flush out the weaknesses of your design before it ships.

2. Communication

Here I'm looking for more than your English level. If it's enough for you to clearly articulate your message, then you're good.

Communication is about how you understand the challenges, rephrase and summarize them to tell a straightforward story about what is wrong and how your solution addresses it. I also look to see the level of your engagement. Are you paying attention to what my colleague or I am saying? Are you using our feedback?

1. Commercial awareness

This is where most designers fail. Most designers don't think of the implications of their designs. Either they want to do trendy stuff and reach the first page on dribbble or love the user so much that they don't consider the feasibility of their designs.

Commercial awareness is an umbrella term we use to describe how you think about the impact of your solution on the business and the user.
I love seeing a designer who considers the solution's viability and its ROI. They think about testing the impact of their solution and mitigating risk. Instead of waiting long periods of time before everything is ready, they prioritize features and ship them out in batches to serve the user fast.

The decision

From my experience, commercials awareness is the hardest of the 3 skills to master. For some, developing this skill set goes agains their personality. Because of this, if a candidate is not up to the level we're looking for, the answer will sadly be no. But if a candidate shows solid commercial awareness, I could accept a lower level on the other two categories.

In my book, craftsmanship is the easiest to master. With numerous online tutorials and courses, anyone can learn to design if they put in the time. So if a candidate is lagging a bit behind on this or on communication, I might say yes if I think they can get up to speed in a short amount of time.

Posted in Interview