Master your Interview Approach: A Framework for Designers

October 12, 2021

This post has been adapted and updated from an earlier post published on August 11, 2020. * author’s note: I have interviewed many young hopeful designers throughout my career and the struggle is real on both sides. The interviewee doesn’t always know what to do and how to prepare, and for the interviewer to not have to struggle through listening to a poorly thought out presentation. I have taught this method a few times and received extraordinary results from designers who have used it to stay engaged with their interviewers. There is a high level of professional maturity in being able to be engaging and interact during your interview. Use the following tips to improve your chances of receiving more job offers.

Job seeking is hardly ever a fun process. We spend hours pouring over every word in our resumes and checking and rechecking the layout of our portfolios. (Read my other articles on resume and portfolio building here!) The one thing that is often overlooked is teaching designers how to tell the story of their work. We are storytellers, visually, by the nature of our work, but when it comes to speaking about it, we often ramble on and on over tidbits that seem so important in the moment, but when you look up and see the glazed-over look of the person you are speaking to, you may realize you have overdone it. The following article provides a concise framework to help you think through the content of your message and how to keep the other party thoroughly engaged. The act of interacting with your audience brings your professionalism to another level and showcases your skills in communication and relationship building. 

This first portion of learning this framework is to help designers identify and prioritize the significant parts of projects they want to discuss with potential employers, or anyone else when presenting their work during the interview process. I have combined a visualization tool (Storyboard Frame) that most designers are familiar with and the STAR methodology that focuses on succinctly explaining projects for interviews. Designers can feel free to sketch and write content as they use this method to suit their needs.

As a foundation, it intends to guide designers to consider their career or project story thoughtfully; about what to say, how to say it, and how to find a thread to weave together a project description in 10 minutes or less. I recommend keeping the presentation short so that the designer may use the subsequent minutes to engage with the hiring manager and create a more conversational environment, encouraging questions and increasing engagement during the interview process. Never afraid to pause between frames to ask questions or take a moment to bring the interviewer into the storytelling. 

STORYBOARDING THE STAR METHOD:

Use a storyboard to sketch or write out in six easy frames a simplified and impactful explanation of each project you are showcasing in your interview in time blocks and a concise manner. 

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  1. Start with the outcome of the project in Frame #6 and the impact it had. The impact can be measured by what the intended impact was through the idea generated, what the generated impact may end up being (soft impact), or by an actual metric. Clearly stating who, why, and what impact your product has had is extraordinarily important. 
  2. Next move on to summarize what the problem space was and where there were potential opportunities on Frame #1 Provide context as to why ‘the ask’ exists and any other information that will frame the story.
  3. The four middle frames should be a mixture of your tasks and actions explained through brag statements that showcase what you did that was special and made an impact on moving the project forward. * a note about bragging: these should be points so specific to your contribution that they make you stand out from your competition. I recommend calling out things that are less common or ways that YOU specifically contributed to the specific impacts or outcomes of the project
  4. Make sure your talking points flow from one to the next. Figure out the thread that will help weave your story together. Maybe it was your impact on your amazing trend analysis? Or maybe your deep understanding of specific human behavior? Identifying the tie between your frames will help you weave a seamless story of what you can achieve as part of a team.
  5. For each brag frame (a total of four) have three bullet points written out to help remind you what milestones you hit, actions you took, or challenges you overcame.
  6. Keep your brag frame explanations to no more than two minutes apiece. Remember you want to have a more thorough conversation WITH the interviewer about the project than just talking at them. 
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Stephanie engaging the crowd about design

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Make eye contact- even through a video chat.
  • Always have questions prepared and have knowledge or statistics of their company or product to discuss. You are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. However, leave questions about money or benefits until later in the interview process.
  • Leave the interviewer with enough time to ask questions.
  • Give enough context and information (but not too much) so that the interviewer can provide you with leading questions that will help you get more specific about information they may be seeking. (If you give so much information upfront, then it becomes more difficult to pinpoint what the interviewer may be trying to uncover from you.) 
  • Make sure you ask leading questions such as “what else can I tell you about my work to see if my skills are a good fit?” or “is there a specific skill you are looking for from your possible candidates?”
  • Find ways to engage them throughout the interview. Ask questions, pause for dramatic effect, throw in a joke. Use engagement questions such as “does this make sense to you?” “Do you have any questions on what I just went over?” or even “Have I touched on everything you may be interested in?”.
  • Any time you interact or make someone laugh or elicit a response it heightens the likelihood to create a bond. Take every opportunity to engage.
  • Always remember to thank them for their time and ask for a way to follow up. This gives you a direct communication line if you can get it.

I hope that this method will help guide you to be concise about the information you share during the precious minutes you have during an interview to make your best impression. Being prepared helps you project confidence and control and subsequently showcases a strong professional image that perpetuates engagement and interactivity when you have the expertise to share. Every moment of a shared interaction adds to building a mutual rapport. This will increase your chances of being remembered and equip you with continued confidence in the story you can share about your career.

Please note this is a guide to help you, but it is meant to be flexible for your needs. Take the time to practice telling your story to people around you to ensure your story is clear and can be followed by anyone. Good luck!

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