Some ux/design research job interview questions

Please see the revised and updated version of this post here.

I’ve had a busy past couple months in my search for a job in design research. I’m excited to announce that my freelancing days are over, as I recently accepted a full-time position at a product design consultancy here in Portland (details TBA).

With all of the interviewing I’ve been doing lately, I thought it might be helpful to post a list of some of the questions I’ve been asked for other ux/design research job seekers to think about in their preparation for talking with prospective employers (whether full-time or contract).

While you obviously won’t get asked all of these, I think it’s good to practice how one might approach answering them because they just might come up (of course, some are more likely than others). In my mind, some of these are pretty standard, while others are less common and reflect the personal style of the particular interviewer who asked them. Some of them are good questions while others aren’t; some will make you think while others are pretty closed-ended; some really allow the job applicant to shine, while others are just… blah.

The questions are organized according to a typology I derived from my notes and memory. For some additional context, they come from both in-person and phone interviews with a number of agencies that specialize in user experience design, brand strategy, market research, ethnographic research, and evaluation research.

The Questions

Training, skills and experience

  • What is your experience with ethnography?
  • Do you have experience with videography?
  • How many focus groups have you done? How many usability studies? How many ethnographies? How many reports have you written? Etc.
  • What skill do you possess that you think you do better than 99.9% of the entire population?
  • Do you have project management experience?
  • How is what you did at your last job applicable to this one?

Doing research (methods, approaches, theory, analysis)

  • What attracts you to research?
  • How do you feel about quantitative research?
  • Where are you at with incorporating theory into your research?
  • What consumer decision-making models and theories are you familiar with?
  • What is your favorite social theory?
  • How do you approach qualitative data analysis?
  • How do you analyze ethnographic data?
  • Have you used any qualitative data analysis software?

Project experience

  • Tell me about some of the projects you’ve worked on.
  • When you worked on projects at your previous job, what sort of role did you play? (i.e., Did you lead or assist? Both? Did you manage projects? Etc.)
  • What phases of research were you most often involved with?
  • Have you worked with recruiters?
  • Why did you choose such-and-such method for this particular project? If you could go back, would you have done it differently?
  • Give me an example of a project you worked on for which you had to translate research data into insights.

General job related questions

  • Are you interested in contract or full-time work?
  • Are you open to a contract-to-hire position?
  • Are you open to travel?
  • What’s your freelance rate (hourly, daily, etc.)?

Career

  • What kind of work do you really want to do?
  • Why did you go into anthropology?
  • Why did you leave your last position?
  • What are you looking for long term?
  • Have you ever worked with any design firms?
  • What kind of company are you looking to work for?
  • What does your future look like? Where do you want to be professionally?

Workplace

  • How do you work with others?
  • It’s important for you to be a good fit for us, and vice versa. What are you looking for when it comes to a workplace?
  • How do you feel about working for a small agency versus a large corporation?

Creative, personal, and curve balls

  • We do a lot of research on food. What kind of restaurants do you like to eat at?
  • How does design fit into your life both personally and professionally?
  • When it comes to working on projects with coworkers and talking to clients, how would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10, if 1 is introverted and 10 is extroverted?
  • Did you open any of the reports on our website?
  • Do you have any problems or ethical reservations doing certain types of projects or working for clients in certain industries?
  • Who paid for your education?
  • When you were in college, were you the kind of person who worked on papers right before they were due, or did you plan ahead?
  • How would your friends describe you?
  • What are your thoughts on taking risks?
  • Are you an “interrupter?”
  • Are you more of a “process” person, a “product” person, or both?

I like to approach interviews as conversations rather than formalized quizzes of my experiences and skill set, although how that turns out also depends on the interviewer(s). In addition to practicing responding to questions, I like to be as prepared as possible by familiarizing myself with the company, job description, and, if possible, my interviewer(s) (e.g., by researching online profiles and social media accounts) However, I try to avoid over-preparing because it usually just ends in disaster (been there, done that) and just try to be myself.

What questions have you been asked in interviews for design research positions, or for other related jobs? I’m especially interested in the unexpected questions that make you think on your feet. Feel free to share your examples in the comments below.

Also: Check out this excellent post by Beta Grace on interviewing for UX Research positions.

10 thoughts on “Some ux/design research job interview questions

  1. Super helpful, thanks for sharing! I’m surprised by the “how many” questions, I’d really have to think about how many different kinds of studies I’ve done…difficult to answer, especially if they are extensions of projects or ongoing. I’ve had designers ask me how I “translate” research for different audiences, such as for designers I’m working with, versus clients who were or were not part of the process, or for a board meeting. I’ve also been asked, “Tell us about a design decision made based on your research.” I’d like to propose another category called “Red Flags.” This would include such items as, “How do you handle very stressful situations?” or “This place is like a library most days” and “Can you start this Sunday? (for a deadline Monday)”

  2. I’m not a fan of the “how many… have you done” questions because I think there are more effective ways of learning about people’s experience or skill level. Plus, if someone asks me, “How many interviews have you done?”, I’m pretty much coming up with a random estimate. I think my answer was something like, “A ton. I’ve been using them as a research method since I was an undergrad in 2006.”

    I like the question about translating research for different audiences, because that’s one of the most important aspects of our jobs.

    Funny that you mention red flags – I’m working on a post right now about some advice for interviewers/employers during interviews based on my recent experiences. 🙂 A preview of one red flag response when I asked one guy about work-life balance: “You’ll be working 70-80 hours when you start, but it *should* go down from there.” At least he was honest!

  3. Although presumably, folks have already seen your resume/cv and know of your academic background, the focus is much more on experience or experiential learning – consistent with the growing trend that experience trumps a degree.

  4. @robertlfs
    Agreed – I don’t think a single person asked me about where I went to school, though I would usually mention this in my introductory spiel and eventually talk about some of the applied research projects I did.

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