Cross-Functional Interviews

5 minutes, 2 links


Updated October 11, 2023
Land Your Dream Design Job

You’re reading an excerpt of Land Your Dream Design Job, a book by Dan Shilov. Filled with hard-won, personal insights, it is a comprehensive guide to landing a product design role in a startup, agency, or tech company, and covers the entire design interview process from beginning to end, for experienced and aspriring designers. Purchase the book to support the author and the ad-free Holloway reading experience. You get instant digital access, commentary and future updates, and a high-quality PDF download.

After interviewing with the designers, you’ll talk with your cross-functional peers: product managers, engineers, and researchers. The primary goal of these interviews is to understand how well you work with others and measure your level of empathy and consideration of others.

Product Manager

In many cross-functional teams, you’ll work with the PM closely on a daily basis. They’ll want to know:

  • How you’ve worked with PMs and any conflicts you’ve encountered.

  • Your ability to work on multiple projects with different timelines.

  • How you balance different constraints in your work.

Sample questions you may get asked:

  • What is your design process like?

  • You’re given a project that you need to execute on in one week to meet a deadline. How will you approach it?

  • How often do you like to share work? How do you share work with the team for feedback?

  • What types of conflicts have you encountered with product managers? How did you resolve them?

  • How will you let me know if you’re going to miss a deadline?

Take the time in this interview to understand what kind of PM they are. Just like product design, product management has many aspects to it. What gets the PM excited to go to work every morning? What part of the process do they enjoy the most? How do they see design contributing to the product development process? Have they done design before? These are all good questions to keep in your back pocket.


Engineers have the final say on what gets built, as they’re the last persons to touch the artifact. Similar to a PM, they’ll be interested in how you partner with their kind. They’ll examine:

  • Collaboration with engineering and empathy for constraints.

  • Handling conflict in design and engineering situations.

Sample questions you may get asked:

  • How do you prefer to work with engineering?

  • How did you successfully partner with engineering?

  • What’s the worst part of working with engineers?

  • How do you assess a design’s technical feasibility? When do you consider it in your process?

If you’re new to design or have never worked with engineers before, you might not know how to proceed or how to find common ground with your engineering counterpart. One way you can address this gap is by selling the engineer on your collaborative skills and your ability to learn quickly.

If lack of collaboration skills is a big barrier, you can invest some time by participating in a hackathon or contributing to an open-source project. Many of these are engineering-led and don’t have a design contributor. Find interesting projects and reach out to the engineers there.

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UX Researcher

Sometimes you might get interviewed by a UX researcher. If you do, consider yourself lucky—great design rests on solid research, and knowing how research is treated will give you deeper insight into the company’s design culture. Researchers won’t expect you to know the ins and outs of doing research, but they will ask you how you’ve engaged with their function:

  • Your preferences working with research.

  • Conflicts you’ve encountered when working with research.

Sample questions:

  • How have you worked with researchers in the past?

  • Tell me a time when you successfully collaborated with research. What made the collaboration successful?

  • Was there a time when your design failed in a research study? Can you tell me why it failed and what happened next?

If you have time left over, use this to learn about the company’s design maturity. A couple of ways you can get at that question is by asking when researchers are included in the product planning process (if at all). Ask them about what pain points they’ve encountered in their role and how they prefer to work with design.


At the end of your interviews you’ll meet either with the hiring manager or the recruiter. This is another opportunity to reinforce your enthusiasm for the role. They’ll let you know what happens next and the time frame for the final decision on your candidacy.

For another list of interview questions, check out BuzzFeed’s design interview questions.

Behavioral Interview Tips

Even when you have your answers prepared, your delivery still matters. Here are a few best practices to consider.

Use a Story Format

Many behavioral interviews will ask you about a situation in the past to assess how you handled it. It’s not unlike the methods we use in user research. We don’t ask participants to predict what they’ll do in the future—we ask them what they actually did. In an interview setting, you’ll also have to get specific and use your storytelling skills to give an example and provide concrete learnings.

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