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.
Before the call, review what you already have about the company, the role, and the person you’ll be talking to. Have your list of answers (based on anticipated questions) and your list of questions printed so you can take notes without getting distracted by typing noise.
During the Call
It goes without saying that you should be in a quiet room with strong cell phone reception. You might even consider getting a phone number from Google as a backup, but in that case make sure you have a strong wifi connection.
As the conversation wraps up, you’ll usually have a few minutes for questions. Your questions should be tailored to the person who’s interviewing you and the role itself. Focus on a few specific questions to open up the conversation and follow the thread from there. You can think of this as doing user research. What important questions should you ask first? What’s a deal breaker? What are some nice-to-haves to follow up with?
important Be sure to listen actively and take down notes during the interview.
Make sure you don’t ask questions that are easy to find online. Do your homework first. With that said, here are some basic questions to get you started:
How is the design team organized?
What challenges are you facing today?
What problems can I help you with?
What excites you about working here?
How big is the design team now?
If you’ve run out of questions or can’t think of a good question to ask, say they’ve answered your current questions, but would it be OK if you could follow up in an email if more questions come up later? Ten times out of ten, they’ll say yes.
Ending the Conversation on a High Note
Depending on how much time is left, I usually end the conversation with a key question that I learned to use many years ago: “Is there anything I said or didn’t say that would make me a bad candidate for this role?”
How they respond is just as important as what they say.
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importantUse the final closer to gauge their interest, “Is there anything I said or didn’t say that would make me a bad candidate for this role?”
Finally, end the phone call with a friendly close: “It was great getting to know you and learning more about the opportunity—I can’t wait until we chat again. What would be the next step?”
After the Call
After the phone call, take a few moments to reflect on how it went. How did you feel? Do you imagine yourself working at that company? Are there any lingering questions left unanswered? What could you have done better? Take a breather and write your thoughts down while the information’s fresh.
In my experience with phone screens, it’s usually easy to tell if the company is not a good fit at this time. For example, you want to work on the consumer side of the org but they only have opportunities in enterprise this year. Remember, you’re evaluating them as much as they’re evaluating you.
In all cases, nothing wins an interviewer over like a good thank you note after the call. Even if this opportunity didn’t seem like the right fit, you never know if a new one might come along. Genuinely, follow up with an email a couple of hours later mentioning specific things you talked about in regards to the role, the team, or the company.
What to Expect Next
Unless there are obvious mismatches between your application and the role, usually most interviews proceed to the next stage. Sometimes this means you’ll talk with the hiring manager next, or you may get a take-home design exercise to complete before advancing to the next stage.
Preparing for the Hiring Manager
This interview usually follows a few days after the recruiter screening call. Generally you’ll talk to a hiring manager, or occasionally another designer may field this call.
Similarly to the screening call, this interview should last about 15–30 minutes. By this time the recruiter should have relayed some of the information to the hiring manager so they’re on the same page. But you should still expect to introduce yourself and have your pitch ready, in addition to mentioning why you’re excited about this particular opportunity.
Your Design Approach and Process
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