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.

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

The interviewer is interested to see if you have a specific process when approaching problems. What framework do you use? Is your approach rigid or flexible based on the context at hand? Are you able to bend and break the process while focusing on outcomes?

Typically, they’ll ask you to walk through one or two projects from your portfolio. Think of this as a portfolio presentation in condensed form.

Some questions they may ask:

  • What does design mean to you?

  • What is the most exciting project you worked on? Why was it exciting?

  • What was the most challenging project you worked on? What made it difficult?

  • Who was the most difficult stakeholder in this project?

These questions are designed to probe your design process, get some initial signals around your collaboration skills, and to get a glimpse of how you solve problems.

Questions You Should Ask

By this time you want to have done your homework based on your previous interview—this means looking up the person who’s talking to you (know whether they’re a manager or a designer). Tailor your questions based on their experience.

Additionally, this is a chance to learn what it’s really like to work there:

  • Can you walk me through a project that you worked on recently?

  • What was the most complex or largest project you worked on? What made it complex?

  • How does the design team work together?

  • How do you think the design team can improve?

  • Where do you envision yourself as a designer in the next couple of years?

  • What inspires you?

Ending on a High Note

Just like with the previous interview, you should always be thinking about how this interview can set you up for success in the next one. Thank them for the interview, ask if there are any other open questions they have and, if not, ask about next steps.

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