editione1.0.2Updated February 27, 2023
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.
Design phone screens are usually short, about 15–30 minutes interviewing with one person. They give you an opportunity to present yourself, your work, and your interest in the company.
If this is your first phone conversation with the company, a recruiter will usually reach out. They’ll talk about the role, ask some questions, and will try to gauge your interest. Aside from screening, they also want to leave you excited about the opportunity. Take advantage of that by treating the recruiter as an ally in the interview process.
important Your 30-second intro should be punchy, specific, and short.
A call with the hiring manager is usually next. On occasion I also had these calls with peer designers. Either way, since both parties have domain expertise, they’ll dig deeper on your design process and case studies.
important Practice ahead of time. If you’re feeling nervous about the conversation or you’re not sure, practice with a friend ahead of time. Start by writing out your answers and reading them out loud. Then have a friend call you and have them ask you some tough questions. Let them also throw you off a bit so that you can practice how to react to questions you haven’t prepared for.
The first few minutes of a phone screen are usually formulaic, so it helps to think through the questions ahead of time. Preparing by writing your answers down will help you come off as confident and even spontaneous if you rehearsed your story thoroughly. Generally, you’ll be asked about your work background, your design approach, and your current work situation.
Below are examples of some of the common questions you might encounter.
This is an opportunity for you to set up the context of your story. Remember the pitch you’ve prepared. You want to come off as having a deliberate career path in mind.
Sample questions in this category:
Tell me more about your career journey—how did you end up where you’re currently at?
What would you like to do next?
Why are you interested in working with us?
Where do you envision yourself long-term?
What are you looking for next in your role?
These questions give the interviewer a sense of your past, your present, and where you want to be in the future.
Not exactly the most fun questions, but these are necessary for the interviewer to ask to make sure everyone’s on the same page:
Why are you searching now?
Would you require visa sponsorship in the future?
What salary are you expecting?
cautionRemember, in most states (in the U.S.), it’s illegal for a recruiter to ask you how much you’re making. But if they do, you can give a generic answer stating that you’re being paid the fair market average. That said it’s legal for a recruiter to ask about compensation expectations. One way you can answer this question is to ask what band they have for this specific role.
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.
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.