Solid versus Amazing Whiteboard Execution



Updated October 11, 2023
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Once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s time to think about what can take your whiteboard execution from good to great.

Solid Execution

A good whiteboard execution hits on many of the things we have already talked about—proper framing, generating solutions, and collaboration.

You’ve taken the time to understand the problem by looking at it through multiple lenses from the business, user, and engineering side. You’ve defined a specific audience or persona to design this solution for. You’ve pushed back on the initial statement by reframing it, perhaps making it broader or more specific or by discovering a new problem altogether. The interviewers agreed this was the way to go.

Based on your problem you’ve generated many different high-quality ideas quickly. You didn’t dodge any questions—you answered all of them and clarified with the interviewers to make sure their questions were addressed. In the end you made good on time, enough to give you a moment to step back and reflect on what you could have done better.

Amazing Execution

Amazing execution builds on top of solid execution. Usually, I’ve seen this come from design leads who have a rich interaction design vocabulary developed over years of solving complex design problems in different industries.

In this case, you not only solved the initial problem quickly but you also exhausted your interviewer prompts, leaving them with nearly no questions. You’ve impressed them with your level of thinking and creativity by coming up with unconventional solutions that not only solved the problem but also anticipated other issues that you’ve mitigated for.

Although you stated the approach that you would follow to your interviewers up-front, you weren’t rigid. You struck the right balance of moving faster through certain sections, skipping some, but also deliberately taking longer in other parts to make sure no one got lost. In the end, you finished the whiteboard exercise with plenty of time to spare for questions, leaving your interviewers impressed by your execution.

Practicing Better with Whiteboard Prompts

The best way to get better at whiteboards is through practice. Baseline yourself initially to gauge your progress. If you haven’t done any whiteboarding, grab a marker and start sketching. Don’t worry about perfection, just get familiar initially.

The prompts vary depending on the company and the space they’re in. Some exercises range from pragmatic to design fiction. Interviewer guides usually include the prompt, variations, and questions interviewers might ask, plus grading criteria. As an interviewee, you’ll be presented with the prompt up-front and then be asked to walk the interviewer through the process. Here are a couple of starter prompts to experiment with:

Growing Gardens, Growing Business

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