how-to-prepare-for-an-awesome-product-designer-interview

Take a peek behind the scenes to see what questions we ask, and how we evaluate the answers to find great designers at Snapdocs

Wells Riley

Interviewing for a new job can be really rough.

Often times the process is completely opaque. There are portfolio presentations, sample projects, hours-long on-site interviews, and questions designed to trip up candidates or find the fraudsters. That is, if you even hear back from your application in the the first place.

Even though companies aren’t often asking about ping-pong balls in school busses anymore, the process can still come from a defensive, suspicious place. It’s less about attracting and energizing amazing candidates than it is about filtering out the bad ones. While I am a firm believer in hiring for role and values fit, I do believe there’s a better way than approaching hiring from a place of doubt.

Maybe the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.

Snapdocs is a technology company that’s reimagining real estate transactions by helping everyone involved in the process work better together. Our talent team already responds to every applicant, no matter what—we’re all people, after all. Someone who might not be a great fit today could be a trusted colleague a year from now when our business changes, so it’s important to us that every candidate have a great experience.

But today I’d like to try something new—I’m going to share what every step in our process is, and what we’re looking for to find the best candidate. If you’re a strong, experienced designer who’s interested in the challenge of designing a product that makes real estate less frustrating and more accessible, I want to make sure you have the best opportunity to showcase your skill.

Step 1: Introduction

Your resume and portfolio are the ultimate design challenge. You need to know your audience, and what their goals are. The purpose is to give the hiring manager and recruiter enough signal, as quickly as possible, that your design skill and experience are a match for the role they’re trying to fill. We’re also assessing how clearly you communicate the context around your work and how polished the overall presentation is.

✨ Learn more and apply at https://www.snapdocs.com/careers

The strongest candidates…

  • Present a resume where form and function are in perfect harmony. A well-designed resume demonstrates attention to detail and visual design / layout skills.
  • Communicate their skills, experience, and interests clearly and succinctly. Enough information to grab the hiring manager’s interest, and nothing more.
  • Paint a complete picture for us. . If the candidate has a strong social presence (like a GitHub, Dribbble, LinkedIn, blog, etc.) working links are included. Weak social profiles (like a blank Dribbble account) are excluded. A strong candidate participates in the design industry and shares work and ideas they’re proud of.

Design a strong portfolio website. Squarespace templates or custom HTML/CSS are both fine. Case studies and mockups are both fine. No images at all — great! The best portfolios showcase the candidate’s strongest work, and leave everything else on the cutting room floor. The best portfolios clearly show the context, considerations, and solution for the piece of work in a way that an outsider can easily and completely understand.

Step 2: Recruiter call

At Snapdocs, the recruiter’s first job is creating a great candidate experience. Your recruiter will work to understand your past experience, your ideal next role, availability for interviews, potential commute, salary requirements, and where you’re at in the process with other companies.

This will also be your first opportunity to get to know our business and internal workings a bit. If you have a question about benefits, location, company structure, the product, etc. — please ask!

Step 3: Meet the hiring manager (me!)

This is likely the first time you’ll meet me, and my job in this call is to get you excited about the role, and the mission and vision of the company. I’m ultimately responsible for hiring the best person for the job and, once you arrive at Snapdocs, I will be instrumental in creating an environment in which you can do fulfilling, important, and challenging work.

Take advantage of this time to ask questions and get to know me. Take time before the meeting to think about what you really care about in a company and what your ideal role looks like. Research Snapdocs. Ask questions that help you decide if Snapdocs fits those criteria! I will do the same in return.

Questions:

  • Tell me about yourself. What’s your story?
  • What are you looking for in your next role?
  • What are you hoping to do or learn that you couldn’t do in your past roles?
  • Why Snapdocs in particular? What stands out?
  • What do you need to know about Snapdocs and the role to decide if it’s a good fit for you?

The strongest candidates…

  • Clearly and thoughtfully articulate what they’re looking for in their next role. They have an opinion, and articulate why they’re looking for those things.
  • Ask more than several questions that dig below the surface of the job description or stated company mission, looking for a good fit.
  • Show genuine interest in the company or space, and excitement for the job and opportunities at Snapdocs in particular. The interview process is a two-way street… we get the most excited about candidates who are excited to be here. Hopefully you feel the same way!

Step 4: Portfolio review (via Hangouts)

This is a critical stage. The ask is to share two or three projects you’re most proud of, that best represent your skills and experience as a product designer.

Portfolio review with a group of designers

Portfolio review with a group of designers

It’s not just your work that’s on display—we’re also looking at how you manage your time (45 minutes to completely run through–including time for questions!), how you organize and present information, how you tell a story, and how you help someone who has no prior context about the problem or the work gain a clear understanding.

These are all skills critical to the day-to-day job of being a product designer at a startup!

The strongest candidates…

  • Tell a story around their work, sharing context, their journey through the project, and tangible outcomes clearly and succinctly. Everyone leaves the room with a clear understanding of the work and why it was interesting.
  • Stop at key points to solicit questions. They know the work so well, they’re excited to go into detail wherever it’s needed.
  • Budget time for questions and discussion, so that the session can end right at 45 minutes without leaving projects or discussions with loose ends.
  • Design the whole experience of the presentation. The intent and attention to detail stands out more than just clicking around a personal website!

Step 5: On-site interview

The on-site is often our first opportunity to meet in person! It’s an exciting day because you’ll meet the people you’d be working with, visit our wonderful space, and get a feel for what it’d be like to actually work at Snapdocs.

Not only will you meet other designers, you’ll also meet cross functional partners from engineering and product too. Their job is to dig deeper into your skills and experience, and assess fit with the role and the job we’re trying to fill.

Session 1: Product walkthrough with a PM

The purpose of this session is to go deep and give you a clear understanding of the Snapdocs product and the business problems it solves. So, ask us questions about our business, the product, our design paradigms, or anything else!

Additional questions:

  • Tell me about a time you disagreed with a PM that was especially difficult for you. What happened, and what did you do to resolve the situation?
  • What’s been a particularly successful process you’ve used to collaborate with a PM on research and user testing? Walk me through a specific experience.
  • Tell me about a time where you had to ship something that was ‘good enough’
  • Tell me about a time where your PM had work spilling off their plate. What happened?

The strongest candidates…

  • Ask thoughtful questions with the aim of more deeply understanding the product, customer, and opportunity.
  • Actively participate in the conversation, and are not passively led. Their attempts at understanding drive the conversation forward.
  • Demonstrate what it’s like for a product manager to work in a collaborative setting with them.

Session 2: Design thinking exercise with a designer

The purpose of this session is to assess how you approach problem solving and ideating with a teammate. This is less about getting “the right answer” and more about understanding your process and ability to ask questions, think quickly, and manage ambiguity. This is a collaborative exercise!

The prompt: We’ve been tasked with building a new product that reimagines the eSigning experience on mobile devices. Let’s work together to try to come up with a compelling prototype we can build and share with our initial customers for feedback.

The strongest candidates…

  • Demonstrate natural talent in breaking down a big, ambiguous problem into approachable chunks.
  • Ask many clarifying questions before jumping to conclusions.
  • Collaborate with the designer, leveraging the partnership to do better work than either could do alone.

Session 3: Design implementation with an engineer

At Snapdocs designers and engineers work together very closely to create new benefits for our customers, and this session gives us a glimpse into how you collaborate with your technical partners and how you approach that critical relationship.

The prompt: Our engineering team is always looking for ways to improve our front-end development process, and we’ve been tossing around the idea of creating a design system in partnership with the design team. Can you help me think through the process and approach?

Additional questions:

  • Tell me about a time you struggled to work with an engineer on your team.
  • What’s something you recently learned from an engineer colleague that changed how you approach your design work?

The strongest candidates…

  • Demonstrate experience solving problems alongside engineers with empathy and understanding for their needs, constraints, and skills.
  • Ask questions and attempt to understand the deeper context.
  • Collaborate with the engineer, leveraging the partnership to do better work than either could do alone.

One on one interview with a member of the Snapdocs team

One on one interview with a member of the Snapdocs team

Session 4: Operating principles

The design team at Snapdocs isn’t looking for “culture fit”—in fact, we prioritize creating a team comprised of many different cultures! Instead we look at something we call principles fit. What do you value? how do you make decisions? And do those align with our principles?

Questions:

  • You’ll be asked to describe experiences that show how you’ve handled situations that put stress on our operating principles: Empathy, Pragmatism, Authenticity, Innovation, Teamwork, and Results.

The strongest candidates…

  • Align well with our operating principles , and can demonstrate how their values have helped them make decisions or face challenges in the past.
  • Ask many questions to more deeply understand what Snapdocs values and how those values are tested.

Session 5: Wrap up with the hiring manager (me again!)

That’s it! We’re pretty much done. I’ll wrap up any loose ends, and answer any final questions you have. I want you to leave your on-site with a strong sense of whether or not you think Snapdocs is the kind of place you can see yourself enjoying and creating a big impact in.

Questions:

  • How did the day go? How are you feeling about Snapdocs?
  • What questions can I answer for you?
  • What stood out during your interview (good or bad?)

The strongest candidates…

  • Reflect openly about their impressions of the company and, if they’re interested, share excitement and reservations they have.
  • Reflect on the interview and provide positive or constructive feedback.

After the on-site, the interview panel will provide feedback to the hiring manager in private, and then we will discuss the feedback as a group.

Next Steps

After the on-site, the interview panel will get together as a group to share feedback. Our recruiter will be in touch to share our feedback and hear yours.

Final step: Offer

If we believe there’s a great fit—impressive experience, strong skills, open mindset and hunger to learn, low ego, and genuine excitement for the opportunity Snapdocs presents—we’ll make an offer!

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