January 25, 2017

Hiring UX Designers: 5 Key Interview Questions

Hiring the wrong UX designer can be nightmarish, easily costing six months to a year of headaches. They could make the difference between a great product and a failed one. Not to mention keeping the engineering “sausage factory” humming along with a steady flow of designs to develop and test. 

So when the need of hiring a UX designer arises, you want to make sure you get it right. After seventeen years of being in the field as a humble web designer to director-level designer, I have a personal 5-point cheat sheet with actual interview questions I always ask designers. 

Technical Grounding

The base level for any digital user experience designer is a core understanding – not specialty knowledge, per se - of how the technology they are designing for actually works. Basic knowledge of HTML, Object Oriented programming languages, database functionality, basic cloud architecture, mobile features, and the overarching technology trends is absolutely essential for a UX designer.


  • How important is the technology to your design thinking?
  • What’s the most technical thing you have ever done?
  • What’s the first line of any HTML code?

Creative Spark

Equally critical to technical grounding is creative potential. The ability for original, creative thought cannot be underestimated in any role in the knowledge economy, but particularly for designers. UX professionals must frequently improvise, think different, be artistic, solve complex problems with new thinking, and be bold and unique. Look for that spark in their eye when they start talking about creative thinking they have done. 


  • What original creative designs have you completed? 
  • What inspires you?
  • What was a complex design problem you solved you are most proud of?

Wide ranging interests

UX designers, except specialized contractors, these days are most effective as generalists, leaving the technical details to engineers and architects. Because so much knowledge has to be absorbed within the digital landscape now — from Globatron screens, to work station UI, to laptops, to smartphones, to smart watches, and now to AR goggles — there is just so much more to know about and care about. Look for professionals with a range of interests and hunger for curiosity as they are more likely to keep up with the vast body of knowledge needed to design in the modern era.


  • Tell me about your favorite subjects of interest?
  • What were your favorite courses or subjects in college?
  • What are you most curious about?

Congenial personality

Because UX is the “lubricant” of a software team, they have to interact widely with a range of different personalities in a range of levels. The level of diplomacy needed is high. Look for candidates that are not rigid in their thinking, refined and friendly in their communication, and are able to take critique well.


  • How important is communicating with your team as a designer?
  • How would deal with a team member that is overly critical or dismissive?
  • Describe your communication style.


In the hurly burly world of digital design, things change in a second. Priorities shift as “pivoting” is a constant. Designers that cannot handle this constant chaotic effect will be frustrated. Look for the ability to remain calm in the storm, solid within the shifting sands, and ability to “roll with the punches.” A designer that becomes too wedded or tied to their designs will become problematic. One that can be molded like clay and adapt to various situations will always be more successful in the every shifting technology landscape.


  • How do you deal with ambiguity?
  • Do you think designers should “fall in love” with their designs?
  • When do you stand up for your design vs changing it to realistic pressures?

Jeff Williams is UX Design Lead at Xinnovation