What to Ask, What to Hear
Why are you interested in working with us?
This will demonstrate whether the candidate has done his research, has a clear understanding of your company’s mission and product, and his expectations of design’s contributions.
What do you have to offer us?
This question will elicit the candidates’ understanding of the aggregate of her education, experience, and passions. It should also tell you what the candidate would feel empowered to accomplish within your organization, as it allows them to demonstrate their understanding of your needs and desires.
What project in your portfolio are you most proud of and why?
It almost doesn’t matter which project they select, it’s the “why” that’s important. You want to hear their business reasons for selecting a particular project—metrics about brand building, lower cost, new materials, new vendors, profits, innovations enabled—as well as how customer focused it is and how well it enhances customer experience. You do not want to hear: “It looks cool,” although whatever it is should look great—beautiful if possible. You also want to hear the story of the project—the ability to tell stories about the work is a very important part of explaining and convincing.
How do you learn about consumers (or customers)?
Recent graduates can speak to watching people select and buy things and asking buyers why they made the selection they did, or asking customers coming out of a movie theater about their comfort during the experience, or watching people trying to insert their credit card in an airport ticket kiosk and following them through the process of seat selection, baggage check, and so on. Designers with 3 to 5 years of experience, depending on where they worked previously, will be able to speak to working with ethnographers and other research specialists and to participating in observing consumers and getting their input in the design process or sharing design concepts with them.
How do you stay on top of trends?
You want to hear about the dozens of magazines they subscribe to personally, that are available to them at work, or that they look at online; the conferences they attend; the sites and blogs they look at; the trade shows they attend; the people in their network who are experts in another field. You also want to know about interests from outside the design world.
If we asked the people you work with what it’s like to work with you, what would they tell us?
You want to hear insightful observations of how they are perceived by co-workers and managers, perhaps, “It would depend on who you ask. X would tell you that I am very difficult because I am so demanding. Y would tell you that he loves to work with me because I stay focused on what needs to be done,” and so on. You don’t want to hear: “I never asked.”
What would you do if your recommendation for a solution was rejected?
You want to hear: “That would never happen because I keep everyone in the loop throughout the process.” Or, that they would seek to realign the thinking of the decision-makers through presentations on how they arrived at the recommendation and subsequent discussions.