Product Designer Interview Preparation

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In this post, we are going to discuss various aspects of the product designer interview:

If you are preparing for a product designer interview in the near future, you've good reason to be stressed. 

Product design interviews are designed to assess your product design philosophy and creative, problem-solving skills—and so, they can be intimidating. You may be asked about your about your design vision, past design projects, challenges you've faced, or your views on established products.

As is the case with any other interview, solid preparation is key for sealing your desired product design role.

Where do you start? By getting familiar with the interview process and practice answering common product design questions.

In this article, we will take a look at the different segments in a product design interview and breakdown how best you can answer product design interview questions (with examples).

Product Designer Interview - Common Pointers

Product Designer interviews are comprehensive; they often consists of multiple rounds of interviews with product designers, product managers, and other stakeholders who evaluate a candidate's technical and creative abilities, design philosophy, and problem-solving skills.

Interviews typically span 30 minutes to 1 hour, and include situational questions, design challenges, and app/product critiques

How to Prepare for Product Design Interview Questions?

Questions in a Product Design Interview generally fall under three categories: situational, product design challenges, and product/app critique. Here's looking at the best way to approach each of these questions: 

A. Situational

Situational interview questions are designed to assess whether you are equipped to perform under difficult circumstances that a product designer faces on a day-to-day basis.

When answering situational questions in a product design interview, it is important to demonstrate how you approach problem-solving and decision-making. Here's three tips to help you out:

  • Use relevant examples: Back your answers with real-life examples of situations you have faced in previous design roles and explain how you addressed them. This will give interviewers an insight into your approach and thought process.
  • Highlight necessary skills: Show how your skills and experiences in your previous role are relevant to the situation and can help you navigate similar situations in your upcoming role. For example, if you've addressed disagreement with stakeholders in the past, highlight how you effectively communicated your vision and convinced them to reconsider their solution. Or if you are asked how you operate under tight deadlines, highlight your time management skills and ability to prioritize your tasks.
  • Explain your approach: Also, show what steps you take to solve different problems. It will show that you are able to think critically and address situations creatively. 

Here's a sample answer:

"I faced a situation in my previous design role where a stakeholder was pushing for a design solution that I felt would not be in the best interest of the target audience. To address this, I scheduled a meeting with the stakeholder to hear out their concerns and explain the issues with the proposed solution. I presented data-driven insights and user feedback to show how the solution would not be user-friendly. I also presented alternative design solutions that addressed the product owner's concerns and were more user-centric. Post the meeting, the stakeholder was convinced with the benefits of the alternative solution and agreed to move forward with it."

Here's some commonly asked situational questions you can expect:

  1. Can you describe a time when you had to manage a design project with tight deadlines?
  2. Imagine a situation where you have to make a trade-off between design quality and project timeline. How would you approach this challenge and make a decision?
  3. Can you give an example of a time when you had to effectively communicate a design concept to a non-design stakeholder?
  4. How do you handle a situation where a team member is not meeting their design commitments?
  5. A stakeholder is requesting changes to your design that would significantly increase the project budget or negatively impact the user experience. How would you handle this situation and communicate the impact of the changes to the stakeholder?
  6. In a hypothetical scenario where you have to design a product with limited resources, how would you prioritize and manage the design process?
  7. You have just joined a new design team and you notice that the team's design processes are not aligned with your design philosophy. How would you approach this situation and ensure a smooth integration with the team?

B. Design Challenges

With design challenges, candidates are typically asked to pitch a solution for a product design challenge that the interviewer might present. You may be asked to design an app or interface for a product, or even redesign a famous app. Needless to say, it is a challenging segment and gives thorough insight into your product design abilities. 

So, how do you answer them in a manner that you appear highly desirable and qualified for the role?

Here's a 4-step approach:

  • Don't jump to the explanation: Before you dive into your solution, make sure you fully understand the prompt and get clarity on the parameters set by the interviewer. You might ask, "Can you give me a bit more information on what the specific requirements and challenges are?"
  • Get all the information you need: Ask questions and gather more information that will help you with you propose a data-driven solution, be it the target audience, market trends, and more.
  • Think critically: Take your time to consider different design approaches and analyze how effective they are. Use sketches or visuals if necessary to give interviewers better insight into your thought process.
  • Present your solution: Clearly communicate your final solution; show how it will address the design challenge and meet the target audience's needs. For instance, if you're asked to design an interface for a rail station ticket booth, you can present your solution by saying, "My design will feature a touch screen interface with clear and intuitive navigation. The interface will have large, easy-to-press buttons for common actions such as purchasing a ticket or checking the train schedule. There will also be a step-by-step guide on the screen to help users complete their transactions quickly and easily."

Here's some commonly asked design challenge questions you can expect:

  1. How would you design an interface for an urban bike-sharing system?
  2. Can you redesign the checkout process for an e-commerce website?
  3. How would you design an app to help people find parking in a busy city?
  4. Can you design an interface for a smart home automation system?
  5. Can you redesign the menu system for a fast food restaurant?
  6. How would you design an interface for a wearable fitness tracker?
  7. Can you design an app for booking and managing doctor appointments?

C. App/Product Critiques

App or Product Critiques are about understanding a candidate's design philosophy and style. Here, interviewers typically ask open-ended questions based on the candidate's app preferences. So, you might either be asked to explain why a certain product is your favorite or critique an existing product design. 

Here's how you can increase your chances of success in this segment:

  • Research beforehand: Reflect and create a list of products or apps that you have strong opinions on wrt the design, interface, user experience, and functionality.
  • Explain your design philosophy: Share what your design philosophy is (what's important to you) and how it helps you evaluate products. For example, you could say, "my design philosophy is centered around creating products that are user-friendly, simple, and functional. I believe that the most successful products are those that are designed with the end-user in mind."
  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the product: Point out what you admire about the product (layout, user experience, and interface) as well as what you would like to see improve (customizations, more user-centric design).

So, if the question were "What is your favorite product", here's one way to answer it:

"My favorite product is Spotify. I believe it revolutionized the way we listen to music with Its vast library of songs, podcasts, and personalized playlists. It's user-friendly design, clean and simple layout, ability to seamlessly switch between different devices and the offline listening mode makes way for an enjoyable and convenient music streaming experience. The strength of Spotify lies in its recommendation algorithms, which offer personalized recommendations based on a user's listening history. This feature has helped me discover new music and kept me engaged with the platform. However, I think adding more customization options for playlists or improving the discoverability of lesser-known artists would enhance the overall experience for users."

Here's some other frequently asked app critique questions in product design interviews:

  1. What is the future of App X?
  2. What makes a product design truly exceptional in your opinion?
  3. Can you talk about a product that you think has changed the game in its industry?
  4. What are some current trends in product design that you are excited about?
  5. How do you envision the future of product design evolving?
  6. Can you discuss a product that you believe has the potential to shape the future?

Leverage Mock Interviews for Product Designer Interview Preparation

There is no better way to calm your nerves and set yourself up for a successful interview than to practice your product designer interview through mock interviews. Not only will you get the insider scoop on the product design interview process, but also receive constructive feedback from career experts regarding your interview performance and suitability for the target role.

Interviewing with experienced professionals (product designers, product managers) is key to getting feel confident about your upcoming interview.