If you’re at the point where you’re trying to figure out what questions to ask in a design interview, then congrats! Someone liked your portfolio enough to set up a meeting. That’s awesome.
If you’re like me, and nervous in interviews, you probably forget about asking the right questions. Remember, a job interview goes both ways. The company wants to see if you’re a good fit for them, but you’re also trying to determine if you actually want to work there or not.
In order to figure out if you do want to work there, you need to ask the right questions. Ask questions like why the position is available, what are some upcoming projects, and how will performance be measured?
Don’t be afraid to ask these questions. Your job may not define you, but it will always be a major part of your life that you should enjoy doing. You want to have a symbiotic relationship with the company you work for.
Initially, you want to research the company enough that you can ask qualified questions in the interview. Employers want to see that you care enough to do some research. Although, more specific questions will have to be addressed in the interview. Here are the six best questions to ask in a design interview.
1. Why is This Position Available?
This feels like both one of the most important questions to ask in a design interview, and also the one that never gets asked.
The job you’re interviewing for is either a brand new position that was just created, an extension of an existing position that simply has too much work, or you’re replacing someone who has left or is leaving. In a less ideal situation, the company could be hiring to replace someone who hasn’t actually been let go yet, though it’s unlikely you would know if that was the case during the interview.
Figuring out why a job is available can tell you a lot about what might be expected of you and whether you are going to be a good fit for the position.
A Brand New Position
For a brand new position, much of the role might be unknown. The company could have created the position without really knowing what they needed, which could made your job very confusing if you’re relatively new to the industry. Alternatively, this could allow you to build out the role yourself and turn it into something better or take it in an entirely new direction as you become more acquainted with the company’s needs.
If the job is available simply because the company is growing and has too much work, it’s likely there is at least one other person at that company currently doing the same or similar job to the one you’re interviewing for. This is great because you’ll have someone else to collaborate with when you need it. If you’re a new designer, this also means you will have someone to learn directly from. This is an ideal place to start as a designer.
In the best case scenario, when replacing an existing designer position, the person leaving will have a bit of time to train you before they leave. Even if it’s just the inner workings of the company, how things are organized, the project processes, etc.. This is very valuable information to have to make sure you start the job off on the right foot.
If you end up replacing someone who didn’t leave on good terms or the position has been vacant for awhile, you might need to play catch up at the same time you’re learning the job. This is less ideal, but not a deal breaker on its own unless you get the vibe that there was a good reason someone left on bad terms with the company.
2. What Are Your Favorite/Best Recent Projects?
This should be one of the more enjoyable questions to ask in a design interview because it should spark a conversation about something the company is proud of.
Unless the company you’re interviewing for is brand new, they should be able to give you some insights on any of their recent projects that have been especially successful. You can use that as a jumping off point to ask follow up questions about the projects they mention.
Alternatively, if the company hasn’t had any highly successful projects in recent memory, this may be where they are looking to improve things. You can ask about aspects of a project they struggled with, where there may have been communication breakdowns, and how they hope to do things different in the future.
Asking about a company’s recent projects is one of the more insightful questions to ask in a design interview because it lets you find out exactly the type of work the company does, from their own mouths instead of their website or PR releases.
3. What is The Culture Like?
This is one of the most telling questions to ask in a design interview, though it’s certainly not an industry specific question. No matter what job you do, the company culture matters.
A lot of companies like to promote the strength of their company culture, touting ‘pizza Friday’s’ or that the break room has a foosball tables; which is fine, but that’s not really culture.
A company’s culture consist of so many things it’s actually hard to pinpoint entirely in a job interview. The people, the management, the HR department, pay & benefits, recognition, vacation time, and more, are all part of the company culture and the perception of the company in the eyes of its employees.
It’s a good question to ask though, just to hear what they say. You might have a more accurate gut reaction to the company after hearing the answer to this question over other questions that are more tangible to answer.
“What’s the company culture like?”
“Umm, good I guess. We sometimes have free granola bars in the kitchen.”
If this is their answer, it likely means the company culture isn’t anything to brag about, or they simply have no idea. If they answer any part of your question saying that the company is like a family, consider that a red flag. Your employer and coworkers are not your family. Companies that exploit the hard work of their employees tend to say this. Overall, you’ll have to go with your gut regarding the answer they give you.
4. What is the Standard Design Process on Projects?
This one really only works if the person interviewing you knows about design. If you’re interviewing for a position at a company where you’ll be the first designer, they won’t be able to answer this. Also, if your interview is only with a manager or HR person, they also might not have any idea. Hopefully though, at some point you can ask about the design process which will give you some insight into how the current designers or marketing team function together.
Alternatively, if there are no previous design projects to ask about (if the company is brand new), ask about their process on other projects that are not design related, like their process for bringing on a new client, or what their project process plan is. Asking these types of questions will give you a great idea if the company has any idea what they’re doing or if they’re just flying by the seat of their pants.
5. Can You Provide Examples of Projects I’d Be Working On?
This is a really great question to ask if you want to make sure the job listing actually aligns with the job. There are plenty of design jobs out there that advertise they work on huge campaigns for well known corporations or create really interesting and unique projects, but less experienced designers usually get stuck doing the menial work that no one else wants to do for at least a few years.
Depending on the team structure, you might actually get to have some creative input, or you might just be delegated to creating endless PowerPoint presentations for the sales team. You won’t know until you actually start working, but asking this question should give you a little insight.
6. What Metrics or Goals Will my Performance be Evaluated Against?
This is a tricky question to ask about a design position, but it’s worth asking anyway to hear what they say. The most organized companies will know immediately how to answer this one for designers, while less organized companies might be at a loss for an immediate answer.
Ideally, you want to work for a company that has regularly scheduled performance reviews, gives regular annual raises, and knows the exact metrics they measure all their employees by. For designers this would likely be based on a designer’s ability to meet deadlines, take criticism and apply it, how they handle mistakes, contribute ideas, and work with other team members.
Designers aren’t really measured by how much money they bring into a company or how many sales they make, since that’s not what they do. This unfortunately makes it hard for non-creatives to measure our performance in a quantitative way; but not impossible.
What Else To Ask?
Aside from the questions listed above, you should also ask any relevant company-specific questions that you are curious about, though it shouldn’t be things that can easily be found online. You should do your research about the company well before the interview takes place so you know what to ask.
Remember, your main task in a job interview is to find out if you want to work there or not.
The employers main task, on the other hand, is to find out if you would benefit the company by working there. The questions should go both ways and at the end of the interview you should have a clear picture of what the company is about and if you want to actually work there.
If you’re still not sure you have a good idea of what it would be like to work at the company, some more questions to ask in a design interview could be:
- What are the biggest challenges that someone in this position would face?
- Do you expect to hire more people in this department in the next six months?
- What do you like most about working here?
- Is there anything else I can provide you with that would be helpful?
Questions to Ask in a Design Interview – In Summary
Knowing what questions to ask in a design interview is so critical for spotting red flags and ultimately knowing if you’re going to enjoy working there or be stuck in a job you hate. So ask a lot of questions, and ask good ones.
What do you think are the best questions to ask in a design interview? Are there more design-specific questions that should be asked, or more generic questions? Let me know in the comments below 🙂
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