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Top 10 Must-Ask Interview Questions for Designers

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Ok, so you need a designer. But not just any designer. Someone who will mesh with your team, even your company. Finding the right designer can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not a creative yourself. Here are ten questions to help you discover if a designer has the conceptual and collaborative skills, attitude, and—of course—the design mojo, to be a part of your creative team.

1. “Where do you find inspiration?”

See who or what influences your designer and whether they keep up with current trends. Are they influenced by the art scene, skateboarder world, architecture, furniture, interior decorating, straight-up visual design? What apps do they admire? Which sites make them jealous they didn’t create it? Even though you may not recognize every name, brand, or product he or she lists, that’s okay. You're looking for passion and an open mind. Great designers are constantly inspired by and learning from the work of others.

2. “How did you design your portfolio?”

First, double-check that they actually did it themselves! Did they use Squarespace or Dribble? Or did they code it themselves? Then explore why it’s arranged like it is. If they say, “The newest stuff is up front” or “It’s just all my work laid out,” that's a bad sign. You’re looking to learn how they think and organize their work. Especially if you want a designer who’s skilled in UX/UI, it’s particularly important they are aware of the usability and functionality of their portfolio.

Also, look for variety in the work. You need a flexible designer with a broad range of abilities, so they can adapt quickly and create work that appeals to you and your clients/customers.

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3. “Tell me about the projects you’re most proud of and why. What was your role?”

Before the interview, try to find your favorites, too (so you can mention them if the designer doesn’t). Get details on the project itself and the specific role they played in it. Usually, designers don’t list their actual duties, just the end deliverable. Have them walk you through to see if they were involved in strategy, concepting, execution, etc. Of course, just because something isn’t in their portfolio doesn’t mean they can’t create it. But understanding what they regularly tackle helps you see if they’d be a fit.

4. “What software do you use?”

Can they go beyond Photoshop and InDesign toward newcomers like Sketch and UXPin? Do they have extra skills like animation, video, or illustration, which could come in handy for other projects? Are there languages or programs they would like to learn? Do they have print skills for layout and production work? Can they back up their design with coding skills? If you’re not familiar with the creative design world, get someone on your team who is to jump into the interview or check out our job descriptions to get a better understanding of the skills needed by role.

5. “How do you work cross-functionally with developers, copywriters, project managers, etc.?”

The best designers are team players. They know how to concept, ask questions, incorporate feedback, and collaborate on projects. Ask for a specific example of how they worked under a tight deadline when they had to rely on other people or for how they interacted when the team had very different work styles.

6. “Are you typically involved in the strategy or ‘concept’ phase of a project?”

Designers who have led projects, incorporated intake from stakeholders, and been part of the strategic planning phase are the ones you want to snag for your team. Their range of skills is extensive: from executing existing briefs to understanding the why behind the ask to developing concepts to presenting work. Bonus? Someone who’s worked face-to-face with clients—external or internal.

7. “What’s your creative process?”

Here you want to understand how this person best works, and if that works for you and your team. Do they try to understand the problem before they start designing? What kinds of questions do they ask? Are they comfortable with ideation? Can they execute on someone else’s idea? Do they like to brainstorm or concentrate on their own? Do they like when people offer advice? Are they more of a leader or a contributor? How do they collaborate remotely, which is rapidly becoming the new norm? Can they handle curveballs? Their answers will give you something to marinate on.

8. “How do you deal with feedback?”

Great designers actually want feedback on their work because they know it can make the final project even better. Ask for specific ways your designer has used feedback to improve, what they consider valuable criticism, how they prefer to receive it, and how they handle themselves when the feedback from you or a client differs from their own opinion.

Top designers can support and defend their work in respectful ways, sharing insights on their choices and providing options for change. You want someone who believes in their work, but won’t be difficult or inflexible.

9. “How do you hand off a project?”

Final handoff can determine the success (and future accessibility) of any design project, so you want a designer who makes the final handoff as smooth as possible. Do they recommend specific file types for final review with the client? Do they provide source files? Have they bundled or organized the files for future use? Have they created a naming structure for ease of use? You don’t want someone who’s just rushing to the project finish line without consideration of the project results or future needs.

10. “What’s your dream job?”

A big, broad open-ended question can be a glimpse into their personality. You might get someone who takes it very seriously and sticks to a realistic role within their current space, like the creative director at Wieden & Kennedy. Another that showcases their humor—maybe they want to be a food critic!—or a novelist. This can be great for determining culture fit, and deciding if you want to sit next to someone for 8+ hours a day.

Anything else you should know?

If you need a hand before you even get to the interview process, give us a shout. We’re happy to pre-screen design candidates, so it goes even smoother.

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