When you’re looking to hire a designer, how can you make sure you find the right person for your company, your team, and your projects?
Interviewing designers can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not a creative yourself. You might love a candidate’s portfolio, but you’ll need to dig beyond the beautiful work samples to discover exactly what their role was or whether they have the skills, attitude, and design mojo to be successful in the role.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a quick checklist of questions the next time you’re hiring a designer? We thought so!
We present to you Vitamin T’s Top 10 List of Must-Ask Questions for your next designer interview.
1. “Who inspires you and why?”
The designer’s answer to this question will tell you their design influences and whether or not they keep up with current design trends. It also gives you insight into their professional motivations.
Even though you may not recognise every name the candidate lists as influences, that’s okay. What you’re looking for is passion and an open mind. Great designers are constantly inspired by the work of others and learning from design trends.
2. “Why did you arrange your portfolio the way that you did?”
If the answer is, “The newest stuff is up front” or “It’s just all my work laid out,” that's a bad sign. The designer’s answer will show how they think and organise their work. If you’re looking for someone to be involved in UX/UI, it’s particularly important that you find a designer who is keenly aware of the usability and functionality of their portfolio.
Also, ask yourself if the variety work in the portfolio appeals to you. You’re looking for a flexible designer who has a broad range of abilities, so they’ll be able to adapt quickly and create work that appeals to you and your clients.
3. “Tell me about the projects listed in your portfolio and what portion of the project you were directly responsible for.”
More often than not, designers don’t list their actual duties within a project, just the final end deliverables. Getting more details on their specific role on projects will help you understand their capabilities and what kind of deliverables you can expect.
Of course, just because something isn’t in their portfolio doesn’t mean they can’t create it, but knowing the problems they’ve solved before and how they solved them will help you envision what they can do as part of your team.
4. “What software do you use when you design? Which tools do you use during each design stage?”
This is where you find out if the designer understands standard design tools like Adobe’s Creative Suite and newcomers like Sketch and UXPin. If you need skills like animation, video, or illustration for specific client projects, you’ll want to ask those questions here, too. If you’re not completely clear on what’s needed, have someone on your team do a technical interview in addition to yours (or reach out to an agent at Vitamin T and ask about our Expert Interview program if you need help).
If you’re looking for a graphic designer with print skills, you’ll need someone who can do layout and production work. If you need a web designer, they’ll need design and likely HTML/CSS or other coding skills.
5. “What’s your process for working with project team members like developers, copywriters, project managers, etc.?”
The best designers are team players.They know how to ask questions, incorporate feedback, and collaborate on projects. You’re listening for stories about successful collaboration and communication in this person’s previous work history.
Ask for a specific example of how they worked with a team member under a tight deadline and had to rely heavily on one another. Or for an example of how they worked as part of a team that had very different work styles and how they handled it.
If you’ve got a creative team and you’re adding a designer to it, you’ll want someone with great people skills, including listening, compromising, and gaining consensus to achieve a goal.
6. “How often have you been involved in the strategy or ‘concept’ phase of a project?”
Designers who have led projects from intake with stakeholders and been part of the strategic planning phase can help throughout your design process and bring broader perspectives. The range of skills and involvement is extensive: from developing and presenting concepts to simply executing on pre-existing briefs and direction. Be sure you know where each designer’s skills lie in the process to make sure their experience matches your needs.
If you need talent that can be involved in (or lead!) the entire design project, you’ll want someone who is used to being included in the process right from the start. By asking follow-up questions, you can also determine if the person has worked face-to-face with clients—external or internal—adding even more value to your team.
7. “How do you incorporate feedback into your design work?”
A great designer solves design problems for your team and knows how to use feedback to improve. The best designers appreciate constructive feedback on their work, know how to be an active participant in the feedback process, and know how to incorporate their learnings into a project or overall workflow to make better final products.
By asking for specific examples of how and when your candidate has used feedback to improve, you’ll be able to gain insight into what they consider valuable feedback, how they prefer to receive that feedback, and what to expect when your (or a client’s) specific feedback differs from their own opinion.
8. “Tell us about a time when you disagreed with feedback you received from a client. How did you handle that situation?”
Top designers can support and defend their work in respectful ways, by questioning for understanding, sharing insights on why the made their design choices and providing options for change. You’re looking for a candidate who believes in their work, but won’t be difficult or inflexible when dealing with clients, whether they’re external or in-house.
When you ask this question, dig for details so you fully understand situations, roles, and politics that the designer faced. Try to picture this candidate among your current team—even see if you can relate their behaviour to a recent project or feedback you’ve received on others in their role—and be honest with yourself about how their response would be perceived.
You’re looking for a collaborative candidate who has examples of guiding discussions, clearly articulating the problem, and providing solutions that worked out (even when they didn’t fit the candidate’s preference).
9. “What’s your process for handing off a project when it’s complete?”
Final handoff can determine success (and future accessibility) of any design project and shows the care and detail your candidate takes at ensuring that success. You want a designer who makes the final handoff as smooth as possible, thinking through what the client might need.
Does the candidate recommend specific file types for final review with the client? Do they provide source files? Have they considered how they bundled or organised the files for future use? Have they used and/or created their own file naming structure for ease of use? Do they provide instruction and offer to answer questions if needed? You’re also looking for someone who can solicit feedback constructively during handoff, not rush to the project finish line and handoff without consideration of project results or future needs. Great designers are business partners and know how to set up their clients for success.
10. “Describe your creative process for us. What steps do you take when you’re working through a project?”
Experienced designers will have a detailed answer to this question. You’re looking for someone who takes steps to understand the problem they’re trying to solve before they start designing. Even better, if your designer has their own intake process (or has created or used a wide variety of creative brief formats that include uncovering desired business results), you will know they take the process seriously.
If you need a designer who can interview end users or look through data as part of their research process, look for those skills during this discussion. Most designers also expect to include at least one round of feedback before they submit their final work.
It might be helpful to have designers walk through a couple of specific projects in their portfolios, describing their design process for those pieces.
We hope these 10 questions shed some light on how to interview a designer. Most importantly, as for any interview process, be sure that you know what you need before asking any questions at all. Knowing your own needs will allow you to look for the right answers to the questions above and make the best match.
Need help finding the perfect designer for your project?
Want to make the interviewing process easier and more efficient? At Vitamin T, we have an extensive vetting process and have a team of skilled agents to pre-screen designers before you even get to the interview phase. Reach out to an agent at Vitamin T