Day#353: How to prepare for a UX Researcher interview

Day#353: How to prepare for a UX Researcher interview

Hey Uxers I have done a few posts since I started this blog on preparing for interviews and what to expect, this stems from my need to be prepared. When I first entered this industry I was nervous about how the interviews would go. Coming from a design background interviews were very focused on your portfolio, that is not to say that a UX Researchers portfolio is not important but that the knowledge that is in your head is even more valuable. As a researcher, your ability to think about problems in a certain way allows for you to use your curiosity to find a solution is really priceless. Match that with your knowledge on best practises and sound UX research methodologies and you really have a winner. I think for me it was about learning how to sell my skills, using my dialogue to express my knowledge, and knowing how to express that in a one hour interview. 

There is a lot of advice on holding your arms up in the air to mimic success, and using positive affirmations to build confidence right before an interview. My process is a little more methodological, I use my skills in the research industry to make the best first impression possible. If there after I still don’t match up then at least I know I REALLY did give it my best shot. So how do I do this? Well for starters I obviously look up the company I am interviewing with, if you are still at the recruiter phase and the recruiter is an external recruiter then I focus on my own “script” so to say that I have mastered my skills. By preparing in advance, this is not to say it is fabricated, it is simply rehearsed. The reason why I worked on this a lot when I was more junior was because I was very nervous. As a senior researcher I am working on my presentation to ensure that I pack the most important and crucial information necessary for the interview into the hour session I have provided. It’s so easy when you are nervous to go off on a tangent about a project that is not relevant to the company you are interviewing with. Maybe all your projects are relevant but you just speak for too long in your fear of saying to little and end up using crucial time discussing something that really didn’t need that much depth. That’s why I prepare, I don’t see it as “not being me” I simply see it as me on steroids haha. Now that you have looked up the company, what next?

Well you can start by formulating a list of questions you have, think about their problem statement. I once read something that changed the way I look at the recruitment process, for a company to be looking they are in pain. They are lacking a resource and need to find someone suitable. The process of finding a suitable candidate is a tough journey and may take even more company time and resources. Large corporations may not feel this as badly as smaller companies, but it is still evident that something is missing by them wanting you on-board. An interview for me was always a hot mess of excitement and nervousness, now I practice so much in advance, and work on being calm and friendly in my interviews. Your list of questions should emulate their problem statement of the gap they are facing in their organisation. If you will be working with a team of researchers that is different from being the sole researcher, try and understand the dynamics of the company before going in so that you can plan for the types of questions that they ask. To give an idea, I break the list of questions into sections. 

General company questions

This is where companies want to see if you will be a fit for their company culture. They may ask questions like do enjoy hiking because we do a team hike once a month etc. This is where honesty is so key, to be honest I am so introverted and sometimes just float a little when it comes to team socials, I will probably stick to an answer stating that I am introverted, but I am happy to be involved, I don’t want to set expectations high. I have worked at not being shy which is often associated with introverts, instead I come across as confident in interviews which can give the misconception that I will be super involved in social activities, this is not to say that for me it will be a driver to not choose a company based on how social they are. It is just that they should know that apart from my work, which is where I will always be outspoken and vocal about, I am generally quiet haha!

Methodology related questions

This is sort of like a chicken or the egg situation, if you are not skilled in this section you could underestimate or not prepare for the right type of questions for an interview. There is a baseline of methodology questions that I would ask interviewing a junior UX Researcher, and moving up to mid that would increase. I would say for me something that would be most important for a junior is their ability to learn. Are they passionate about learning, are they curious? If so then that would be all for me to want them on-board. The rest can be taught in time, don’t take my word for it, though I have seen some pretty tough junior specs and not everyone will think about things the way I do. When it comes to senior UX Research positions the questions may differ, what companies want to see is can you handle projects with many and I MEAN MANY moving parts. And can you assist upper management with helping more junior team members if the need arises. Methodologies will probably be asked at this level too, and it will show seniority to further question the use of methodologies and knowing how to use certain methodologies for different situations. Dependent on the organisation you may have seniors doing presentations or all researchers being involved in presentations. That is simply an example but dependent on the company structure you may be involved in certain higher level aspects of research only. 

Ask your own questions

I have seen so many people advocate for interviewees to ask questions, but not enough effort is placed on asking valuable questions. So what is a valuable question? Nobody knows that better than a researcher haha! We constantly strive for asking questions that allow for participants to answer honestly and not feel like we are leaning towards one side. For example asking about working hours, may imply that you like to work strict working hours. Now that is fine if you are someone that likes to work strict working hours, but consider the time and place of asking it. Look at the interview as the first date where you get to know each-other, and asking about someones salary or other extremely personal things may not be the best mvoe on a first date, you want to build some rapport first.

Asking about if the company has growth opportunities is another cliche one that I hear a lot of people use. Why is it a cliche? Well firstly to me it seems as if a candidate wants opportunities handed to them. Opportunities in life make themselves available to those who work towards them. Maybe you may not be able to move directly up the ranks because their are people in those positions, and if that is the only form of growth that is important to you then perhaps it is important to ask it in a unique way. However for me working on informative and groundbreaking research is what inspires me. Creating new processes and allowing for new methodologies to become common place is what I enjoy. Allowing for easier workflow through those topics mentioned above is the goal, and that once people see the value in what you are producing and you take the time to do the work you will be able to do it. Also asking for growth opportunities can be confusing for a company that is trying to hire for a specific position, it may alienate you for that position that you are trying to get. Because if you are already showing that you want to know about the next step it may portray you as anxious to move up. Instead you want to portray a calm determination, that if the opportunity arises that you will be there to meet it.

So think carefully when preparing for your interviews, work on ways to present yourself in the best possible light and showcase your passion for the true value that it is worth. Happy researching until next time.

Bye for now

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