So you’re getting ready for a UX whiteboard interview? Congrats! You’re leveling up and we’re happy dancing right there with you. If you’re a new designer, you may be feeling the nerves as you approach this unique type of tech interview. But don’t be. We know you’ll crush it with a little confidence and a few tips.
For the uninitiated, whiteboard interviews are one of the few types of interviews UX professionals go through before landing a job. This type of interview is focused on collaboration, problem-solving, and interaction design.
Today, we’ll explore these questions surrounding the whiteboarding interview:
- What is a whiteboard interview?
- How do I prepare for a whiteboard interview?
- What are some dos and don’ts for whiteboard challenges?
- How will I be evaluated?
- What are the other types of UX job interviews?
Here’s what you need to know to ace your UX whiteboard interview.
What is a whiteboard interview?
Whiteboard interviews are technical interviews that showcase an interviewee’s technical and problem-solving skills. They are used for positions like Software Engineer and UX Designer. For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on how a UX Designer would go through this kind of interview. Whiteboard interviews are similar to take-home interviews, in that they both help an interviewer get a better feel for a designer’s skills.
Much like all UX design processes, whiteboard interviews begin with a problem or challenge prompt. Your interviewer will present a general problem or a challenge specific to the work the company does. Your job will be to create a solution during the interview.
Here’s a quick example:
UX Designer Femke Van Schoonhoven shared details from her whiteboard interview for her current role at Uber on her YouTube channel. She had to map an Uber user’s journey with a cash-payment feature. In the interview, she explained how she would communicate the ride fare to the rider and driver.
How do I prepare for a whiteboard interview?
Preparing for a whiteboard interview isn’t always cut and dry because you’ll get the prompt in-person at the interview. But, you should take some time to research the company thoroughly beforehand. You can even run a quick Google search to see if there’s any info online about potential questions the company could ask.
If you’re interviewing with a larger corporation, chances are you might find the questions floating around on the interwebs. But if not, just give yourself ample time to research the company and its products. Finally, like with any industry or interview, it may also be helpful to read over the job description a few times.
Set yourself up for success
Alright, now you know what a whiteboard interview is, you’re ready to learn how you can absolutely crush yours. Here’s how to set yourself up for success.
Give yourself time. While you’ll typically have about an hour for a whiteboard interview, you won’t want to rush yourself. This means to really take the time to think through the problem and not rush into giving your solutions. Your interviewers want to see your full thought process and figure out if you’ll be a thorough employee should you land the role.
Talk through it. Design work is a collaborative process, so be sure to have this attitude when you’re interviewing. Your interviewers should feel like they’re included in the process and aren’t just watching you in silence. So explain what you’re doing.
Pretend like you’re a teacher in a classroom. You wouldn’t silently write on the board and hope students are following along with the lesson. You’d be actively engaging them through speech, conversation, and the board visuals. Keep that same energy when you’re in a whiteboard interview.
Steps to Take During a Whiteboard Interview
There are a few steps you can take to find success in your whiteboarding interview. After you take a deep breath and calm any nerves you have, here’s how you can impress your interviewer.
Articulate the problem
Before you begin, you’ll want to make sure you really understand the problem you’re trying to solve. You can start writing out the problem statement on the whiteboard. Then, ask your interviewer any questions you might have about the problem and the goals for solving it. You can also use this time to repeat the problem back to them to see if you’ve understood it correctly. Clarify, clarify, clarify.
Understand the context
Ask any clarifying questions you might have like what kind of solutions have already been tried, why they didn’t work, and why the problem is a problem. You can also ask what kind of role the interviewers plan to play in the process. This can help give you a better background of the problem and set the stage for problem-solving.
Set constraints and assumptions
You can speak with your interviewing team to establish some constraints and assumptions. This will help you hone in and find a focal point in the assignment. An assumption could be something like, “I’m going to assume the market and user research has already been done so we can begin making design decisions.” While a constraint could include some sort of technical limitation you’ll have to work around in the design process.
Involve the interviewer
Check in, ask questions, and use them as a resource to make sure you’re on the same page. It will also give hints as to how you’re doing in the interview.
Articulate the main steps throughout the journey
The user journey will vary depending on the company you’re interviewing with and the problem they ask you to solve. But essentially you will be mapping out the user journey and seeing where solutions fit in.
Draw a basic user flow or key screens
Now’s the time to create a basic user flow or key screens showcasing your decisions and solutions. Don’t worry about drawing every step of the user journey as you likely won’t have time in your interview. Instead, stay basic or hone in on key segments of the journey. Be sure to let the interviewer know if you’re going to focus on a specific part of the journey and why you’ve chosen that particular segment.
Summarize the story
End your time by summarizing the challenge, your thought process, and the conclusions you reached. Be sure to thank your interviewer for their time and end with confident, positive body language and tone. You should also be prepared to take questions from the interviewer.
How will I be evaluated?
According to Dan Shilov, creator of getafolio.com, interviewers will evaluate you on a few key components. These include problem definition, solution-finding, idea generation, interaction design knowledge, and collaboration.
They’ll be looking to see how well you can identify problems and how fast you can come up with creative solutions. They’ll also be looking out for cohesive interaction design flow and how well you can communicate with interviewers.
What are the other types of UX job interviews?
In addition to whiteboarding, you’ll likely encounter a few other interview types on your road to employment. Here are a few technical interviews you may face:
The phone screen
The phone screen serves as a way to get a basic idea of whether you’d be a good fit for a company. It’s typically the first step in the interviewing process. Getting one can be pretty exciting too. It’s kind of like getting a match on a dating app. The hiring manager thinks you could be a match for the company and is interested in learning more about you.
If you have professional experience in any industry, you’ve likely already had some experience with a phone screen before. It can be harder to show off your awesome personality and enthusiasm over the phone, but you will likely become more confident the more practice you have.
The take-home interview
Like we said up top, a take-home interview is pretty similar to a whiteboard interview. You’ll be asked to complete a design challenge in a certain amount of time but can work on it from home. It’s like homework for UX Designers, except more fun because you could score a job and a paycheck out of it.
The behavioral interview
Behavioral interviews are often in-person (or over Zoom these days) and can be with a panel or one-on-one with various team members. These interviews also span industries so you’ve likely had some experience with them before. You can check out these 12 UX interview questions for more on what hiring managers want to see in a behavioral UX interview.
Want more info on becoming a UX Designer? Check out the blogs below or head to our UX Design Career program page.
- What’s the Difference Between UX and UI?
- How to Build a Strong UX Portfolio
- Questions to Ask in Your Next Tech Job Interview
- Why You Should Consider a Career in UX Design