How to Pass My UX Designer Phone Screen

I am hiring multiple UX Designers here at Marketo.  First, I do a short phone screen for candidates.  Then, if they pass, a 3-4 hour interview with lots of people.  Maybe this is  cheating, but here are some tips to help you do well with me on the phone.

Let Me Hear You

I can’t tell you how many times a candidate was on the street and I couldn’t hear them well.  I know cell phones suck for quality (which is why I call from a land-line), but do your best.  Try not be near a construction site or next to a highway.  Don’t be in your car with the radio on.  And please, speak clearly.  It’s hard enough with fuzzy reception, if you mumble I will be really turned off.

Have Influences

I often ask, “Who are your influences?”  I want to hear NAMES.  Specifically, I want to hear books you have read and why those authors have influenced the way you design.  One guy said, “I don’t have know, like a musician.  They don’t have influences either.”  WTF???  If you don’t have influences, say, “I don’t have any because I haven’t read any books, but I am going to.”  Here are some good UX Books.

Don’t Babble

If you speak for 5 minutes straight and I haven’t made a sound, you failed.  It’s a dialogue.  I want to converse.  It’s so surprising that people will ignore signals from the person on the other side of the phone.  Make sure I haven’t fallen into a coma while you were speaking.

Answer the Question Asked

People often will answer a different question than the one I asked.  For example, “What is your ideal job, what kind of work do you want to do, size of company, etc?”  This is not an invitation to give me your life story.  I really don’t want you to recite your resume.  What I am looking for is comprehension of the question and a thoughtful answer.  Seriously, some people want a small startup feel and others like a more structured environment.  Some people like B2C mobile apps and others want B2B workflow. Listen to the questions and give a short thoughtful answer.  Have a conversation with me.

Here is a tip how to balance different parts of a conversation:


Do Your Research

Marketo has tons of stuff online.  Watch all the videos.  Google about the company.  Try to understand what we do.  It will be impressive to me if you have done your homework.  Check LinkedIn.

Be Critical

The most important skill of a designer is the ability to be critical of one’s own work.  It’s a major negative for me if you refuse to admit that some of your UI is bad. Nothing is perfect!  Pick on your own work.  Tell me all the things you know you could improve upon.  Show me you know design by talking about what works and what doesn’t.  Tell me what doesn’t work and be positive about it.

Understand Typography

This is one of my pet peeves.  People are way too cavalier with their fonts.  I think about fonts alot. When you choose a font for your resume or site, please do not choose Arial or Times New Roman. Google Web fonts make it easy to have awesome fonts on your site or resume.  Pick carefully.  It will reap rewards beyond impressing me.  There is a fine line between creative and ridiculous.  Be on the right side of that line.

Have a Nice Site

If your site sucks, why should I believe your work will be better?  Put a little time and attention into your personal site and it will make me (and others) happy.  The easiest thing is to have WordPress and pick a nice theme.  It couldn’t be easier to set up.  If you make your own theme or modify an existing theme, that is OK too.  You don’t need to blog to use WordPress.  It works fine a a multi-page CMS and Portfolio site.  The blog format is actually a great way to publish portfolio pieces.  Lots of options there, trust me.

Don’t Ask Me About Testing

See the previous blog post about testing. We talk with customers all the time, but we don’t do formal testing.

I know I am forgetting things, but this should help.  I hope you apply and get the job. 🙂


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