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Landing your first role in UX

Avni Nandha, Daniel Boundy
five people working on a project together in an office

Getting your foot into the design industry’s door can be tough. From sending your application to getting an offer, this blog will cover how you can find an entry-level UX role that best suits your interests, the application process and preparing for the interview. We’ll also be sharing resources and portfolio tips so let’s dive straight in…

Consider the environment, culture and type of work

Determine what is important to you in your first role. For example, what type of environment would you prefer:

  • working remotely (from anywhere)
  • in the office
  • hybrid (mixture of both)

Is there a preference over a start-up, an agency or in-house? Do you want to work for a small company, or multinationals?

Think about the culture that you would flourish in and the people you want to work with. For example, would you like a culture that values diversity and inclusion, learning and development and/or teamwork? Is progression within the company important to you?

Think about the impact of the work you want to be doing. 

You don't have to get this right the first time. Internships are a great way to try different types of companies and figure out what works for you.

 

Applying for a position

Now you’ve decided what sort of role you’re looking for, you can begin your search by looking at job postings. 

Otta is great at recommending roles based on your experience, preferences, skills and the industries you would like to work in. 

If You Could has roles specifically for creatives and many entry-level roles can be found here. All the roles (including internships) advertised will pay at least the national minimum wage.

LinkedIn enables you to network with professionals in the field, reach out to hiring managers and recruiters, in addition to recommending roles based on your profile. Apart from these, there are many other job boards that will help in your search.

As you’re looking through the job descriptions, keep in mind that you don’t need to meet all the requirements. Once you’ve found a position you’re interested in, research the company to see if it aligns with what is important to you. This can be via their website, looking at their mission, values and their work. Viewing the company’s Glassdoor reviews can offer an insight into the company’s culture.

If a particular company interests you (but they’re not currently advertising a position) or you know of someone in the field, don’t hesitate in reaching out to them.

Cvs and portfolios

Tailor your CV and portfolio to the specific position and highlight the skills that the employer is looking for. In your portfolio, provide a summary about yourself that includes the following information: 
  • who you are
  • where you are based
  • what made you pursue UX design
  • your hobbies/interests - they could relate to the role your are applying for. 

Employers review many portfolios, so showcase your best and most relevant case studies first to grab their attention. Think about what it includes, how it flows and explain your process and thinking throughout each case study. Also make it easy for the hiring manager/interviewers to view and navigate through your portfolio.

Having an incomplete portfolio could give other candidates an advantage, and there is a lot of competition for entry-level roles. There’s nothing stopping you from applying, but it may make it more difficult to secure the next stage of the application process, and you’re more likely to face rejections. Focus on quality over quantity - it’s better to have two projects you’re really proud of than five average ones.

Preparing for the interview

So you’ve sent off your application and received the good news that the company would like to invite you to an interview. What do you do next? You can begin preparing by looking at common interview questions such as: tell me about yourself? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Why do you want to work for us? Revisiting the job description could help you predict some of the interview questions.

You can use the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to help structure your answers to the interview questions. The situation is where you set the scene and give context. The task involves describing what needs to be done and why. For action, 
explain the steps you took to do the task, and result is the outcome of your actions.

If you have a portfolio interview, consider having a PDF or presentation deck of your case studies, as this will be easier to create, personalise (for the role), and present over Zoom compared to a portfolio website. At Kin + Carta, you will be introducing yourself and getting to know your interviewers followed by the portfolio review. Then the remainder of the interview will give both you and the interviewer an opportunity to ask questions.

To figure out if the company and the role are right for you, prepare a few questions for the interviewer. Questions could include: 

  • have other employees started as interns? 
  • is there room to progress?
  • what is the company culture like?
  • does the company have an onboarding process and what does it entail?
  • will I have a mentor?
  • what is the reason for hiring?

Importantly, if you’re doing your interview remotely, test the video calling software in advance to avert any potential issues.

A note on design challenges

Take-home design challenges are quite common as part of the interview process. This is where you’re asked to complete a design related task and is used by employers to evaluate your design process and how you approach the challenge.

Design challenges often lack scope on how much time and work should be done. This creates an uneven playing field as it favours candidates with the most free time, and could exclude those with other commitments such as work, studies or child-care. However, this does not mean you should never do design challenges or avoid applying to positions with design challenges. Nevertheless, you should always be clear with how your work will be used as they are usually unpaid.

After the interview

Immediately take notes of the questions you were asked and reflect on what went well, together with what you could have improved on, –  you may encounter these questions again in your future interviews. In the meantime, apply to other positions as there’s no guarantee that the employer will give you an offer. Keep learning and developing your skills such as finding apps where you can improve the user experience. Furthermore, voluntary work with a charity is a great way of giving back to the community whilst developing your transferable skills. The best part is that some voluntary positions don’t require any experience.

If you get rejected, remember that it’s part and parcel of the process. Ask the employer for feedback and remember that rejection doesn’t mean you’re a failure.

Resources

As promised, here are some resources:

Portfolio builders

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