How to talk about yourself during a design job interview

 
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4 min read

Trying to talk about yourself can be hard for many designers. Sometimes it feels sales-y, disingenuous, or weird. That is why it is important to learn how to talk about yourself in a design job interview, because your graphic design or UX portfolio can only do so much of the heavy lifting during the interview process.

Design activity vs. Value created

The reason most people struggle with this is in an interview setting is that they try to explain what they do in terms of design activities as opposed to the value the activities create. 

Below in example one is how most people explain what they do at their design jobs. They try to explain it by the activities they perform. This leaves the mental work of figuring out their actual value to the person interviewing them.

Example 1 - Activity focused explanation

 
A bad explanation is explaining your job only by the activites you perform
 

“Umm…in my current role I…”

  • Ensure production files are up to standard for developers  

  • Communicate with developers about design specs

  • Keep files well organize files for potential future use

While this list is accurate, it kind of feels like it is missing the point and falls a little flat.

But if you described them as supporting an overarching business value, they begin to sound more focused. Let’s hear that same list in example 2, but as described by the value those activities create: 

Example 2 - Value focused explanation

 
A good explanation is explaining your job by the value you create
 

“Part of my job is to keep our business competitive by ensuring high design standards and quick turnaround time as a design project moves though different parts of development. I do that by…

  • Ensure production files are up to standard for developers  

  • Communicate with developers about design specs

  • Keep files well organize files for potential future use 


Both examples use the same activities but the second starts with the value they create and then lists the activities as a way of achieving that value. The first simply states the activities and hopes the value is self-evident.

So, in order to figure out how to talk about yourself, you need to do some thinking about how the activities you perform impact your projects, your business, and your clients.

 

Step 1. Translate your daily design activities to the value they create.

The first step is to translate your design activities into values they create. You can grab a download of this exercise in the form below to print out and work with if you like or have for later.

 
 

Instructions

1. Set a timer for 10 minutes and list as many of the design activities you perform as you can on sticky notes. No need to be thoughtful. Go for volume.

2. Now, without at timer, think about the value or outcome for the business or end user. How can you describe these activities by the “bigger picture” they support? Write down some ideas and see if they feel right.

See how the example below takes the day to day activity and interprets how it might be perceived by the client or end user:

 
translate your design activites into the value they create
 

Step 2. Find patterns and trends in value you create that amount to a belief or point of view about design.

 
Your design truths are made up of the value you create
 

Spend some time trying to connect the dots of your activities and skills to the bigger picture like in the example above. After you do a few of these (or several) you may notice some patterns begin to emerge.

Try to find 3-4 overarching types of value that you create. One these patterns emerge; you will be able to recognize that you have “design truths” that account for many of your activities.

Step 3. Practice talking about your new perspective

Now that you have a sense of your “design truths”, you need to practice actually speaking from this vantage point so it becomes your got-to perspective, like in example 2 above.

 
Your design perspective
 

A good way to practice is the “elevator pitch” method where you practice explaining your job in 30 seconds or less. If you want to take it to the next level, record yourself doing this with your phone and watch yourself so you can figure out how to make improvements on your delivery.

Ideally this exercise gave you a jump start on thinking about how to talk about yourself. If you were to take it further, over time, you could begin to create distinct points of view for yourself or become known as a design for having a certain perspective on things. The chart below outlines the basic path. 

 
 

chris hannon

I’m Chris Hannon. I help digital product designers become more valuable by teaching them how to change their design mindset. By day I am a Creative Director at a digital product development agency. For 15 years I have been lucky enough to work with fortune 500 companies to help guide their creative vision to create amazing digital products and experiences.