As a user experience (UX) job candidate your resume, portfolio and/or work samples are the first things a hiring manager will see. They need to convey your experience and be compelling enough to get an interview. When you get a chance to talk to the people making hiring decisions your words and behavior become the measure by which those decisions will be made.
Are you looking for work conducting user research, usability testing, interaction design, or visual design? If so, tell me how this list works for you.
Here are 10 strategies to help you land your UX dream job…
1. Create a compelling narrative about your work.
Make it clear what your role and responsibilities have been in your resume and where possible show an increasing level of responsibility, increasing complexity in work, or a deepening of knowledge.
Seeing a list of methods or tools is helpful, but seeing which jobs you did the relevant work in is more helpful. For example, if you conducted a usability study, provide information about the type of study you did and what you tested.
Breaks in employment are common and you’ll need to be prepared to explain them. Where applicable show evidence that you continued to be engaged in your career during breaks by doing volunteer work, taking classes and/or doing projects to further your expertise.
2. Highlight relevant experiences.
Expound upon your work, school project, and volunteer experiences that are relevant to the job you are applying for. Include non-relevant experience to demonstrate your work ethic, but reduce the emphasis on those positions.
A short paragraph describing each relevant job is helpful. Extend your resume to two pages if your experience is substantial. Don’t waste space with information about the company — they can search for it.
3. Show evidence of turning caterpillars into butterflies.
Your portfolio and/or work samples should show what you started with and how your increasing knowledge transformed the work as you progressed.
- Were there iterations?
- How did you incorporate user feedback?
- How did you communicate information about users, interactions or design through your work to others?
Intellectual Property (IP) restrictions are an issue for everyone. Get past it by redacting your work, re-making your work in a way that still conveys what you did, or do side projects.
4. Share your thought process.
- What was your hypothesis?
- What were your reasons for making the choices you did with regard to method, tools, persona selection, etc?
- What were you wrong about? Failures can lead to really interesting conversations — be prepared to talk about them.
5. Provide specific examples.
When an interviewer asks about your experience doing [fill in method or topic], share a specific experience with details where possible. Don’t generalize.
Ban the words “I usually” or “sometimes I” in an interview as it creates doubt with regard to your experience.
6. Be honest.
If you haven’t conducted a particular method (or whatever), just say so. Few people get the opportunity in their entire career to do the breath of UX methods that exist. If applicable, share your interest in doing that activity in the future.
7. Be prepared.
Know your portfolio and be confidant talking about your process. Do not show work that you are not comfortable talking about in detail. Practice presenting to others both online and in person. Go to resume and portfolio workshops and speed-dating style recruiting events to get more practice.
8. Be your best advocate.
Show up early, dress appropriately and be present during the discussions. If you need to take a break, politely excuse yourself.
When you get an offer always negotiate and ask for more. It is expected in most situations unless you are told otherwise.
9. Spell check!
I would be remiss if I left this off the list. Even your phone has a spell check — use it. Always re-read before hitting submit or send on any job related communications. It does matter. Don’t let simple mistakes get between you and a great opportunity.
10. Iterate and Improve.
Follow UX best practices and have someone with UX knowledge review your materials and provide critique. Consider making different sets of materials for each job you apply for. For example, one may emphasize your design skills and another your usability testing expertise. Keep a list of accomplishments so that if you find yourself in the job market again you are prepared to shine.
To summarize the 10 strategies to help you land your #UX dream job are:
- Create a compelling narrative about your work.
- Highlight relevant experiences.
- Show evidence of turning caterpillars into butterflies.
- Share your thought process.
- Provide specific examples.
- Be honest.
- Be prepared.
- Be your best advocate.
- Spell check!
- Iterate and Improve.
What else would you add?
6) Be honest.
If you haven’t done a particular method yet, that’s OK. Few people get the opportunity in their entire career to do the breath of UX activities that exist. Just say so, and if applicable share your level of interest in doing it.7) Don’t make excuses. “All of my work is under IP restrictions.” We all have that issue — figure out a way to redact work to show it or remake it in a way that still conveys what you did. Do side projects if needed. “I’m not a designer” — you should still have work to show and talk about.8) Spell check!9) Iterate. Have someone with UX knowledge review your materials and provide critique. Consider making different sets of materials for each job you apply for (one may emphasise your design skills and another usability testing).10) Be prepared. Know your portfolio and be comfortable talking about it. Practice presenting to others. Go to resume and portfolio workshops and speed-dating style recruiting events.