How I got the product design intern offer from Google and Facebook (Part 1)

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Flashback to last Apr, I decided to change my career path from engineer to designer. I knew I chose the one with more challenging internship preparation. As an engineer before, the target was straightforward — went through all questions on Leetcode. However, as a product designer, questions are more diverse and flexible. It’s true, I was a little stressful at the beginning because of the feeling of uncertainty. But finally, I summarized some methodologies which at least worked for me. So hopefully it could provide some insights for those who are preparing 🙂

Before you start structuring your resume, portfolio, interviews. Think about one question beforehand:

What’re your strengths as a designer? Or how could your background help you as a designer?

A clear design goal can help us guide our design process. Similarly, when you preparing for the interview, the main target is to help others understand why they should hire you instead of others. It can be either your background, your internship experience, or your unique personality. As long as you have this goal clear, you’re able to structure most of your materials with clear priorities.

Imagine the recruiter only has 10 secs to review your resume and 1 min to browse your portfolio, what’s the information you try to convey?

Resume

Structure your experience as ‘role + impact’. Try to avoid talking too much project details, process details, repetitive process.

  • What’s your role? Lead? Individually…? Collaborate with…?
  • What’s the impact? Try to quantify your impact. Has the product launched? What’s the rating?

Portfolio

Understand the design process is good (e.g. what research, design, testing methods you use). But how you connect those methods is more important — focus on intentionality and narrative.

  • Why you use certain methods? Is the outcome of the previous step lead to this decision? You can frame your narrative like ‘Because we found…, so we continue to…’.
  • How do you take in feedback to iterate? You can frame your narrative like ‘Users expect…, so we…’

Iterating. Iterating. Iterating…

Find as many seniors, alumnus or any other resources as you can to seek feedback and iterate your resume and portfolio. One note is:

People are always willing to provide you feedback (include the feedback I’m writing today), but it is you to decide which feedback to take in and iterate on.

Practice. Practice. Practice… Until non-designers can also understand why it’s a problem

Think about in design talks, how designers share their case studies. Great designers can make sure everyone (not only designers but everyone) can understand the project. It’s not easy but still has ways to improve:

Tell a story of how frustrated the current situation is (PROBLEM), how you solve the problem (PROCESS), what’s the optimized experience (OUTCOME). And then iterate with your friends. If they have some confusion, instead of only trying to explain to help them understand, note down what makes them confuse and iterate on it.

Provide just enough background / context information

Designers ourselves are the ones most familiar with our projects. But for others, it’s a new space. Think about how hard it is and how much effort interviewers need to put to figure out your platform, context, and problem. To put it simply, prepare the basic contexts:

  • When you did this project? With whom?
  • What’s your role?
  • Why make this special (that you want to talk)?

Narrate the design process and tell stories

Imagine you’re an interviewer, you already have a lot of work to do every day. Between meetings, you still need to spend extra effort to do interviews. But if the main stuff the candidate talks about is the same process with other candidates or everything is already shown on their portfolio, it’s exhausting. On the contrary, if the candidate tells a story of how he works with others or what difficulties he have, probably it will resonate with your own experience as well and spark the conversation. The candidate will talk more about how he overcame difficulties, and you can share some of your experiences with him as well. Consider incorporating the following to your story:

  • How do you work in a team, with different roles, across different teams
  • What difficulties and constraints you have in the project and how you solve it?

Show your passion! Engaged!

Good interviews are good conversations

It’s a common mistake when we focus on presentation instead of communication. I saw many cases when people finish talking about the whole project without pause. Or it’s the interviewer interrupts and asks, ‘can you reexplain what the problem is?’. Or the interviewer already lost where they are and start browsing other stuff. These will all affect the interview result. So here’s what you should do:

  • Concisely summarize key points and spark the conversation. For example, not too long of the self-introduction, project pitch.
  • Make a pause and make sure you and the interviewer are on the same page. “Is there anything I need to explain further?” Or “Let’s scroll to ….”

The following are the questions I prepared. Hopefully, it could serve as a checklist before your interview.

Behavior questions

  • Introduction (Prepare two versions — short and long. It happens when the interviewer is late and he wants just a short introduction.)
  • Why design?
  • What are the important stages of your design process?
  • What areas in design are you interested in?
  • What part of design process do you like the most?
  • What qualities as a designer do you matter most?
  • How do you work with engineers?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Where do you get design inspirations?
  • How do you see yourself in 5 years?
  • How do you see UX in 5 years?
  • How will you explain UX to grandma?
  • Which product in the market do you like most?

Project relate questions

  • Tell me about a project you did
  • What’s your difficult time?
  • What would you do differently? / If you still have time, which part do you want to improve?
  • What’s your biggest contribution?
  • What areyour learnings?
  • Why this project is important to you?
  • What prototype tool do you use?
  • How do you measure success?
  • How do you collaborate with teammates?

Questions to ask interviewers

Understand their expectations for interns

  • What’s good qualities of successful interns in the past

Understand company culture

  • What’s your experience so far in regards to culture, career, and opportunities
  • What’re your feelings so far, is there any obstacles or exciting moments you want to share?

Understand design team

  • What’s the design team’s strongest, weakness?
  • What’s the position of design in the company?

Gather some suggestions

  • What’re your biggest learnings from your previous experience? Anything you can share with me that you think will be helpful? Or could you give me some suggestions for me, as a young designer, in the early stage of my career

The above are my personal tips on how to prepare and perform for the internship. As for the next part, I want to share some more general tips and some struggles I have when I was preparing for the internship. Feel free to provide me any feedback! Thanks for reading!

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