Managing your portfolio during an Interview

3 Jan 2012 - 11:06am
4 years ago
4 replies
2194 reads

I had a somewhat negative experience during an interview last month, but I partly blame myself.

I had worked on a website redesign and showed some wireframes during the interview.  Well, the site had then been redesigned after my redesign and this all occured in the span of less than 6 months according to my guesstimate.

I was asked why the site had been redesigned after my redesign and all I could muster was "I am not sure".

I partly blame myself because I was unaware of the succeeding redesign.

But what would have been an acceptable answer?


3 Jan 2012 - 12:11pm

I like that question.

I think it depends partly on what you said about your own wireframes. If I had been interviewing you, I would have been interested to know your rationale for your own work, and how you validated that they met the business and user needs. It's difficult to judge your response to the question without knowing more of the context - was it something that you *should have known? Were you responsible only for delivery of your wireframes, and then someone else takes over, or were you responsible for seeing them through to delivery?

A good reply would have been that you weren't responsible following delivery of your work, and you then moved on to something else.

So, actually, why didn't you know, and why do you blame yourself?



3 Jan 2012 - 1:03pm

If I were conducting the interview, I'd want to hear you analyze the new redesign on the fly, speaking to either the points in the research that might have led to other alternatives than the one your wireframes addressed, or a cogent assessment of the politics involved in the decision-making process for the project - or both.

Sorry about your experience, here - it sounds unpleasant.

4 Jan 2012 - 11:18pm

To prepare for the next interview, I would have some mockups (or at least screen shots of the original design) and/or original HTML files (along with a laptop) showing the original intended visual design as backup should this happen to you in the future. Also be clear with your client you want to continue communications following the end of the project, regardless of whether they will have any future work for you or not, to be able to ask questions about any future surprises.

5 Jan 2012 - 4:33pm

I feel like we're making the assumption that the design that is implemented is the best design and that a design that is not implemented or does not stay implemented is an inferior design; I've been consulting for 9 of my 15+ year career and there are a lot of cases where designs I've worked on or shared in interviews have been out of synch with what's on the web at the moment and I haven't found that to be a disadvantage when interviewing/pitching work--a lot of good stuff that I've done good work on hasn't made it online and a lot of the stuff I've worked equally hard on has been watered down and butchered through compromise. 

Clearly you experienced an uncomfortable "gotcha" moment in an interview, when you're likely to be nervous and more easily thrown--but unless you're interviewing for a strategic leadership role (and are showing off work where you were in a powerful position), I think the answer is you gave is the right one--you don't know and I'm not sure it's reasonable to expect you to know or valuable to have you hazard a guess. That said, "I don't know" in a stammer never feels right in an interview--so my crafted answer would be something along the lines of: "This is a multi-disciplinary field with many moving parts, players, political environments, economic realities, infrastructure limitations, etc. The reality is that good designs aren't implemented and/or are replaced by lousy designs all the time for all kinds of reasons. I wasn't aware of this change and haven't had time to evaluate their new design, but I can speak to the work that I did validating the design in my portfolio--why don't I walk you through the highlights."
In my mind the more important lesson here is to be able to remain poised and to be able to bounce back from surprises in an interview, not to try to avoid ever being caught off guard again. I'm not saying don't prepare or do due diligence, but it's not the last time you're going to get a curve ball in an interview (or client setting). 

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