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How to shine when interviewing for advanced UX research roles

Updated: Sep 29


On September 15th, I had the pleasure and privilege to facilitate a panel discussion with three UX managers about the hiring process for UX researchers, and how to show up as a stand-out candidate for advanced roles (senior and up).


The panelists included Janaina Pantoja, PhD (researcher and manager at eBay, and Vice President of UXPA), Janna Kimel (manager at 750-employee scale-up Hinge Health), and Prakriti Parijat (manager at Instacart). Janaina, Janna, and Prakriti shared insights and advice from their many years as research practitioners and, more recently, as hiring managers who are building and growing research teams.


With the majority of UX research events focused on entry level candidates who want to break into the field, there are very few oriented toward advanced practitioners. With the growth in jobs for senior level and up, plus the leveling up of candidates who began their careers in the past 5+ years, we wanted to put on an event specifically for this audience. Over 70 people purchased tickets at $10 a pop! We were able to raise about $700 for PDXHCD, the Portland, OR-based meetup group run by Matthew Oliphant, which hosted our event.


We covered lots of topics but it was hard for me to take notes while I facilitated. We didn't record the discussion either, but here are some of my takeaways.


Qualities of top candidates

  • Growth mindset, lifelong learner

  • Doesn't need guidance

  • Not afraid of complexity

  • Assertiveness

  • Excellent communication skills

  • Confidence

  • Strategic impact

  • Fostering relationships across teams and stakeholders

  • Systems thinking, connecting the dots

  • Telling stories with data

  • Ability to move fast

  • Leadership and influence

  • Coaching and educating others

I'd like to add that it's important to show, not tell. You don't want to just say that you have a growth mindset or excellent communication skills. Think of how you showcase these qualities through storytelling about your experience. Managers (and others) want to see your approach and impact in action.


Something else that stood out to me was their emphasis on the importance of knowing what you want out of the role, and how it fits into your career goals. They also talked about being invested in your success during the interview process. After all, they don't want to talk with anyone if they don't see like a viable candidate. It's nice that there really are some managers out there who care, and who see this as a two-way street where the fit has to be mutually beneficial.


Methods of evaluating candidates


There are numerous process and approaches for interviewing depending on all kinds of variables, from the size of the company to the position and the role of social networking. All of our panelists mentioned one-on-one interviews, panel interviews, cross-functional interviews, and portfolio presentations. These tend to be the most common. One panelist uses a "CV walkthrough", which involves a discussion of each job experience starting from the oldest to the most recent. Another mentioned doing a writing exercise at Amazon, which reflects Amazon's culture of writing and documentation for decision-making. Note that they did not talk about digging into research methodologies, because it's implied that you are solid on those by the time you get to a senior role or higher.


A few more tips

  • If the interview feels more like a conversation with a colleague, or it goes over time, that's a good sign.

  • To understand if you are doing well during the interview process, just reflect on how you feel about it personally.

  • To feel more confident in interviewing, try some voice and body training exercises. You can find videos for this on Youtube.