6

Ok, here's a weird issue I'm facing.

My boss (no background in design) has gotten me to interview a graphic/UI design guy the company is hiring. Here's the gist:

  1. The job position in this case is a senior graphic designer. I would say the job scope is pretty close to an art director. The guy is applying for that.

  2. For me, my current level is somewhere in-between junior and senior designer. I'm slightly past the junior stage but still some way off before I would even consider myself senior designer level.

  3. Looking at the guy's portfolio, I can say his experience, quantity and skill set is broader than mine. However, to be honest, I would say the quality of his work is actually below mine (based on his layouts, color aesthetics etc.)

Anyway, below are the questions I intend to ask him:

  1. How long did you take to complete (insert one of his artwork)?
  2. In that (insert another of his artwork) you did, was it a solo effort or did someone else help you?
  3. What's your process for designing app UIs like? Could you share?

I can't think of what else to ask. If anyone has some insight, I would greatly appreciate it!

This is my 1st time doing this sort of thing. Of course, for this sort of position, I was hoping to see a candidate much stronger than me, but as the company is urgently in need of someone to fill the place, well.....

Btw, assuming this candidate gets hired, he won't be working with me but in a subsidiary company on the other side of the world, so no concern for any future politics whatever.

I just hope assuming he gets in, he performs well, or else I would be in a really bad light for approving him.

  • Asking what questions to ask seems too broad. I think if you asked about what topics should you ask about it would be less broad, but maybe still too broad – Zach Saucier Aug 14 '15 at 16:07
  • > I would say the quality of his work is actually below mine (based on his layouts, color aesthetics etc. Probably that is more important than any question, specially on a senior designer. On a junior its ok. – Rafael Aug 14 '15 at 16:58
10

The topics are good, but most of these questions are too narrow to be good interview questions. If it can be answered in one word, it's too narrow, it needs to spark a conversation:

  • Instead of "how long did X take", try "Talk us through the process for X, from initial brief to completion". Then you'll learn how they handle projects, how they develop briefs, how they handle negotiating requests and revisions... All that senior stuff, AND how long it took.

  • Instead of "was X a solo effort", try "Talk us through the range of project teams you've worked with recently", then you'll get variety and you'll see what roles they tend to take. You might also get clues about their preferred roles.

  • "What's your process for X" is a good question, particularly for senior-level, no changes there

One final area that might be worth addressing, which might come up naturally but might not, is how much (if any) direction they expect. It sounds like they'll be top of the design tree, which is not unheard of but relatively uncommon for a senior designer. Ask if they've been top of the tree on a project before, and ask searching questions like: "How do you ensure high standards of quality when you're they person with final say on design and aesthetic decisions".


And when judging their portfolio, remember things always look worse when they're viewed 3, 5, 10 years after its style was in fashion. It'll happen to your work too. Also keep in mind that you don't know what client-led restrictions they were working to. Portfolios are a good way to gauge someone's skills, but they're never the whole story.

5

If you're hiring for an Art Director position that means there will be other designers who will be managed by this employee. The Art Director rarely does the technical work but still needs to know about the process and how to get the most out of his team.

Even if the Senior Designer will not work in the same workplace, he will still need to work in collaboration with your team. It's in fact even worse if that person isn't at the same workplace; you need to make sure the designer has a strong discipline, lot of initiative, problem solving skills and can clearly communicate with limited options (eg. Skype, phone, emails.)

So the questions you should ask should include a lot of questions about team, project, and conflict resolution. There's great designers who are seniors but will totally destroy the unity of a team because of their ego, lack of social skills, bad communication, lack of team management experience, etc.

Time management and a team work attitude is what you'll need for that kind of position; this way this new employee will fix things and get them done, instead of creating more issues that the bosses will need to waste time on.

The best questions for this (or at least include some of them in your interview) are the one with problematic situations scenario. A good team leader and Art Director can suck at design but can still get the best results because... he/she listens to his/her team and knows how to use the strength of the other designers or coders.

His/her personal style preferences don't matter much as long he/she can understand the business psychology and what clients' want... You also need to find questions that will show if the Art Director has a solid personality and can resist pressure, bullying and can be assertive without being disrespectful. You want to find someone who has a great emotional intelligence; it's even more important than being technically good at design. It's very expensive to train new employees and find good ones as well; you don't want to waste time hiring someone with a huge ego who will make your other good employees/co-workers demoralized.

It's way easier to learn graphic skills and techniques than learning how to be emotionally / time / business smart! A designer well balanced in these areas will find ways to improve their design and layouts, and will not have issues using the right resources or ask for honest feedback to improve their work.

You might not like 100% of the portfolio of the Senior Designer but as someone else pointed out, you don't know what were the challenges with these designs and they should also be seen in their context (e.g. when they were done.) Maybe one thing you can do is asked about random projects in the portfolio and ask the designer why he decided this was a good piece to present and why.


Examples of questions:

  • What do you think the fundamental purpose of a manager is? (You’re looking for someone who knows it’s about getting things done, not something touchy-feely.)
  • What do you think are some of the most common ways people fail at management?
  • How do you handle a project that has limited resources in time, money and feedback? How do you know you did a good job and can show the result to the client?
  • How would the people around you describe you? (You don't want someone who has an "open-door" policy because that shows lack of time management skills, or "I'm friend with everybody" which might be a sign of not being assertive. Usually assertive managers are not loved by every single employees...!)
  • What’s a common misconception some people have about you?
  • Tell me about a difficult decision you had to make recently with a project. Walk me through the problem and what your thought process was, and how you ultimately handled it.
  • What’s an example of a goal you didn’t meet? How come? How did you respond to that?
  • Tell me about one of the organization’s largest or most important projects and how you managed it, from start to finish. I’m interested in something where others were doing the work, but you were overseeing it. - What was the vision for it? - What happened? - How did you ensure that happened?
  • Tell me about something you got done at ___ that someone else in your role probably wouldn’t have.
  • Tell me about the most difficult employee/project situation you ever had to handle. What did you do and what was the result?
  • Have you ever been given criticism that you disagreed with? What was it? How did you handle that?
  • What do you do when a client/co-worker gives you very harsh criticisms that you judge unfair or think are technically wrong? (You want to know if the Senior Designer will fight his way with the client and can support criticism, and also if he/she also has good business relationship aptitudes. You don't want someone who will fight the client or other employees.)
  • What are your goals when you plan or prepare a project?
  • How do you deal with co-workers who are passive-aggressive, or don't want to do what you suggested? How do you manage the situation?
  • What do you do when you need feedback, details or material to complete your project but the people who should give them to you are late? What if you cannot get these information or this material?
  • etc.

Most of the questions come from: http://managerlink.monster.com/training-personnel/articles/328-interview-questions-to-ask-when-hiring-a-manager

  • I like this answer a lot. One caveat: Art Directors aren't necessarily managers. They are in a lot of cases, but in a lot of cases, they aren't management at all (and there's a separate managerial structure in place). So make sure the questions are applicable to the particular org structure of one's company. – DA01 Aug 14 '15 at 21:15
  • 1
    (Also, as an interviewee, some of these questions might scare me off! If I was asked how to handle passive-agreesive co-workers I'd be worried that I might be interviewing for a position at a company with a lot of passive-agressive co-workers. :) – DA01 Aug 14 '15 at 21:16
  • They aren't "always" managers but most of the time, they are; either by managing projects or/and other designers. As for pretty much everything, It's not an all or nothing. dictionary.reference.com/browse/art+director The questions are suggestions; you probably noticed some are similar! The OP can simply get inspired by them and modify them (and use his own questions and the other ones suggested in the answers!) The point is: look at management skills too. Yes hardcore questions are good, if the person being interviewed is stressed by them, that's a very bad start! – go-junta Aug 14 '15 at 21:25
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    no need to defend anything you said. Like I said, I liked the answer. I wasn't saying any of it was wrong. Merely adding some additional context that might be useful for some. – DA01 Aug 14 '15 at 21:27
4

You migh show him a few of your recent "jobs" (unless you are working on confidential stuff like upcoming-product-artwork) and let him critique the way they were presented or documented.

You might also ask him how (detailed) he will assign jobs, if he is hired as "art director". Maybe he has got a template or a planning-tool that he likes using. I am assuming that in your company there will be some face-to-face dialog for each new significant job, but often it boils down to what was requested and documented in writing, when results are evaluated.

  • I disagree with with the critique part. Critiques need context and asking people to critique something this way can lead to uncomfortable situations for both parties in an interview setting. – DA01 Aug 14 '15 at 21:12
  • No problem, welcome to disagree. The asker is a clever guy who is preparing for this interview, so I would not patronize him/her to tell "and provide reasonable context". I believe an interview as such is an uncomfortable situation (and why not); and I would rather discuss something specific than some what-ifs. And for comfort: the asker had written. "Btw, assuming this candidate gets hired, he won't be working with me but in a subsidiary company on the other side of the world, so no concern for any future politics whatever." – Martin Zaske Aug 19 '15 at 17:01
4

I would try to ask questions that can pinpoint his skills and his critical thinking....Instead of "How long does it take you to complete a project?" I would ask some of the following

  1. Last three recent pieces of work he/she has completed or currently working on
  2. Describe how would you approach execution of a specific project [insert a scenario here]
  3. How well do you work with others?
  4. Describe a scenario where the project included a task that was outside of your comfort zone and how did you overcome it?

Basically the idea is to learn the thought process of an individual and his ability to problem solve. In a senior position you are looking a person who works well with others, doesn't need much guidance, and can think outside the box...This is just an opinion based on my experience whether through me going to interviews or doing the hiring myself.

2

How long did you take to complete (insert one of his artwork)?

You probably can't get much useful information out of a question like that. How long it takes to complete a project often has a lot to do with all the variables outside of one's control.

In that (insert another of his artwork) you did, was it a solo effort or did someone else help you?

That's an OK question, but I'd probably make it a bit simpler and suggest "do you prefer working solo or on a team?" The idea is to gauge their work preferences to see if it fits into your company's style.

What's your process for designing app UIs like? Could you share?

I think that's a decent question.

Other questions I like to ask that are less about specific answers and more about just getting a feel for the person in general:

  • Who are your favorite designers?
  • What types of projects are your favorite?
  • What industry web sites/magazines do you like?
  • Why did you apply for this particular job?

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