Imagine: the interview process for your new UX design role is going really well. You’ve spoken at length with the hiring manager, interviewed with each of the main department heads, and answered all questions thoroughly. But then, out of nowhere, in your final interview, comes a question you weren’t expecting: “Walk us through this example in your portfolio. Why did you make those choices?”

You freeze, frantically searching your memory for details of that project. You vaguely remember why you made a particular design decision, but the words just aren’t coming to you. Eventually, you share a few half-remembered details and hope they don’t notice.

It doesn’t have to be this way. 

All too often, talented user experience design candidates falter when asked to clearly articulate their design decisions. While your particular choices may seem intuitive to you, hiring managers want to know more about the thought process and approach that informs your work. 

To help, we’ve put together 4 tips for preparing for a “deep dive” into your UX design portfolio.

Explain the context of your case study. You likely selected a particular case study to include in your portfolio because it showcased an element of your skill set, such as user research or visual design. But without context, it can be difficult for a hiring team to determine how impactful the project actually was. Before breaking the project down, explain what type of problem you were trying to solve, what audience you were serving, and how the work had an impact. 

Go into detail. Don’t be afraid to break down your case study into its component parts. For example, hiring teams may have questions about why you created a particular drop-down menu or chose a particular color. This is an opportunity for you to detail the thinking and strategy that went into even the smallest decisions during this project. Doing so helps the hiring team envision how you would approach their own in-house projects and assignments from the ground up. 

Discuss different iterations and versions. You likely went through several different versions of your design before it ended up in your portfolio. Walk the hiring team through your thinking at different stages, including how user research and testing informed new directions. Hiring teams will want to see that you can adapt to changing user needs as projects evolve and that you aren’t “stuck” in one approach or way of thinking. Don’t be afraid to discuss how your assumptions about a project ended up changing as the work continued—this shows you can keep an open mind and clear perspective. 

Be crisp, clear, and to the point. You, more than anyone else, know all the hard work that went into the projects featured in your portfolio. While it’s tempting to spend an hour on a single case study, understand that time and attention spans are limited. Polish your case study presentation down to a few minutes of quality insights, and be prepared to answer additional questions that may arise. Hiring managers appreciate clear and direct answers that show you’ve put some thought into your response. 

A portfolio “deep dive” doesn’t have to be scary. With a little bit of preparation, you’ll be ready to answer questions about each of your case studies with confidence.