Hi, I’m Elle! I work as a product designer at Getaround and as an industry mentor here at Pathrise. I help our fellows land great jobs in product design through technical workshops and 1-on-1s. Check out my article where I go over the steps to become a UX designer.
Updated in 2021
Whether you are graduating, transitioning careers, or just looking for a change, mapping out your job search can be an exhausting task. There are so many unknowns that it can feel like you are setting off into uncharted territory.
Luckily, we have worked with hundreds of job-seekers to optimize their search and become a UX designer. We put together this step-by-step guide to help shed light on the road ahead so that you, too, can get a job that you love.
How to become a UX designer
Step 1: Ensure your resume, LinkedIn, and portfolio are strong
Before you start searching, you need to have your resume and online profiles up-to-date and strong. These are the tools with which you tell the story of your background and experience. Plus, they are the first indicator to a recruiter that you are a good candidate. This helps them decide you should move forward in the process.
We see a lot of very talented product and UX designers who struggle to find jobs. Often this is because they are not showing their skills accurately in their online profiles. Most of the time, this boils down to statements that don’t show the impact of their work and don’t quantify the results. Instead of those grunt statements, you need to rework your content to show your impact. These statements might be longer, but their ability to show your results make them worth it.
For example, this is a statement that only shows grunt work:
- Designed an app for my office to see who had leftovers in the fridge.
Instead, this statement can be updated to show the impact and quantify the results:
- Led the design process, including brainstorming, wireframing, and designing in Sketch, for an app that kept track of leftovers in the office fridge and sent a notification based on days in fridge, resulting in a 65% cleaner kitchen and an employee NPS score of 9.5.
Resume formatting to become a UX designer
The formatting for your resume should also be clean, professional, and tech-centered. You might have a design eye, but we typically recommend against anything too funky. We say this because it could make it difficult for an applicant tracking system or a quick glancing recruiter to parse the information quickly.
Use sans serif fonts (fonts without feet) and a maximum of 1 cool color (blue, green, purple) to make your resume look more modern. Include a section that highlights your skills, including tools, but do not include proficiency for each. Try to match as closely as possible to the keywords on the job description. This is because both recruiters and applicant tracking systems will be looking for exactly those words.
For even more tips on how to make your product design resume as strong as possible, check out our article. Then, to optimize your LinkedIn profile, make sure you have a professional photo, contact information, and a short bio about your experience and the types of roles you are interested in. Include all of the experience from your resume. But, feel free to elaborate a little more on your responsibilities on LinkedIn, since you do not have a space limit.
Finally, no UX or product design application is complete without a robust portfolio. The goal of the portfolio is to showcase not only the work you have done, but also the reasoning behind that work. It also provides important visuals to the work you report on your resume and LinkedIn. Your portfolio should be easy to read and understand with an inviting homepage and informative interior pages for each project.
This our checklist for a strong UX portfolio page:
- Setup & context
- The challenge & problem
- High level goals
- Your role
- The team
- Research & methodology
- User personas
- Needs & wants
- User journeys
- Reframe the problem with insights
- Solution – teaser
- Usability maps etc
- Feature callouts / details
- Specific design choices
- Pivot points
- Visual design
- Design language
- Launch, impact, results
- Final design
- User tests
- Learnings and reflections
- Next steps
For more information on how to optimize your UX design portfolio, check out this article. If you are looking to advance your skills before starting your job search, check out these product design courses.
Step 2: Only spend time on the right opportunities for you
Now that your resume, LinkedIn, and portfolio showcase the best of your past experiences, it is time to find positions and companies that match your goals. Think about the types of work you enjoy doing and the culture that best suits you. For additional help, try asking yourself some of these questions:
- Do you want to work at a big company or a small one?
- Does the idea of “wearing many hats” appeal to you? Or would you prefer to just do what is in the job description?
- Are you better collaborating with lots of others or working on your own?
The way you respond to these questions can help you decide if you want to work at a large company or a new startup or maybe even on a remote team. When you get a sense of the types of companies that are best for you, you can narrow down the job boards that you use to become a UX designer.
- LinkedIn and Google Jobs are good for big companies
- For startups, AngelList and VentureLoop are best
- Dribbble, Behance, and Just UX Jobs are good job boards that are specifically for designers
- If you are looking for remote work, try Remote.co and Working Nomads
We ranked and rated even more UX and product design job boards, too, so you won’t run out.
Step 3. Know how to increase your application response rate
After sending in an online application, don’t just sit around and wait for a response (because you probably will not get one). You can increase your response rate by taking one extra step that can take as little as 5 minutes.
We recommend reverse recruiting, which means that you reach out to the recruiter before they contact you. The best way to do this is to send an email to someone on the team at the company after you apply for the position. The email should let them know that you have applied and explain a little about yourself. According to our data, sending an email along with your applications will increase the likelihood of a response by an average of 3x.
In order to do this, find the recruiter, hiring manager, or a senior team member on LinkedIn. Them, you can find their email address through a free service like Clearbit or LeadFinder. If they don’t come up on there, you can try to guess their email addresses using these likely combinations:
You can test your guesses using email address verification services like Hunter and Email Checker. We also created a guide to teach you how to reach out to recruiters. It includes a list of recruiter email addresses, including Twitter recruiters, Spotify recruiters, Amazon recruiters, and many more.
Once you have their email address, write a compelling and concise cold email. Let them know you have just applied for the position and you would love to learn more about the company and the role by jumping on a quick call. Make sure that you give them specific times to choose from so that it is as easy as possible for them to say yes.
Here is an example of a template you can use for this cold email:
I hope you’re doing well! My name is [your name] and I’m reaching out because I recently applied for the [position] position I saw on [platform] and noticed you are a [role] at [company].
While I am not sure if you are the right person to contact, I wanted to reach out to you specifically because I was interested in the work you are doing, specifically [something from their LinkedIn or something the company is working on]. I am a skilled UX designer who takes a human-centered approach to design and I believe I would hit the ground running and be a great fit for your team.
I would appreciate the opportunity to learn more about you and the company. Would you be free for a 15-minute call, either at [timeframe 1] or [timeframe 2]? In advance, I have attached my resume for your review. I really appreciate your consideration and look forward to hearing from you.
All the best,
Step 4: Practice so you can nail the technical interviews
The best advice we can give is to practice the type of questions you will see in the technical sessions. We compiled a list of 70 product design technical interview questions from real tech companies. This is a good place to start, especially as you prepare for tech interviews. We also have a guide with product design interview questions and answers so that you can check yourself. answered 5 of the product design interview questions. Review the frameworks for these types of challenges that you can fall back on when preparing and answering in interviews.
A lot of the questions are being asked to get to the why of your design process or your way of thinking. Don’t jump too quickly into responding. Instead, think before you answer and don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions before giving any response. Back up your decisions and always fall back on metrics, data, and quantification to show impact.
Step 5: Research and prepare for your behavioral interviews, too
Sometimes people let the behavioral interview prep slip through the cracks. But, these sessions can be just as important as the technical interviews. They are trying to determine how you would react in certain situations and whether or not you are a good fit for the culture and team. These are major contributing factors to a yes or no decision.
The first behavioral interview you will have will be your phone screen. This is often short and more casual, but that does not mean you shouldn’t prepare. Read our guide on how to prepare for a phone interview here.
The first step to behavioral interview prep is research. The company About page is a good place to go to learn about their mission and history. On the Culture page, you can learn about their values. These often come up in interviews at big tech companies like Amazon and Netflix. They also often include good information on what they are looking for in a candidate and new teammate on the Jobs or Careers page, so note that as well. Finally, take a look at their Products page to ensure you are able to speak knowledgeably about what you could be working on if you are hired. We’ve created a guide showing you how to research a company to prepare for your interviews, which you can review for more tips.
Insert this information into your prepared responses to these behavioral interview questions from top tech companies. Your responses should be specific and succinct. People often think the more they say, the better. But, that usually comes off as rambling, so instead, offer to “go into more detail”. Write your responses down and practice them in front of a mirror or a friend so that you feel comfortable.
The elevator pitch
You know you will be asked to introduce yourself, so prepare your elevator pitch in advance. The structure should look something like this:
- Education. Introduce yourself, your major, and your class or year of graduation. This lets the recruiter know right off the bat what type of position you will fit in.
- Experience. What have you done in internships, school projects, student groups, or activities (as it relates to UX and product design)? Show that you put your skills to work.
- Projects (optional). If you don’t have much experience, or if you have very impressive projects, supplement your elevator pitch be mentioning 1 or 2.
- Conclusion. Don’t just trail off when describing yourself – end strong with a preview of your response to “why this company” by adding how you fit with their mission.
Check out our guide to writing a strong elevator pitch with a template you can adapt for your own use.
Prepare the questions you will ask at the end of the interview, as well. We’ve compiled the 10 best questions to ask in a product design interview, which you can use as a jumping off point.
Step 6: Negotiate and keep a good impression
Negotiation actually starts from the first interaction you have with the company. Usually, this is filling out an application or speaking to a recruiter on the phone screen. If they ask for a salary or range, tell them you want to do more research or write “Negotiable, within reason.” In addition, everything you say and do throughout all of your interviews are a part of your negotiation, so make sure you are careful.
After receiving an offer, just thank the recruiter and tell them how excited you are about the opportunity. Don’t say yes or no! Wait until you get off the phone so that you can take a moment and do some research.
According to Glassdoor, average compensation for UX UI designers is $90k. Product designer salaries are higher on average, at $106k. On AngelList, the average salary for a UX UI designer is $82k. This is likely a more well-rounded salary average because it includes startups.
You can figure out where to focus your negotiations based on the type of company extending an offer. For example, if you are in the offer stage with big tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, they are likely already offering you a good salary, so you might want to focus on asking for changes to equity, signing bonuses, and other benefits.
With smaller startups, your salary might be lower at first, so you should try to negotiate that higher unless they explicitly mentioned that they cannot do that. If that is the case, look at bonuses, equity, and benefits so that you can increase your total compensation. Use this negotiation email template, which we annotated, so that make sure you hit the right points and highlight your value to the company.
Step 7: Celebrate!
It might take some time, but using these tips and templates can help you gain confidence, expedite your job search, and help you achieve your dream and become a UX designer.
If you are looking for more help, Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. With these tips and guidance, we’ve seen 3x as many responses to applications, interview scores that double, and a 10-20% increase in salary.
If you want to work with our mentors 1-on-1 to get help with any aspect of your UX or product design job search, join Pathrise.