Inside the interview process

I thought it might be helpful for those of us who have been on the hiring side (recently, or not) to share some “insider” thoughts on the interview process. Maybe some others can join in and share their experiences? :slight_smile: Or ask questions! It’d be nice to have some open dialogue on this topic.

To set the stage: I am a hiring manager for designers (apparel and graphic) at a smaller, privately held company. The people I interview/hire report to me. We have an HR department, but also occasionally use agencies. I am just one person and don’t represent the breadth of approaches in hiring, so take what you will from my thoughts:

  • our HR dept screens/interviews for ALL positions in the company: accounting, sales, admin, etc. They are NOT experts on what design does, and when they screen candidates, they’re really looking at the ability to communicate their resume, confidence, personality, etc. Frankly, we are not always on the same page when it comes to candidates - sometimes HR is too literal about someone’s background. I think a lot of companies are set up like this and as a candidate, being prepared to present yourself to someone who doesn’t speak the language of your role can go a long way.
  • I, personally, DO screen resumes myself. I like a nice aesthetic on a resume (again: designer), and I like to check portfolio websites if they are shared. I wouldn’t count someone out if they don’t share work samples with their resume, but it definitely can make/break if the work is great/not great, or relevant/not relevant. Think about the role and market segment - if you’re sharing the website upfront, making sure the work applies to the position is a huge help.
  • I do check social media. I really don’t think many people go this deep, but if I find someone is arguing with strangers about politics on LinkedIn, it definitely makes me pause.
  • I don’t get super hung up on whether or not a candidate has done exactly the same category in the past - it helps, of course, but I can tell if someone has the right approach to identifying a customer and knowing what product works for that market. That being said, I think this is something HR (and probably some hiring managers) can’t get past in a lot of companies.
  • Follow-up is really in the hands of HR. They are the go-between. There are SO many candidates who apply and never respond to emails for interviews. Even during this quasi-post-pandemic time.
  • Projects… my least favorite thing to talk about. My leaders really want projects from design candidates. I try to make them small and with the intent of showcasing skills/design thinking that isn’t already addressed in the portfolio. (Maybe it’s all part of the same “butts in seats” mentality - “designers must do projects.”) It’s something I’m trying to change, particularly with higher-level hires. Entry-level positions, I tend to see the purpose of projects here because the portfolios are often slim and conceptual, show sewing projects from college, etc - not so applicable to mass-market design, in my case. Again, YMMV based on the role/company.

Thank you for sharing this insight. Most of the time this is a black hole for all involved and it helps to understand what companies may actually be looking for, beyond the HR screening process.


Amen to you @asmodeusish
Lots of good points that I’ve experienced as someone who applied for the job and someone that need to hire…
Most of time for me, HR wasn’t helpful at all- probably those reasons you mentioned above, which I totally agree.
But unfortunately the bigger, the company HR seems the gateway to pass to meet the hiring manager, which we get “screened a lot” from those algorithm screening, whether we all have good enough skills or not.
Sometimes even agencies gave me candidates half of the time it doesn’t work or even questionable…
I wish HR/Agency have better depth of understanding to get the initial candidates.

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Would love to know if the final candidate is hired based on the design project or most of the other connection points you list above? In general of course.

For me, I would only assign a project to the top 2 (or maybe 3) candidates, and the project DOES matter - at this point, candidates are essentially equal in all other aspects and the project is the deciding factor. It can (depending on the level, of course) showcase to me their understanding of the role, the specific market/product category, how much they retained from our conversation about the role, design process, etc. Though, I’ve also had candidates I REALLY liked who totally flopped on the project.

My impression is that a lot of companies assign projects “willy nilly” because they’re not sure what they want in a candidate.


Do you post the jobs on LinkedIn? If yes, do you actually look through those “applications”? It seems like like a needle in a haystack shot from the applicant side.


My company doesn’t - I’m actually not sure what that interface looks like. I’d be curious to know myself.

What I can say, which may or may not be helpful - the ATS (applicant tracking system) my current company uses does not automatically filter out resumes at all. A human must review every single one, which can be hundreds.

I would love insight on next steps after an HR interview. I know no news is not good but is it okay to reach out and ask if you are still a potential candidate? It’s so tough to be told they are
Interested and they have radio silence .