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Conversation with Josh Davey, Director of Design: what a UX hiring manager looks for in candidates

Over the past 9 months, it has been my observation, along with the feedback of hiring managers that a lot of candidates are unprepared for their interviews. If you need assistance with your next role, please reach out to us. 

Although a good interview isn’t the only factor that decides your success when job hopping, it is critical that you are prepared for the interview to have the highest chance of securing the job. However, most people will agree that the interview stage is the most critical part in the whole process of getting the job. For this reason, we caught up with Josh Davey, Director of Design at Neoteny, a behavioural design consultancy in Sydney. We put job seekers and candidates at the heart of our discussion today and talked about what a hiring manager like Josh looks for in talent, and high quality attributes shared by high performing candidates in the past.


Design skills

Josh believes that using years of experience isn’t the best indicator of skills. When interviewing a candidate, he takes an open line of questioning, asking candidates to walk through past examples of their design process, tools and techniques, why those were used and how they led to achieving a particular outcome and what could have been done better. 

He is looking to understand if people realise what they do well and don’t do well with these said tools or it was just a conscious decision to use these tools because someone else told them to. He also pointed out to us that in the design industry, too many designers have a cookie-cutter set of tools that they believe work for every project. Whereas, a good designer knows that each project will need a uniquely considered approach and tools. When interviewing, Josh usually asks a lot of questions to see if people are open to rethinking  those tools or not, to get a picture of how well they are at execution and how much of a conceptual thinker they are. 

Woman talking with her hands



At Neoteny, there is a lot of face time spent with clients where designers are expected to lead projects and work directly with clients. Josh believes that being able to communicate and advocate for great design is equally important as execution. 

Josh emphasised that along with all the usual communication skills (body language, confidence, etc.), key to good communication in a design context, is being able to fluently shift between detail and strategy.

He usually asks both detailed and strategic questions about previous projects on why they chose a particular design pattern to see if they can take the question from a detailed to high strategic level and navigate that fluently, which is key to good communication in a design context.

When we asked for examples of the questions, he said the detailed level could be questioning why a particular colour or interface pattern was chosen and that the strategic level could be to describe how the business challenge was overcome as a result of the given project.

Group working together

Culture fit

I know, I know. I’m sure we’ve all heard about ‘culture fit’ and may have even been turned down from a job because of not being the right fit. The funny thing is not a lot of people can define the culture fit they look for in their team. We were so glad that Josh brought this up and actually talked us through his perspective. 

He said people have different responses and reactions to different people. That is why at Neoteny, they usually put candidates through multiple interviews to meet with different team members. He believes this helps the team mitigate against personal bias and debate the value and fit of that candidate and how he/she can be seen working with the team. 

When looking at culture fit in an interview, Josh takes into consideration how balanced and equitable the attributes in the team are. For example, an introverted candidate could fit into the team now as the team has an imbalance towards extroverted people. But this can change anytime as time passes, and people grow or leave  the organisation (no one stays in a company forever, right?)

Person smiling and reading a book


Josh mentioned that it’s important for him to understand why people are motivated to be a designer. He argued that great design demands drive and motivation. He believes that candidates who are highly motivated will respond better to adversity and challenges that come with making and improving products and services, and will be more receptive and active in growing and developing their skills as you invest in mentoring and coaching.

A few questions he asks in interviews include ‘What is your favourite piece of design, and why?’ ‘If you could redesign anything, what would it be, and why?’ and ‘Why are you a designer?’. There are different variations to this question but his goal is to understand how motivated that candidate is, and the source of that motivation.

Besides the four areas above, he also expects the candidate to understand the business and ask him good questions (such as how they operate, their culture, purpose, mission and values). As to him, it shows that they value their time and that they are also interviewing Neoteny to understand if this environment is the right fit for them. This can serve as an indicator that the candidate understands and values their own time and ability.

I can’t agree more with Josh on this. Something I always say to my candidates is, ‘Make sure you ask questions. You are not there just to answer their questions’. A good interview is when the hiring manager and candidate interview each other.

In this current market, it is extremely competitive to secure your dream job. I hope these insights will be helpful to a lot of job seekers out there. Contact us if there is anything else you would like to know about to help you with your job search and interview process. 

Hiring managers, are these also the keys that you look for when interviewing people? Do you agree with Josh? Our team would love to hear from you, reach out here. 


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