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How to get entry level design jobs for bootcamp grads – 2021 update

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 this article on entry level design jobs.

Updated in 2021

After graduating from a product design bootcamp, many students hope to secure positions as UX/UI designers, UX/UI researchers, and product designers. However, often hundreds of people apply to the same job postings, including recent college grads who may have spent the past 4 years studying product design, human computer interaction, or a related field. They may have even interned at a major tech company. As a bootcamp grad, how will you stand out to recruiters for entry level design jobs? 

We’ve helped many product designers land their dream job in tech and here are our most important tips and suggestions. 

1. Strengthen your resume, LinkedIn, and portfolio 

Prior to submitting job applications, make sure that you have a strong resume, LinkedIn, and portfolio. One of the biggest mistakes we see on resumes is grunt statements, rather than impact statements. You should write your resume so that it demonstrates the impact you made on previous design projects and experiences. This helps you highlight how your work made a difference. 

When possible, quantify your results using numbers. If you worked on a website, you might say that your design increased user satisfaction through NPS scores. Or maybe you can point to the success of your design with A/B test metrics. You can also quantify by increased findability of information or pageviews, sessions, conversions, and more. If you don’t have results at your disposal, quantify the scale of your project. Think about the amount of users, review cycles, or team members that were part of the project. 

In addition to writing about your projects, you could also include past work experiences on your resume, especially if they relate to UX/UI design. If you previously worked as a graphic designer, for example, you could emphasize your ability to choose colors and fonts effectively, a key skill for UX/UI design.

LinkedIn

With less space limitations than your resume, you can go more in depth to optimize your LinkedIn. This will help you frame your previous work experiences or projects in a larger narrative. Even if you have an online portfolio or website (and you should!), be sure to include links to all of your projects on LinkedIn and add context to each one. That way, recruiters can find all of your work in one place. 

UX portfolio

The next step is to build a strong UX design portfolio that showcases your past work and skill set. Upload your portfolio to a website such as Behance so recruiters and hiring managers can easily access your work. Your portfolio should tell a story and offer a commentary on the methods that you used to tackle UX design obstacles. When showing how you solve problems, be sure to focus on how your designs are user-centric. Think of your online portfolio as a way to showcase your ability to create a visually engaging website that is designed with users in mind. Be sure to consider fonts, colors, imagery, motion, and screen real estate.

You should also make sure your portfolio shows that you have the necessary skill set for the jobs you want. For example, if you are mainly focused on UX positions, highlight those projects in which you worked on UX design and/or research. If you are looking at many different types of design roles, consider adding sections to your portfolio for each type. This allows you to showcase your expertise in those areas in a clean way. 

Many design bootcamps require students to build portfolios based off of class projects, which is a great start. But, since many other bootcamp grads will be applying with similar projects, working on additional side projects is an excellent way to show that you are passionate about design and learning new skills. In your portfolio, you can include an experimentation section and side projects. These will showcase what you are doing on your own. If you’re unsure about what to include, consider creating a hypothetical case study for how you would redesign a website or an app. 

2. Know what jobs match your background

Under the design umbrella, there are many different types of positions: UX or UI designer, UX or UI researcher, product designer, and more. Graduates from design bootcamps need to be aware of what roles relate to their skills and knowledge. For example, UX designers need prototyping, A/B testing, and wireframing experience. Similarly, researchers conduct studies to help determine what decisions the designers should make. Designers focus on making the content readable and understandable through relevant visuals and user-friendly structures.

Some positions may require skills in user interaction, user experience design, analytics, and research. So, be sure that your background and experiences match the job descriptions of the positions to which you are applying. 

3. Go beyond online profiles with cold emails 

Design bootcamp grads should incorporate enthusiastic cold emails to recruiters, hiring managers, and fellow bootcamp alumni into their job search. You can use LinkedIn to find the team members who will be looking at your resume and portfolio. Email these people to increase your chances of being noticed in the first round of applications.

When reaching out, try to focus on people who have something in common with you. Studying at the same university or growing up in the same city are good points of connection. But, you are even more likely to be helped by someone who attended the same bootcamp as you. Use tools like Clearbit to find their email addresses. You can also add someone as a connection on LinkedIn, but be sure to include a personal message that explains your connection and expresses how excited you are to learn about their current position, projects, and employer. 

Many bootcamps offer useful resources for networking through their career centers. If you have already reached out, consider following up again. Career coaches are often updating the list of companies and organizations that employ their alumni. Most bootcamps have alumni groups on Slack, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other online platforms where you can network, share design resources, and more.  

4. Prep for behavioral interviews

As you prepare for your phone screens and behavioral interviews, make sure that you develop a good sense of the company’s culture, values, mission, and products. You might use Google every day, but do not underestimate your need to research the company before interviewing. Check out their About page, which tells you about the company’s mission and history. Then, dive in further with their Mission, Values & Commitments page. This gives you great insight into what they are looking for in new employees. Connect this information to your background so you can highlight how you fit in with their culture and why you would be a great fit to join the team. 

Photo of entry level design jobs at Google

Now that you have learned that Google is passionate about a more organized internet, you should highlight why this mission matches your own goals and how your experiences can contribute to their successes. You can practice incorporating this information into your behavioral interview responses and elevator pitch, which helps show that you understand and fit with their culture and values. 

For example, if you have previous experience working with data, you might conclude your Google elevator pitch by saying something like, “I am excited for an opportunity to connect my experience working on data organization and visualization in my past internships with a company that is so passionate about making a more accessible Internet.” 

5. Practice for product design technical interviews

Be prepared to answer questions about what UX design is, why it matters, and how you would explain the UX design process to someone outside of the field. Interviewers will likely ask about your design process and methods, so be ready to tell a story about a project, including its background, process, obstacles, and the final product. Be sure to mention the context for the project and how that helped determine what strategies you used. 

Most likely, you will be presented with a case study and asked to identify the user, goals, problem, and why it matters. In general, interviews are going to be testing your knowledge of the following: 

  • User research
  • User personas
  • Customer journey maps
  • User flows
  • Prototypes
  • Wireframes
  • Metrics and impact
  • Usability, readability, and scanabiltiy
  • Information architecture
  • User interface and interaction design
  • User experience research and strategies 
  • UX design trends 
  • Testing and launching a product

So study these fundamentals so you can answer these questions with confidence.

In addition, be prepared to field questions about a company’s competitors, a product that you think is well designed and why, how a product makes users feel, the contexts & constraints that influence design choices, and how you explore and iterate solutions. If you’re stumped on how to talk about these topics, check out our product design interview questions and answers from top tech companies to begin preparing the best possible responses.

If you’re looking for more practice questions, we also have a list of 70 product design interview questions from top companies.

6. Brainstorm questions for your interviewer

To convey that you have a strong understanding of product design, you should also prepare questions to ask in a product design job interview to showcase your excitement about the company’s mission and products, eagerness to learn new design strategies and skills, and your understanding of the design process. 

By using the above tips and guidance, you should be on your way to landing entry level design jobs.

Pathrise is a career accelerator that helps students and professionals 1-on-1 on their job search. If you want to work with design & career mentors on every step of the way, join Pathrise.

Apply today.

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