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How to nail your design interview: What to expect and what we look for

Learn what it's like to interview for a design role at Atlassian. 

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Many design candidates encounter interview processes that are stressful by design, with candidates purposefully tested to see how they perform under pressure. But when a candidate is stressed, it’s hard to understand what they can actually do and whether they’d add value to the team. On Atlassian’s Design team, and across the company, we work hard to make sure that every candidate is set up for success. We want candidates to feel that they can bring their most authentic selves into the process, because we know that means showcasing their best work. 

In part, that means doing everything we can to ensure our candidates feel comfortable on the big day. But it also means making sure you know what to expect well beforehand. Below, you’ll find a guide to every step of Atlassian’s design interview, along with tips on what we look for and common pitfalls to avoid. We hope it helps you navigate the process—and in turn, helps us add great people to our team.

Portfolio review

In this hour-long session, we’ll cover two or three of your past projects*. You should be prepared to speak to how you defined the problem space and how you evaluated success, as well as to the work itself. Individual contributor candidates should expect a deep dive into the details of the choices you made, while with management candidates, we’ll talk more about how you led the team and shaped the final result. 

*For research roles, you’ll present a few case studies you’ve worked on, and for content design roles, you’ll share writing samples. 

Keep in mind that while the projects you choose are important, the design of a portfolio itself matters, too. A couple tips:

It’s time-consuming but worthwhile to put it together thoughtfully, rather than simply jumping between preexisting PDFs or sharing entire Sketch files. 

Pay attention to detail, just as you would in your product design work, from how you use typography and how much text you put on each page, to how you frame your images and highlight the most important information.

This session is also an opportunity to showcase your communication skills. Whether you’re designing products, research, or content at Atlassian, storytelling is a big part of the job—you may need to quickly get leadership up to speed on a project or succinctly explain your rationale and goals to a teammate. So during a portfolio review, be sure to give us the context we’ll need to understand your work before diving in. Explain what the company you were working for does, and explain your role as well. We understand most projects are collaborations, so be upfront about your specific contributions.

“We want candidates to feel that they can bring their most authentic selves into the process, because we know that means showcasing their best work.” 

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Design challenge

If you’re applying for a design role, the next session will be a 90-minute activity broken up into three parts. 

Part one: We’ll provide a prompt that asks you to evaluate an emerging use case for a (non-Atlassian) product. We’ll then talk through how to improve the user experience for a new audience. 

Part two: We’ll give you space, literally—we’ll leave the room—and you’ll come up with a proposed solution for this new use case.

Part three: You’ll share your idea, and we’ll ask questions.

As we begin part one, don’t be afraid to take a deep breath—or to take your time reading the prompt. We know it can feel awkward to read carefully while people are waiting for you, but we expect it, and it's built into the timing of the exercise. The most common mistakes we see designers make come from rushing, and therefore not understanding the full context of the exercise. If anything seems unclear, just ask—that’s why we’re there!

Throughout the challenge, you should think of yourself as the lead designer on a project, and your interviewers as members of your team. At Atlassian, leaders always work collaboratively, and ask for input and feedback from their team. We want to see how you’d work through those conversations. At the same time, we want to get an idea of your thought process and your problem-solving skills—ultimately, you’re calling the shots. 

We’ll do our best during this session to make you feel comfortable, but you may also want to practice at home. Even though you won’t know the exact question, setting a timer for yourself and working through a similar process can make the real thing much more familiar. And we know design challenges can feel awkward and artificial. No doubt many of you, like many of us, prefer not to work “on the fly” in real life, and it can be nerve-wracking to collaborate with two people you haven’t met before. 

If you’re applying for a content design role, an interactive component may or may not be part of your interview; of course, we’ll let you know ahead of time what to expect. For research roles, we’ll spend an hour on a similar exercise—you’ll be asked to design a study based on a real-life research question. We don’t expect you to come up with a fully fleshed-out program; the goal is to understand your thought process and assess your ability to ask the right questions. 

Squad interview

If you’re applying for a role that will work closely with counterparts from Engineering and Product (including most managers and some ICs), you may also meet with them in what we call a “squad interview.” This is an opportunity to understand how you might work together; you’ll discuss topics like how to approach trade-offs and how you view the role of design. Mostly, it’s an opportunity to get to know each other—to figure out if you would be excited to work together and challenge one another.

Research and content design candidates may also have squad interviews, though these roles often work across multiple triads. If you’re interviewing for a highly technical role, such as a content designer for developer standards, you may also have an additional interview with a developer, so we can assess your basic technical knowledge.

Values interview

Finally, like every candidate interviewing for a role at Atlassian, you’ll have a 45-minute “values interview,” likely with someone who isn’t a member of the team you’ve applied to join. These sessions are relaxed, conversational, and not necessarily about the role, though questions are tailored for managers and ICs. You can also draw on any experience you have, including but not limited to work. Our goal is to understand how you think and work with others. 

And whether it’s during the values interview or throughout the day, we welcome questions from you, too. Every interview should be a two-way conversation, and we want candidates to bring their authentic selves to work, just like we do—so if something’s on your mind at any point, please feel free to ask.

After the interview

When each interviewer finishes their meeting with you, they’ll write down feedback as soon as possible, then we’ll all meet to discuss. These debriefs always start with a reminder of the role and level we’re hiring for, along with a quick “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” on the count of three—to help minimize bias. Each interviewer then shares their thoughts, and hiring managers ask questions before a final decision is made.

We may or may not make an offer, or even think Atlassian is the right fit for you. But regardless of the outcome, it’s our goal to always provide feedback so you know where you did well and where you might improve. From your portfolio review to your values interview and everything in between—if you apply for a job with us, we will consider it our job to help you succeed.

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