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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.” 

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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