There are certain questions that have to be asked when interviewing a job candidate, but as with any industry, the particularities of the design world create opportunities for inquiries that go a little deeper. That’s why we asked seven designers—Monika Nessbach, Artem Kropovinsky, Tami Owen, Kevie Murphy, Chris Goddard, Laura Chappetto Flynn and Ali Budd—to share the questions they reach for when looking to bring on new talent.
“In interviews, one of my favorite [questions] is to ask how they handle mistakes. I ask the candidate to describe the steps they take when they realize they’ve made an error, and how they approach rectifying it. This question arose from a past situation where a former employee attempted to conceal a mistake, resulting in significant costs to fix and nearly damaging a vendor relationship. Another favorite question of mine involves conflict resolution. I ask if they have encountered conflicts with employers or clients, and how they managed to resolve them. This question helps me gauge their communication and problem-solving skills. The classic ‘How do you see yourself in the role you are applying for, and where do you see yourself five years from now?’ is also among my favorites. It provides insights into their expectations and the reasonableness of their job outlook.” —Monika Nessbach, Designbar, Charlotte
“One question I love to ask is, ‘How do you emotionally respond to a room when you first enter, and how would your design modify that response?’ This isn’t about their technical grasp, but rather their ability to empathize and connect with human emotions. And here’s why I find this question compelling: It gives me a sense of their design approach, and it provokes thoughts on the emotional impact of a room. Design goes beyond merely enhancing a room’s visual appeal—it’s also about instilling a sense of comfort and harmony for those who occupy it. By asking how they would transform a room’s ambiance, we can gauge their comprehension of factors like colors, lighting and spatial layout. Each designer has a distinctive flair, and understanding their style helps us determine if they’d gel with our team.” —Artem Kropovinsky, Arsight, New York
“My go-to interview question is, ‘What are the achievements not listed on your resume that you are most proud of and why?’ [Their answer] gives me information that the candidate thinks is important, and I find that it gives insight into [the aspects of their candidacy] that they may be humble [to share], and I’ve found they aren’t usually listed on a resume.” —Tami Owen, The Owen Group, Houston
“I like to ask, ‘Would you rather empty the dishwasher or take out the trash?’ It is a fun, lighthearted question with no correct answer. Usually the organized, detail-oriented candidates want to empty the dishwasher, and the tenacious person wants to take out the trash.” —Kevie Murphy, K.A. Murphy Interiors, Manhasset, New York
“I always have potential employees bring in several shelter magazines with their favorite spaces marked and ask them what drew them to these spaces. This is a quick way to see if stylistically they are a good fit or not by their selections and answers.” —Chris Goddard, Goddard Design Group, Springdale, Arkansas
“I think the single most important question to ask is, ‘What does your ideal workday look like?’ This question is super open-ended and will give the candidate an opportunity to tell you how many hours they’d like to work, their preferred start and end time, the type of work they prefer doing and what they do in their free time—which can give you a ton of information in a single [answer].” —Laura Chappetto Flynn, Element Design Network, Chicago
What’s the Draw?
“I always ask: ‘Why Ali Budd Interiors?’ We’re a small firm of 10 employees and have cultivated a really great work culture, so it’s important for us to hire someone who not only wants to be part of it, but will add something. At the end of the day, if a candidate is qualified, they could work at any firm. So, why ours?” —Ali Budd, Ali Budd Interiors, Ontario, Canada
Homepage image: Traditional elements get a sleek, contemporary refresh in this living room by Tami Owen | Courtesy of The Owen Group