trade tales | Jul 9, 2021 |
Designers share their go-to interview questions

Expanding your team is an exciting prospect, but it’s crucial to find the right people to help you level up. We asked eight designers—Rydhima Brar, Susan Currie, Alyse Eisenberg, Duncan Hughes, Rebecca Johnston, Mimi Meacham, Kalah Talancy and Donyea Tollie—to share their most telling interview questions.

Duncan Hughes
Duncan HughesCourtesy of Duncan Hughes

Name game
“At some point toward the end of an interview, I always say, ‘Tell me your favorite interior designers and a few things you love about their work.’ I am always surprised at how many candidates stumble over this question! If they don’t have any answer at all, that’s undoubtedly a red flag. I honestly don’t much care which designer they select, but listening to how they respond gives me the chance to clearly see if a candidate has passion for interior design and possesses the ability to think critically. This question can also really open the interview up for some lively design discussion, which is a central part of the work culture here at our firm.” —Duncan Hughes, Duncan Hughes Interiors, Boston

Susan Currie
Susan CurrieCourtesy of Susan Currie

A firm idea
“Meshing well with the company culture is paramount to our process. Therefore, my go-to open-ended interview question is: ‘What sparked your interest in working with us?’ Their response tells me what resonates with them about our company and how they see themselves and their unique perspective and skills fitting into our team.” —Susan Currie, Susan Currie Design, New Orleans

Rydhima Brar
Rydhima BrarCourtesy of Rydhima Brar

“‘What are your favorite TV shows or movies?’ I ask this question during my client intake, too. I love shows and movies, and if I happen to find out that we have something in common, it tells me a lot about them in a quirky way, and we instantly find something that we can bond on that is not work-related.” —Rydhima Brar, R/terior Studio, Los Angeles

Kalah Talancy
Kalah TalancyCourtesy of Kalah Talancy

“One of my favorites is to ask if the interviewee has worked in the food service industry. I know that sounds irrelevant, but to me, it means that you know how to prioritize, how to juggle, and how to impress with your customer service. A huge part of what we do is building relationships with clients, and these three skills are a priority for success.” —Kalah Talancy, KT2 Design Group, Sudbury, Massachusetts

Donyea Tollie
Donyea TollieCourtesy of Donyea Tollie

Value equation
“My go-to question is, ‘How do you think you can be of value to me?’ I like this question because it accomplishes two things: First, it makes them think outside of the business and automatically makes it personal, because I am asking specifically about myself. While I may have asked for help, I want to know how and if they really think they can help me. Second, it makes them think about their own value. I can typically get an idea of how honest, transparent or even confident they are.” —Donyea Tollie, Rejuvenation Home Studio, Bartow, Florida

Rebecca Johnston
Rebecca JohnstonCourtesy of Rebecca Johnston

“Our team is a collective of people with different views and reasons they work in the design world, but something we all have in common is that we understand our ‘why.’ Knowing and establishing our studio’s ‘why’ allows us to pull ourselves away from the mundane work to always look at the bigger picture. When we interview someone, we want to know what their ‘why’ is. Some days, the work is satisfying and brings great joy to our whole team, and some days, this industry can just leave you drained. If an employee’s ‘why’ does not align with our studio’s ethos, it is likely not going to be a great long-term fit for either party.” —Rebecca Johnston, R Johnston Interiors, Santa Clarita, California

Mimi Meacham
Mimi MeachamCourtesy of Mimi Meacham

Keep it simple
“‘Why do you want to work here?’ This tells me what they think the job and industry is about, what their motivation is, and what their short-term and long-term goals are. Lots of good info captured in one open-ended question!” —Mimi Meacham, Marian Louise Designs, Houston

Alyse Eisenberg
Alyse EisenbergCourtesy of Alyse Eisenberg

Portfolio review
“‘Can you tell me about your favorite project in your portfolio and the biggest obstacle you faced while working on it?’ This question is pretty simple, but it gives me an understanding of the potential new employee’s work ethic. By getting a sense of their favorite project, I’m also getting a sense of their personal aesthetic and a more specific indication of their ambitions. A lot of times, a newer designer’s portfolio is still developing, so I don’t judge the actual project. I focus more on how the candidate explains their process and the hurdles they overcame to get the project results. Whenever I’m going to add someone to my team, I want to be sure they’ll fit in with our culture [and] aesthetic and the level of detail my clients expect.” —Alyse Eisenberg, Studio Alyse, New York and Charleston

Homepage photo: A living room by KT2 Designs | Courtesy of KT2 Designs

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Marie-Christine Design
New York, NY
Marie-Christine Design
New York, NY