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Design Consultant Interview
Questions

30 Questions and Answers by
| Rachelle is a job search expert, career coach, and headhunter
who helps everyone from students to fortune executives find success in their career.

Question 1 of 30

Describe a successful team-based design project. What was your role within the team, and how did you contribute to the projects' success?

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Design Consultant Interview Questions

  1. 1.

    Describe a successful team-based design project. What was your role within the team, and how did you contribute to the projects' success?

      As a Design Consultant, you know that no one project is precisely the same. Each project requires a great deal of flexibility from all team members and stakeholders. Teamwork is an essential component of pulling together a successful design project, so the interviewer wants to know that you are a positive contributing team member. The best design teams are not hierarchical. Instead, they are more free-flowing and innovative.

      Using the STAR framework (Situation, Task, Action, Result), take the time to tell a story surrounding your ability to collaborate and help your team to generate a positive result. State your typical role in a team-based project, and describe how you contribute.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "(Situation) When I was working on the public library design project, there was conflict as we had to follow plenty of regulations and work alongside government employees. (Task) When I work as part of a design team, I often take on the role of 'people problem solver.' I can sense friction, and I can quickly see when a conflict is brewing. In times of disagreement, I have a natural ability to see all sides and communicate with others effectively to come up with a situation. (Action) In this instance, I would carefully listen during meetings and take note of communication roadblocks. I expressed that to succeed, we needed to have a shared language and vision. We needed to win together and lose together. I often identified forgotten tasks and project needs we had lost in translation between the designers and the contractors. I spent my time clarifying these issues by bringing together the designers and contractors in quick daily meetings. (Result) My approach took some time and a lot of effort, but we solved many communication issues along the way. Of course, I did not resolve all of the problems; however, the mediator role that I took helped the project to stay on track in many senses."

  2. 2.

    What type of projects would you like to be involved in, to expand your design portfolio?

      The interviewer would like to know your goals for your portfolio and career as a Design Consultant. With clearly defined goals, the hiring company (and you) can discover whether this collaboration is a fit! Share your immediate and longer-term goals as a designer. You might share that you dream of designing a specific type of space. Perhaps you dream of working on a team with a particular style of design. Then, be ready to discuss how the hiring company's opportunity will help you achieve these project goals.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I have an interest in being involved in more commercial projects, such as the public library project that I mentioned previously. I learn a great deal from unique projects like this, which makes them incredibly enticing. Knowing that the end product supported my community was enriching. I find joy in supporting my community and making it an even better place to live. When I saw that your firm focuses on a lot of government and community projects, I felt compelled to apply, and I am eager to grow my portfolio in these areas with your design firm."

  3. 3.

    When it comes to project collaboration versus working independently, what is your preference, and why?

      The interviewer wants to hear that you are open to working in teams and function independently. If you have a strong preference for one environment over the other, be sure to mention your preference while expressing that you will happily work in each type of environment. Avoid pigeonholing yourself as a person who can only work alone or only work a team's support. Flexibility is important as a Design Consultant since every day will bring different challenges.

      Before your interview, carefully review the position description, check out the company website, and view their LinkedIn company page or employee profiles to understand the collaborative/independent nature of the role. This research will allow you to tailor your answer to the needs and approach of the hiring company.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "My answer depends on the project. I have passion projects that I enjoy, and I like to do these on my own or with an assistant who understands my style and approach. Those passion projects include working with designers and small business owners on displays and storefronts. When I work with a small business owner, it is a more personal approach, and I like the one-on-one intimacy. When working on larger scale projects such as commercial designs or hotel remodels, I prefer to work with other talented designers. I learn so much from others' expertise, and it also disperses the pressure when it comes to decision making or meeting tight deadlines. For me, the best part of being a Design Consultant is is that no day looks the same, and there are so many ways that I can use my gifts and abilities while also growing and learning from others."

  4. 4.

    How do you gain buy-in from your client when presenting a design concept?

      As a Design Consultant, you recognize the importance of working well with each client. The interviewer wants to hear that your clients are excited about the design ideas that you present. Share your approach when presenting design concepts, and discuss why your success rate with client buy-in is high. Be sure also to address how you troubleshoot a situation where the client is not buying into your design concept. Your reply's tone should be that you are accomodating and listen to your clients' needs and vision.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "By the time I am presenting a design concept, I will have had the opportunity to get to know my client quite well. We will have built a good rapport, allowing me to present in a way that speaks to their vision. Because of this approach, I have a high success rate when it comes to gaining client buy-in. I am not a 'salesy' type of designer and will present an idea or concept only after being confident that it will benefit my client. The clients' satisfaction is my number one priority, so if they are hesitant about a design, I will spend time asking specific questions surrounding their hesitation. Then, using this new information, I will look for a suitable alternative. It's important to offer choices; however, not too many options as that approach can also cause decision paralysis. In the end, my clients know that I have their best interest in mind and that I am passionate about bringing their design vision to life."

  5. 5.

    How do you build rapport with your clients?

      The interviewer wants to know your methods for getting to know your clients and building trust with them. When you have a great relationship with project stakeholders, you will be more successful as a designer. You will also help the hiring company to build an excellent reputation for exceptional client service.

      Some ways that you can create rapport with your clients:

      - Do what you say that you will
      - Ask them questions about themselves
      - Set clear expectations, on both sides, from the start
      - Remember their names and important personal details
      - Show your extensive knowledge base
      - Always be presentable in looks and actions

      Rachelle's Answer

      "To build client rapport, I ensure always to do what I say that I will. My clients need to be able to rely on me and feel 100% confident that I will deliver over and above their expectations at all times."

  6. 6.

    Outside of work, what type of creative activities do you like to pursue?

      This question is a 'softball' question that you may encounter closer to the beginning of your interview. The purpose is to give you a question that will help relax any interview jitters while also helping the interviewer get to know you better. Tell the interviewer about the variety of ways in which you express your creativity outside of work. At the end of your response, be sure to draw the connection back to the Design Consultant role.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "Outside of work, I like to attend dance classes, and I also attend paint and sip wine nights at a local wine shop. I also enjoy reading as a way of nurturing my creative side. These activities have benefitted me as a Design Consultant since I gain a new perspective on movement, art, and literature. I often read books on design and architecture and find it especially fascinating to learn about famous artists, creatives, and designers of the past."

  7. 7.

    What do you know about sustainable design?

      The interviewer wants you to discuss what you know about sustainable design. They are looking for details on how you embrace sustainable design in your work. As you know, Designer Consultants have a fantastic opportunity to embrace the use of renewable resources and materials in their designs. You can teach your clients about waste and create beautiful designs based on improving the environment. This question is also an excellent opportunity to mention what you know about the hiring company's sustainable design efforts.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I view sustainable design as any design that works to reduce a negative impact on our environment. I care deeply about the environment, so I encourage sustainable design at all times. We all need to do our part to develop and create sustainable designs that do not harm the environment. I choose to use environmentally safe products and incorporate recycled items as often as possible. This approach to sustainable design takes careful consideration at each project stage. These choices can be more costly; however, the materials are often more durable, lasting far longer than other fabricated materials. I do my part to upcycle and recycle everything that I can. If I am doing a residential or commercial renovation project, I will note what materials we can donate to non-profits, schools, or local low-income housing initiatives. As a Design Consultant, I have the opportunity to play an important part in protecting our environment, and I choose to design projects that do not require over-consumption of non-renewable materials. I was impressed to see that your firm earned an award for a recent hotel design that included sky terraces, holding nearly 1,000 planters filled with multiple species of plants. This project was impressive, and I would love to learn more about your firms' approach to sustainable design."

  8. 8.

    Do you work well under pressure? Give me an example of a time when you succeeded under immense pressure.

      Design Consultants face many pressures, including meeting deadlines, facing the pressure to be the best, exceeding client expectations, and more. The interviewer needs to hear that you can work well under pressure and come out on top. Express that you work well under pressure and show confidence in your abilities. Be sure to mention that you are proactive under pressure.

      For this 'Give me an example...' style of interview question, the hiring authority would like a story-based example of a time when you succeeded under pressure. You can approach this question using the STAR interview method, an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Tell your story in an engaging way that showcases your fantastic abilities.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I work very well under pressure. This coolness under pressure is one reason why I have succeeded thus far as a Design Consultant. I have faced pressures including tight deadlines, achieving a discerning client's vision, and dealing with manufacturers when they drop the ball on delivering essential materials on time. (Situation & Task) When I first joined my current firm, I was the most junior designer of the group, and there was a lot of pressure for me to keep up and perform. I felt a great deal of doubt among my new team members when it came to my success factor. (Action) This pressure only motivated me to work harder. I spent evenings and weekends learning new techniques and taking additional coursework to complement my existing education. (Result) In a short amount of time, I was able to earn the respect of my team members, and today, six years later, I feel at ease as a high-performing, contributing member of the group."

  9. 9.

    How do you handle stressful situations, such as collaborating with uncooperative architects or tradespeople?

      As a Design Consultant, stressful situations and potential conflict must not get the best of you when working on a project with different personalities, deadlines, and goals. Your responsibility as a professional designer might be to mitigate stressful situations and ensure they do not leave a negative impact on your project. If you have a story-based example of a time when you encountered a similar situation, be sure to show your conflict resolution and stress-management skills in action.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "There can be a lot of pressure in this job when collaborating with architects and tradespeople. We all have timelines to meet, and some days, it can be a challenge to satisfy all of these deadlines. However, I find that as long as I maintain a professional and courteous attitude, most situations can be figured out before they turn into a conflict. Just last month, a situation became heated between a contractor and me when he said that my design idea was 'impossible.' Luckily, the architect was on-site and disagreed with the contractor. We were able to maintain respect for all opinions, and we verbally worked out the misunderstanding. I believe that every project is about the clients' vision and never about ego. Contractors, architects, and tradespeople are critical to every project, and without them, I could not be a successful Designer. For that reason, I am always mindful of working as a positive team player."

  10. 10.

    Tell me about a time when a client was upset with a design choice you made. How did you handle the situation?

      As a Design Consultant, you won't always get everything perfect with your clients on the first attempt. This sentiment is especially true if you are newer to your career or work with one-time clients on smaller projects where it can be more challenging to get to know them and their preferred style. The key to forming a compelling response is to show that you handled the situation with maturity, that you presented solutions to your client, and that you learned a lesson in the end.

      Give a story-based example to this 'Tell me about a time...' question and organize your response using the STAR interview method. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result. By following the STAR framework, you will provide a detailed story with actionable information, making it easy for the interviewer to follow along while picturing you in your element.

      If this situation has never happened to you, that's great! Share that you have not encountered this challenge, and discuss what you would do in this hypothetical situation. Highlight the fact that you would offer exceptional service by presenting remedies to ensure the client walked away with a final product that made them happy.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "(Situation & Task) When I was fresh out of design school, I was not as forward about my client approach, and my system to projects wasn't as well-honed as it is today. There were times when I thought I knew better, and I made mistakes that were humbling but also fantastic lessons. I recall one client who would not look at the granite slabs that I presented for their kitchen and bathroom renovation project. He only looked from a small sample, despite my recommendation that we visit the showroom and look at a full-sized sample so that he could see the veining variations. In the end, the client did not like the granite that we had agreed on. He accused me of choosing a style that he did not choose. (Action) I asked the fabricator and the showroom manager to confirm that the granite installed was indeed the granite that the client had chosen. We presented various solutions, and finally, he agreed to 'learn to like' what he had chosen. (Result) It was not the ideal situation; however, what I learned was that I should be more insistent when it comes to the due diligence required on big decisions such as choosing granite."

  11. 11.

    Tell me about a time when your design idea clashed with the vision of your client or a team member.

      As a Design Consultant, you will not always be on the same page with your client or co-workers. However, teamwork is a significant part of your role, so you need to ensure that you achieve a common understanding in all situations. The interviewer wants to hear that you are a collaborative individual willing to adjust or modify the plan when roadblocks come up.

      Using the STAR framework (Situation, Task, Action, Result), give a story-based example that describes when your design ideas clashed with the vision of your client or a team member. Be sure to highlight your communication style and conflict resolution approach, finishing your answer on a positive note.

      If this situation has never happened to you, that is great! Share that you haven't had this experience before, and then discuss your course of action if you encountered this issue.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "For me, as an experienced designer, one of the essential parts of the creative process is the initial brainstorming phase. When I help clients envision a project, it requires asking a lot of questions. In this discovery stage, I akin my approach to that of a counselor. I walk my clients through some design ideas and tell them about the process required to deliver the results. Some clients have concerns or opinions of their own. (Situation) One client, in particular, insisted that their preferred design style was minimalistic; however, they had a strong draw to the mid-century modern look. (Task) I was curious about the appeal since I found that their initial discovery and the conversations we were having mid-project were clashing. (Action) I offered samples and asked many specific questions. (Result) It turns out that my client did indeed prefer a minimalist look; however, they loved the clean lines, shapes, materials, and fabrics used in mid-century modern design. Once I was able to overcome that communication roadblock, the project went off without a hitch."

  12. 12.

    What kind of discovery questions do you ask your clients before beginning a new project?

      Part of your success as a Design Consultant is to build the right foundation at the start of each project. The discovery process is critical to the project's success, and a great discovery session can help ensure that your client is happy with the result. The interviewer wants to picture you conversing with a new client. Discuss the types of questions that you ask, but avoid responding with a bulleted list. Take the time to walk the interviewer through your process.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I like to ask questions such as, 'Tell me about your ideal space.' I bring an open-ended approach and reserve closed-ended questions when I require a targeted response for topics such as the budget and timeline. When asking discovery questions, I get to know my client and their habits in the space that we are re-designing. For instance, if we are in their home, I will say, 'Walk me through your living pattern, from morning to evening.' Or, I will say, 'Can you show me your morning routine?' I want to see how they move about their house so that everything flows and remains convenient when their new design is in place. I will say, 'Tell me how you want to feel in this space,' which is a terrific way to gain an idea of the feelings that I should elicit in my design. Open-ended dialogue is critical so that I know the client will get what they want out of the design project in both the look and overall vibe."

  13. 13.

    Tell me about a design project that did not turn out as expected. What were the contributing factors, and how did you ensure a positive result?

      As a Design Consultant, you are aware that some projects come with curveballs. The interviewer wants to know how you react when the inevitable happens. Tell a story of a time when you recognized that a project was off track, and you were able to recover the situation. Discuss some detail of the project and situation. Include what you believe contributed to the unexpected project result. Mention the action steps that you took, and then the overall positive impact. Discuss how you made efforts to align communication and expectations. Be sure also to highlight what you learned from the situation.

      For 'Tell me about...' interview questions, try delivering a response by using the STAR interview technique. STAR is an acronym for Situation, Task, Action, Result. The STAR approach will help you form an engaging story that is easy for the interviewer to follow.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "(Situation & Task) Last year, I consulted on a design project for a clothing shop in a heritage building downtown. The owner had some pretty wild ideas that I felt my design team could execute. These ideas included massive iron displays suspended from the ceiling and a rotating display case built into the floor. Partway into the project, issues around the store's structure arose. We could not bring this clients' vision entirely to life while maintaining safety and keeping the building's structural integrity. The client did not understand the recommendations made by our architect, and communication broke down quickly. (Action) I know that there is an emotional element to design, especially when working with entrepreneurs who live and breathe their businesses. I called a meeting between myself, the client, and our senior architect. We rendered some new drawings and presented three alternate options for the client. (Result) Ultimately, the client chose one of the alternate options but somewhat begrudgingly. I knew that the client was more disappointed than angry because everything we presented made complete sense, and the issues were not the fault of anyone - they were simply due to the buildings' limitations. During this project, I learned a lot about conflict resolution, problem-solving, and the importance of outlining explicit expectations and potential roadblocks from the beginning."

  14. 14.

    Looking at your design portfolio, which project makes you most proud, and why?

      The interviewer wants to see what makes you beam when you discuss your past design projects. Be ready to present and discuss in detail one project that stands out to you as extra special. Maybe you generated a great connection with the client, and you could execute your clients' vision flawlessly. Discuss the project details, and be sure to let your enthusiasm shine! If possible, bring a physical or digital portfolio with you so that the interviewer can visualize the project you are describing.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "I have had the opportunity to have worked on many projects that make me proud. One project in my portfolio that makes me feel proud was a bookstore that I worked on a couple of years ago. The owner was so knowledgeable about his merchandise and the retail industry but struggled with presenting his vision. We worked together and came up with color schemes, room layouts, and furniture ideas. This project has a special place for me because we worked so well to come up with a quaint and welcoming space that he and his customers love. I checked in with this client six months after his re-design, and he reported that sales had increased by 28%, which I thought was incredible! I enjoy the most are when I can work with small business owners to bring their vision to life. I love helping them set up their shops and displays in a visually appealing way that also optimizes sales and the customer experience. It's rewarding to work with business owners who have a clear vision of what they want to draw out of a well-thought-out space."

  15. 15.

    Do you prefer functionality or appeal? Support your preference.

      As a Design Consultant, you will have your preferences and individual reasoning behind those preferences. For that reason, there is no right or wrong answer to this type of question. However, you will want to ensure that your response reflects the design principles of your client or the hiring company. When you discuss functionality versus appeal, mention projects in your portfolio where you may have chosen one approach over the other.

      Rachelle's Answer

      "For me, this answer depends on the project. I have worked on various projects with different desired outcomes, where my clients' goals will define whether I choose functionality over the appeal and vice versa. For instance, if I am designing a high-end boutique or salon, the project would need to be functional and have great appeal. When designing a library or bookstore, I focus on functionality and sustainability while maintaining an overall vibe that guests will enjoy. In any set design project I have taken on, the priority is functionality as the sets need to move and be multi-purpose; however, the appeal still needs consideration."

  16. 16.

    Talk about your career goals as a Design Consultant and why this job is right for you at this time in your career.

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  17. 17.

    Tell me your favorite, and least favorite, aspects of your current or most recent position.

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  18. 18.

    Do you consider yourself someone direct and forthright with others?

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  19. 19.

    Tell me about your ideal design project. If you could conceptualize anything from start to finish, what would it be?

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  20. 20.

    Tell me something about yourself that I wouldn't know from reading your resume.

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  21. 21.

    Have you ever received a negative review from a client?

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  22. 22.

    Tell me about your design-related education.

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  23. 23.

    Tell me about a time that you failed. How did you get back up again?

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  24. 24.

    What tech and tools do you use to support your design process?

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  25. 25.

    How do you market yourself as a Design Consultant? What is your 'elevator pitch' with potential clients?

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  26. 26.

    If we hire you as our Design Consultant, how will you make a positive contribution to our design firm?

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  27. 27.

    Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult client. How did you approach communicating with this client?

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  28. 28.

    How well do you collaborate with others when it comes to design, style, and project vision?

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  29. 29.

    What resources or publications do you lean on to keep current with design trends?

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  30. 30.

    When did you realize you wanted to be a Design Consultant? What initially sparked your passion for design?

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