Short Story

Sometime last year, I interviewed with Shopify London and while I felt sad for not making it to the final stage of hiring (come on it’s a Billion dollar company, the experience, the pay, the hype), I was happy for the opportunity.

I know you probably wondering, what happened? How did you get to interview them? What happened in it and what were the lessons?

Straight to the deets. I had applied to Shopify around October 2020 after a friend shared with me a link of them hiring and asked me to give it a shot. I had a sweet portfolio to share about my skills and experience (you should CHECK IT OUT, you’ll love it). I also was as witty and excited as possible on my cover letter.

Upon sending in my application, I wasn’t so sure I’d make the cut, to get me more tensed, I got a no-reply email saying “if you don’t make it, we will still notify you...”.

To ease the tension, I Had to forget about it and get a move on to other things. So it was the evening of Friday the 14th of November and I had closed from work and was heading to the market to pick a few things for a camping trip on Saturday when a mail from Shopify dropped.

It was exactly a week after my application and boom I had gotten a mail from Shopify, and it read thus: You have a Chat with the UX manager. Boy was I crazy with excitement? Considering earlier this year I was telling a friend that my goal was to work for a Billion Dollar company before the year ends, so for a moment, I felt I was close to my goal.

I had chosen a date for the interview and I was freaking nervous about it (I mean it’s Shopify come on, which budding designer wouldn’t be?). I went straight to digging and reading. Learned about the brand and the sub-brand Oberlo which I was supposed to work with. Went over interview questions I found online and was polishing my diction 😂

The D day came and boy o boy, man’s was ready to kill it (or so I thought 😅). It started with introductions and we went right into it, then the questions started flying, and I was slashing them like a Samurai (again so I thought 🤧). I had shared my journey in life and my career bus landing on the design road and how I’ve grown to this point. We talked about the Oberlo Team and how I can fit in, what’s expected of me, and my work process. Was a great and engaging session.

After the interview, I was informed they’d get back to me through the recruiter on what’s next. Boy I left that meeting feeling I had KILT IT (kill with a T). I was going to get my portfolio ready for presentation and all in the next meeting. I was super excited about Shopify as it felt like I was gonna get in, you know that kind of excitement that makes you wanna tweet "something big is coming 🚀 🚀" 😂 Yeah that type.

I know you are probably bored of the story and want to get to the lessons already so I’ll save you the stress and get to it.

Long story short, I got a mail from Shopify which started with “Thank you for...” and from experience, any application mail that starts with ‘Thank you’ never turns out positive. So I managed to read through and yes I didn’t make it through. I was sad, unhappy but also thankful I interviewed with them. Most importantly, I was thankful for the fact that they had detailed why I didn’t make it through.

Here ends my story, over to the business of the day.

LESSONS

I was informed that the reason I didn’t scale through wasn’t cause of my skills but because I lacked the right experience fit for the role I was applying for. 

See Shopify like every other recruiter, is seeking people who they can feed off of what you know. The game has even become very thin-lined that newbies find it hard to get internships and this is because brands are after what you can bring to the table.

Yes, you can push pixels, true you can create beautiful frames of product interfaces. But at the core, do you understand what is needed?

On the side of the hiring managers, there isn’t a particular way to find out if you make a good fit from the get-go. So if you don’t share tailored experiences during the interview, detailing things that they want for the role you are interviewing for, chances are that you’ll be dropped. This is because, most times, there’s only one chance to make the most impression. 

This goes further to say that you can have as much experience as possible but not the one fit for the role you are applying for. 

Which begs the question what then? Should we avoid roles that don’t match our experiences? What to do?

From my survey and conversations with senior design colleagues, one take-home was that when interviewing for roles you should make sure that while you are reading about the company, you ensure you read about yourself well and tailor what you say.

That means you should check which of your experiences match what the company is looking for and speak about it more. Also, find out how your current job/project somehow relates to the role you are applying for.

To further break it down, if you are applying for the role of UX designer at an e-commerce company, be sure to front your experiences that are necessary for e-commerce. Knowledge of CRM, the work process of your team, bla bla, etc. This helps you stand out.

To throw in the last-minute point which might be cliche, always go over your LinkedIn and update/clean it up as much as possible. Most times recruiters do not communicate to the hiring managers from day one who they are selecting. I noticed that after my interview, about 4 persons from the design team at Shopify viewed my LinkedIn profile, and to be honest I hadn’t updated my LinkedIn profile in years before the interview 😅

To wrap this up with a disclaimer, I’d say take these lessons with a pinch of salt. This means I may be wrong about why I wasn’t picked for the role. It might even be that I was only told these to make me not feel bad. Then again, these lessons were drawn in honesty from the feedbacks gotten from the hiring manager.

In my next piece, I’ll be sharing fewer stories and be writing a more design-oriented piece. Will be talking about Unboxing: Creating Products from the Eyes of a User.

Kennedy Iyeh 2021