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Interviewing at Palantir:

The Product Design Portfolio Review

The first stage of our product design interview process is a 45-minute portfolio review over videochat. We know your time is valuable, and we’re excited to learn more about your work and who you are as a designer. Our chat will start off with a round of introductions, followed by a discussion of 1-2 projects of your choosing. We’ll save 5 to 10 minutes at the end for you to ask questions about us and what we do as designers at Palantir.

The interview should feel like a conversation. Our goal is to get a deeper understanding of you, how you work with others, and your approach to problem solving. During the interview, expect us to ask questions and dig into details—think of it like a design critique you might have with your peers.

Although our design portfolio review is the same for all candidates, here’s some guidance for specific audiences:

  • If you’re applying as an intern or new grad, don’t feel self-conscious about obvious mistakes in early work — we know you’re still growing as a designer. Show work you’re proud of, but don’t hesitate to talk about the weaknesses you see and what you might have done differently. Strong self-critique is a positive sign of your potential going forward.
  • If you have prior experience, please note that all Palantir designers (including leads!) will do some individual contributor (IC) work. We want to see work that concretely illustrates your interaction and visual design abilities.

To help you prepare, here’s some guidance for the interview:

Which projects should I present?

People assume we want to see ‘Palantir style projects’ (enterprise and data visualization–heavy work). That’s not the case at all. Your project can be less relevant to the work we do at Palantir, as long as you can showcase how you approach problems and harness your design skills.

So pick the projects you’re most proud of! A few tips to help you decide:

  • Budget time accordingly. We’ll spend 25 minutes (including some questions we may have for you) discussing your projects. In our experience, presenting 1 or 2 projects is best.
  • Present at least one software product design project. We don’t get as much information about your skills from other types of work (ex. branding, marketing, graphic design). We also prefer seeing interactive apps instead of static websites (so we can dig into macro and micro-interactions). That said, many of our designers still engage with and enjoy non-software projects. If you’re passionate about other types of design, feel free to mention it during your introduction or as a second project.
  • We don’t look down on self-initiated/personal side projects. If you have less industry work to show, it’s okay to share things that aren’t “real” projects. We want to understand your design skills, how you approach problems, and how you handle constraints (even if they’re hypothetical constraints). A self-initiated project can still help us understand: Did you make a reasonable effort to do some user research? Did you make grounded assumptions about what users need? Is your solution appropriate and delightful?

How should I present my projects?

Once you’ve chosen some projects, here are some tips for how to present them in the interview:

  • Set the stage: Tell us the timeline of the project, who was involved (other designers, just you?), and project status (has it shipped)
  • Show us the mocks! (Or prototypes, or videos…) We tend to learn the most about a designer’s skills when we can spend about half the time talking through concrete design artifacts and learn about the specific decisions you made.
  • We love options. We’d love to see the different options you considered before deciding on a final design. We also want to know how you weighed these options (pros, cons, tradeoffs)?
  • Remember it’s a conversation! You should feel comfortable critiquing your work during the interview (sharing what you’re proud of, as well as what you would have changed). We’re trying to assess both your present work and future potential. We don’t expect you to be perfect! Instead, we want to understand where you’re strong and where you want to grow as a designer.

If we’re short on time, we may ask to skip some of your slides (if you’re using a deck) or jump to your final design solution. Please don’t take this as a negative sign—we want to use the interview time wisely and ensure that we have enough time to see your work.

A cautionary tale: We don’t need a ten-hour case study!

One of the most common reasons we run out of time during a portfolio interview is when a candidate shares an overly long case study. A project may have had a very rich and thorough design process, but you don’t need to dive into every single step. Some thoughts to keep in mind to when curating what aspects of your process to share:

  • What are the highlights? We want to see parts of the design process that most impacted the design outcome, or shaped your understanding of the problem. You don’t need to check all the boxes of a classic ‘design problem-solving process’ to get to a successful outcome.
  • What are the learnings? Rather than describing the process (user research, brainstorming sessions), spend more time on what you discovered and the impact it had on the design outcome. We want to know how different aspects of your design process directly improved the design solution!

We share our work with each other and with our engineering and PM counterparts in a similar way. At Palantir, we’re flexible with our design process so we can adapt to different types of problems and timelines. When we do user research, for example, we tend to do “Just enough research” (Erika Hall!) to understand a problem and build empathy for our users.

Final thoughts

We hope these tips helped, and we’re looking forward to meeting you and seeing your work. We’re also excited to share more about our design team with you—we believe Palantir is tackling meaningful, interesting, and important design problems, and we’re always looking for more people to tackle them with. We want to hire thoughtful designers and give them an environment to become even better—in their design craft, in collaborating with others, and in making the world’s most important organizations do better work.

Thank you for interviewing with us!