Curious about working at Spotify as a UX writer (or, as some places refer to the role, content designer)? Judging by the number of DMs we receive, it sure looks like you are. And we get it. UX writing is exciting and working at a music and podcast streaming company adds some extra spice. In this post, we cover your most asked questions. Dive in!
Writing the words at Spotify. Yup, that’s what we do and that’s what we get lots of questions about. And while we’re busy with, well, writing, we don’t want to keep you guessing. A couple of us UX writers have teamed up, collected your most frequently asked questions, and packaged them into this neat little post that has all the answers you’ve been looking for. Sounds too good to be true? It’s not! We answer everything, from how to get a job at Spotify to what our day-to-day work looks like. And more.
Starting your career
How did you get into UX writing? (especially as a non-native speaker)
Anjana Menon: Like most people, I didn’t know UX writing was an actual job until I started doing it. My career kicked off in publishing and then veered into tech. I worked at an Indian tech startup where I did all sorts of copy and communications-related things, and then moved into UX writing. Finding a job wasn’t easy, especially when I’m classified as a non-native speaker. I tried using this to my advantage because I’ve *studied* English. I know the rules, grammar, tenses, etc., which help my editorial skills.
I consider knowing multiple languages my superpower. I can immediately tell when something won’t work from a localization perspective. Sometimes, when I’m struggling to write something in English, I try to say it in another language in my head and then translate it back, and that’s how I write something in the simplest way possible.
The notion that you can only hire native speakers is old-fashioned and not inclusive. People often hold an unconscious bias towards non-native speakers because of where we’re born and raised, without any consideration for our level of speaking and understanding of the language. We can be as fluent as native speakers, and we’re used to speaking to other non-native speakers, so it’s really easy for us to simplify the language so everyone can understand what we’re saying.
Starting your career
What other kinds of writing help prepare someone for a UX writing career?
Anjana Menon: All sorts of writing! Copywriting, technical writing, journalism, support content writing, etc. I think it’s important to state that while writing is the final output of the work we do, it helps to understand what goes into writing strings or copy. Understanding design, how user experience is shaped, how data influences your work, and being a great storyteller are all things that contribute to your writing experience. Showing empathy for people and being collaborative in your approach are necessary for a UX writing career. It’s a team sport, after all!
How do I build a portfolio without any experience?
Fran Catanuso: You can always build a portfolio from auditing a product or site you love, or a flow from the organization you’re applying to. Be upfront about assumptions you're making, from business goals and user problems to segmentation. Show your process as much as your craft and writing skills! That could mean doing a competitive audit of a product or industry and creating mockups or designing research questions and hypotheses you’d want to explore.
How can I learn more about UX writing? Any classes or courses or books you’d recommend?
Nicole Michaelis: Here’s the good news: There are a lot of great, free resources out there to help you learn and even practice UX writing. Typing in the term on Medium, Twitter, or Linkedin will spit out some great articles and also point you in the direction of some people in the field who regularly share insights and thoughts. Since I work at a podcasting and music company, I of course recommend listening to some podcasts, like Content Rookie (by yours truly) or Content Strategy Insights. If you’re looking for training or a bootcamp, I know several people who recommend the UX Content Collective. Interested in learning directly from professionals? Find people to follow and advice on Working in Content or check out mentoring options. Oh, and there are a lot of awesome books too! My personal favorite is Strategic Writing for UX and Letters to a Young Poet—because you should never forget about the beauty of working in content.
Getting hired at Spotify as a UX writer
How did you get a job at Spotify?
Fran Catanuso: The Designers had a crack at this question, but of course it's a bit different for our craft. It differs slightly depending on where in the business you're applying but generally there’s a take-home test, portfolio presentation, and a few chats with potential colleagues.
Here are some steps I took while applying to be UX writer at Spotify:
I used my network. I got referred through a friend and current Spotify employee. Referrals are a powerful way to get your foot in the door, and referees are usually incentivised to pass on candidates.
I did a show AND tell. For my portfolio and Spotify’s take-home assessment, I knew it was equally important to describe my process as it was to show my writing skills. I wrote succinct problem statements, and included an explanation of my approach, before and after screenshots of my copy, and described its business impact.
I interviewed my interviewers. That’s right! I sized them up. I asked my future colleagues questions about the organization structure, business challenges, and their favorite bands.
I called my mom. No, really. I called my mom after the marathon of 1:1 interviews. She reminded me to take a deep breath and that if I was myself, it was enough. She was also the first person I called when I heard back from recruitment. 🥳
Does Spotify hire interns, associate, and mid-level UX writers?
Chris Diken: Why yes, we do hire interns! Spotify offers internships in locations around the world, mostly over the summer, along with a variety of programs for those just getting started in their careers. Internships can turn into full-time roles, depending on the team. Summer internship applications generally open every fall. Check out the full list of opportunities!
In terms of full-time roles at the associate and mid-level, we generally have more openings at the mid-level, which are listed as “UX Writer” on our jobs site. But we’re working to get more associate roles open soon. We’ve had a small, senior-heavy team for a while, but as we grow, it makes it easier to bring on UX writers who are just starting to develop.
What would make me stand out as a candidate? What do hiring managers look for in a UX writing portfolio?
Chris Diken: At Spotify, there are a few things that can make a UX writing portfolio stand out:
Bring the data: How did you use research or data to drive your writing decisions?
Show the impact: What outcomes did your work lead to?
Shaping product solutions: How did messaging influence the final product you delivered?
Navigating ambiguity: How did you and your team get through a confusing or unclear situation, and how did you decide to move forward?
Language decisions: Why did you choose a specific word or phrase over another?
Localization challenges: How have you dealt with making content available in different regions and languages around the world?
Simplicity: Is your portfolio easy to navigate and understand?
Applicants absolutely don’t need to include all of these things, but if you have experience in any of these areas, give some thought to whether you can highlight it in your portfolio.
UX writing at Spotify
How big are the teams, what's a typical team structure, and who are common stakeholders?
Nicole Michaelis: The team sizes vary a lot. I’ve worked on three different teams at Spotify. On one, I collaborated with just three designers, while the other two were bigger with 12 and seven designers respectively. The sweet spot depends on the projects you’re working on.
In my experience, designers are not always the only close collaborators. I’ve worked on a team where I partnered with developers and the product manager. I’ve also worked closely with marketing and localization on some projects. I’d say the team size in itself doesn’t say a lot about how many people you’ll be working with on a day-to-day basis. The most common stakeholders are designers, product managers, engineers, localization managers, and fellow writers, of course!
What’s a typical day look like? What’s the UX writing process at Spotify?
Nicole Michaelis: The process depends a lot on your team — its size, current projects, how work is structured. Some teams have daily stand-ups that you can join and work in sprints. Other teams have a more asynchronous way of working and take meetings on demand. After having worked on a few different teams at Spotify, I would say it’s also very much up to you and how you want to work and contribute. Most teams (and managers) are very open to suggestions to ways of working and processes. So share what works for you or try our new things — for example, tools, workshop formats, and when you get involved with projects.
My typical day is pretty adjusted to my routine. I like to get up early and get a lot of product-heavy UX flow work done in the morning. This includes writing documentation or working on copy in Figma. I usually have meetings in the afternoon and check-in with colleagues then. Your day might look totally different though.
If you’re interested in joining our lineup of talented, intuitive and user-centered UX Writers, why not apply for open roles on LifeAtSpotify.com?