Summer is fast approaching here and that means there is a new batch of architectural graduates who are about to venture forth and get their first “real” job as an architect. My inbox is starting to receive the following question over and over again:
Can you tell me, or provide a tip, on how to get my first job in architecture firm? What would you be looking for in candidate?
At first blush, this seems like a perfectly reasonable question, and I have no doubt that the person who is asking the question thinks that I am in a position to provide them with the special secret that lead them to the promised land of their first job after graduation. The truth of the matter is that every firm will have different needs and requirements for the candidates they are looking to hire. Since recent graduates are full of promise but light on practical ability, most firms realize that there will be a training period as the new employee makes that transition from school to career – and some firms are better equipped to handle this training and transition period than others. As a result, this figures in heavily into the criteria firms use to evaluate potential new hires.
My answer to the question of how to get that first job is impacted by the size of firm we are and the type of culture we are trying to create in the office. Because of this, the things we look for in a candidate that is applying for their first job is how they present themselves, are they articulate and enthusiastic? Do they have things they are passionate about? I like to see the young people in my office care about something and get involved – it’s positively infectious to the culture of the office.
Did you notice that I didn’t mention your portfolio, your graphic skills, or your numerous international competition entries and honorable mentions? Those things are obviously important but I don’t really know what you did by yourself or how much of your work is a reflection of your professor’s input and guidance. In the last few interviews I’ve had, I don’t recall spending more than 5% of my time talking about the interviewees’ work. It might have helped them get in the door but the face to face interview is really about sizing the person up as an individual, trying to figure out what sort of character they posses.
I can’t help but think that large firms don’t have this luxury, the ability to ignore the current skill set of the person being interviewed. I was at a Dallas AIA event last night that was heavily attend (200+ people) and I spoke to a lot of people who all mentioned that their firms were currently looking to add to their staff. ** side note – If you are looking for work, the Dallas marketplace is doing staggeringly well ** I heard more than once that people mentioned that they had just added multiple people. Large firms hire in waves, seems at times that when they need to add to their staff, they are looking for manpower, brute force. My firm has potentially 3 spaces to fill at the moment and we haven’t had much luck finding the right sort of person that will fit into our culture … it’s that important to us to find the right person, not just a body who has some Revit experience. That’s probably (definitely) not fair to large firms, or to the people who get hired at large firms, to suggest they simply hire people just because they are in the right place, at the right time, and with the right sort of skills. I’m simply postulating that firms that are small like mine, that we might value the same sort of criteria differently than a larger firm.
Either way, don’t underestimate the value of your personality and interests. Your enthusiasm for the things that matter to you will be far more memorable than your portfolio regardless of the sort of office you are interviewing.
Here are some resources for you job seekers – hopefully you can find some of the answers you are looking for:
It’s that time of year again and the resumes from graduating college seniors are starting to crash our office door. What better time than now to have a little chat about them? I want to talk about is the “what not to do’s” and the other nuances within resumes – the information you can plant between the lines to tell the reader something extra about you.
At one point or another, every architecture student or graduate has a portfolio of their work that they have agonized over creating … and most people get it wrong.
I list of tips and techniques that I think can make the difference between receiving an offer and someone offering to “keep your resume on file should anything come up”
Want to get a job working in an architect’s office? What exactly do you need to do? Learn about the things I look for in a potential new employee – and you might just find yourself getting an offer for every single job you interview.