You’re about to graduate from architecture school, or maybe you already have a job, and you’re just simply looking for a change. Going through the interviews in an architecture firm is just part of a sequence of activities toward getting a new job, and there are some things that are worth knowing before you step into the room. Bob has been doing a lot of interviews lately, so there are things that we need to talk about … Welcome to EP 123: Interviews Just Aren’t that Hard.
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How to get an Interview jump to 15:39
We admit that the “interview” is a subject that we have danced around in many of our episodes, but we have never addressed it directly. So in this episode, we are going to give a full rundown of all the aspects of interviewing that we think are the most important. Of course, we can’t cover it all in our one-hour conversation, but we hope to hit all the critical points to consider throughout this process, regardless of your current employment status.
We have had several discussions in the past about how to get a job interview. Many of these conversations have taken place during other episodes. But the main gist of it all is that there are so many ways to get an interview and find companies to interview with. Gaining the interview should be the easiest part of the process. Especially in the current economy, it should be fairly easy to snag an interview. Of course, when the economy is rougher, then acquiring the interview opportunity will most certainly be more difficult. Using the resources available to you, whatever the point in your career, your network, the internet, job boards, social media, and many other methods, can get you in the door. Here are a few of those posts – here (‘Every Architecture Firm is Hiring’) – there (‘How to get a Job in an Architect’s Office’) – and everywhere (‘Getting Your First Job’).
What to Bring jump to 19:33
We have some differing opinions on what to bring when you show up for your interview. We can both agree that you should probably have a hard copy of your resume with you. I tend to use it as a place to make notes during our conversations. Bob says he may bring his own copy since he should definitely already have it. It may be a bit old school, but I like to be able to use it as a tool during the interview. When it comes to portfolios, you really do not need to bring anything with you. If you do, that is certainly acceptable, but most likely, I have reviewed your portfolio submission a few times by the time we meet. You can still bring a copy just in case, as it is always best to err on the side of being over-prepared. It might also be nice to have some small leave behind. Again this one is not 100% necessary and may not be “enjoyed” by every interviewer, but it is something to possibly make you more memorable.
You should always be dressed in a manner that shows you care about your appearance. This does not mean you must be dressed in your best Sunday for the interview, but you should be neatly appointed. This attention to detail is a manner in which I, as an interviewer, will use to assess some characteristics about you as a possible hire. Taking pride in yourself will most likely indicate that you take pride in your work. It is always better to show up overdressed than underdressed. Again err on the right side here. Just make sure it is something that will not alter your evaluation by your possible employer.
Then lastly, we discuss the Portfolio. Bob has his own particular way of evaluating portfolios. He prefers to look at all the things he knows the individual has control over; how the material is laid out, how it is organized, whether there is a story, and what is the progression. All of these elements are entirely under the control of the person being interviewed. Due to most academic conditions, students work in teams, and it becomes very difficult to evaluate what you did and your actual skill set. There are a few posts ( “Architectural Portfolios” here and here) and episodes where we discuss portfolios more specifically.
How did you get here? jump to 36:13
There is a bit of difference in the process of interviewing a brand new graduate with little to no experience and someone who has been working for a while. One of the primary considerations for those who have been working for a time is… What were the circumstances that brought you to this interview? This can have several different and valid responses but also possibly one that is a bit of a red flag. It could be a red flag if you are relocating within the same city, and it takes a recruiter to make the new interview happen. You should have a network if you have worked in the profession for several years. And that network should be able to help you find a firm that is hiring or an opportunity to shift without the aid of a recruiter. Now this can be different during a strong economy because headhunting is much more prevalent, and recruiters are seeking out individuals rather than being utilized by the individuals. So the situation depends, but I will always question this situation and wonder why it took a recruiter to get you in front of someone for this interview. Again, no rule is 100% certain, but it will give a possible pause.
How to Answer and What to Ask jump to 43:34
When you arrive at your interview, you’ll most certainly be met with some questions you should be prepared to answer. All interviews have a set of typical questions, but their response must be specific to THAT firm. So we can start with easy ones.
Why do you want to work here? In this particular office. It would be best if you had a specific answer to this question. It needs to be about the firm you are interviewing with or something beyond basic employment. If two people interview for the same position, one answers with “I need a job,” and the other says, “I think the work you do here is amazing,”… it is not difficult to see who will be hired.
Why are you leaving your current firm/position? Again this one should have a proper response. Be truthful but relevant. It can be that you simply wanted new opportunities. On the other hand, you wanted to change the type of projects you work on. The interviewer almost certainly understands that you are unsatisfied with the position or you would not seek a new one, so have a better (hopefully positive) answer to this simple question.
What do you think your best skill is? What do you like to do? This question allows me, as an interviewer, to try and place you in the proper place in the firm. If you enjoy what you are doing and feel like you do it well, then it should make it a better experience for you and a better condition for me as the employer. It also helps the employer know what you might want to do now and in the future. So a good answer for this is a way to make it possible for both of us to be happy and get what we want from this new hire. Think of it as if you’re happy, then I’m happy.
What are your expectations and goals for working here? Again this needs to be more than the desire to earn a paycheck. Develop some ideas about what you would like to get out of this architecture firm and this position. Be honest. Being honest is always best in this process so that you may end up where you want to be and what you want to do. Do you want to work with people who enjoy the same things you do or think about architecture like you? You want to enjoy coming to work every day. You want to make new friends and expand your network.
What do you expect for your salary? This one is so easy to come up with now with the internet. Determining a range of salaries for someone in your position and seeking a new position is possible with minimal effort. So have a number in mind. Do not answer this question with a “Well, whatever you want to pay me.” Be clear and also be reasonable. You can find the median salary for sure; maybe that works for you, or perhaps you want a little more. Right now may be your only chance to create an impact on this part of the process.
Bring your own questions to ask. You will most likely be given a chance to ask questions to the person interviewing you. What is my daily routine like? What are my expected hours? How long might I stay in this position before I get to move up? What projects will I be working on? I want to get licensed, so what support do you offer? What does the interviewer like about working in this office? What is their day like? Have some of these questions in your pocket, ready to ask when the time arises. If you want to know, now is the time to ask.
This AND That jump to 58:16
This is the second run of the new segment called This AND That. For this one, we stick with a luxury concept attached to a very not luxurious element. We are ready to see how all of you chime in on this one…
Live in your Dream House AND have no access to any hot water
Again, because I am the more flexible of the two of us, I decided to take this deal, especially if I could choose the location of my dream house. I would have a beach house near the equator so the idea of cold showers would not be too overwhelming. For all the other cleaning needs, I agree to get relegated to boiling water to make it all happen. I tried for multiple loopholes, but Bob was not having any of them for this one. I was allowed the ability to go to a hotel for a hot shower when I felt the need. On the other hand, he chose not to take this deal as he thought it would be too much of a sacrifice to give up one of his daily pleasures, a nice long hot shower. He just enjoys them too much to give them up for this opportunity. I can understand that, but I also think I would simply adjust to the routine of no hot water
EP 123: Interviews Just Aren’t That Hard
Going through the interview process (at any stage of your career) is an opportunity to show that new firm your strongest qualities and best intentions. Make certain to take full advantage of that when the time comes. But do not forget, it is also a time for you to interview that firm to see if they might meet YOUR expectations for a new position in a new company. By taking to heart some of the items we’ve discussed in this episode, you should be more than prepared to dominate any interview you have in the future.