24 Architect Job Interview Questions (for All Levels)
You’ve got an interview coming up, and you are preparing for it by researching some architecture job interview questions and answers?
That is a smart strategy but take it a step further. Look through these questions and answers but take time to write down your potential solution to these questions. You don’t need to write an essay but focus on what your response should be with real examples.
When you’ve got your ideal answers, find a room, and read your answers out loud.
By practicing vocalizing your responses, you can find your natural rhythm and hand gestures.
It is crucial to remember you are not going to memorize these answers – you are practicing, so you have a flexible memory bank of responses to a whole range of architecture interview questions. That is why you are tailoring the answers to fit what you know and showcase your experiences.
What sort of architecture job interview questions are you going to face?
The following or variations of them are amongst the most popular.
1. Why did you want to be an architect?
You were probably asked this question as part of your University or College interviews. Your parents have probably questioned your life choices.
The wrong answer is that you want to be famous and make lots of money.
The correct answer is to do with passion and interest.
Why does architecture interest you, and why did you spend all that time qualifying?
Take a few minutes to note what you really love about architecture. If you can, think of an anecdote about the first time you thought about architecture:
“When I was fourteen, my parents took me to see a medieval church in Italy, and I was awestruck by the space and light!”
It helps if you are passionate about the type of work your potential employer does for clients because that makes you a better fit for their organization.
Look at yourself, look at the company, and tailor your answer to give an honest response.
2. What are your greatest strengths or weaknesses?
This typical question arrives in all types of interviews, not just architecture job interviews.
The interviewer is not interested in the fact that you can run a marathon or have a weakness for chocolate. You are being interviewed for a job and not a date. Your strengths and weaknesses relate to your potential employment.
To prepare to answer this type of question, look at the job requirements and focus on indicating you have the strengths to meet these demands:
“I have excellent people skills, I really enjoy interacting with others and finding out all about them, but I like to think I can motivate other people to work towards our shared goals.”
You can select a mixture of personal skills and traits (time management, team worker), and practical skills (Revit, knowledge of legislation in this State).
Weaknesses are the pitfall. Unfortunately, the often-tried answer of – I like to think I don’t have any weaknesses, seldom impresses.
Prepare for this one with a few strengths dressed up as weaknesses:
“I am obsessed with details and wanting to come up with the perfect design. I handle this by reminding myself not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and strict time management.”
3. Why should we hire you?
You are awesome, but that is not the answer the interviewer is looking for; this question opens the door for your sales pitch.
This answer showcases the top five things you want the interviewer to know about you with this job:
- Accreditations like LEED (source) and awards.
- Software experience.
- Business experience.
- Project experience.
The top qualities you have and the interviewer’s needs vary from interview to interview.
As part of your preparation for this architecture job interview, come up with the best answer to this question. Even if not asked directly, this question is the whole point of the interview.
This question is all about what you can do for the company and never what the company can do for you.
4. Tell us about the project in your portfolio that you are proudest of?
This question should come with subtitles – and why should we care?
When you go through and polish your portfolio before the interview, pick out which projects you want to talk about and how they demonstrate that you are an asset to the potential employer.
Not sure where to start?
“This project demonstrates that I …”
Alternatively, list the top five reasons why each project is in your portfolio.
Are you proud because it was your first completed project?
Did you run the team?
The design is 100% yours. It won an award. It made your last company a hefty profit as it was under budget and delivered on time?
It made a significant difference to the client by giving them more space or turning an ugly block into a new home.
Select your portfolio based on its significance to the interviewer as well as to yourself, and then you can talk confidently about any of the projects knowing they are relevant.
5. What was your contribution to the success of that project?
It is tempting to inflate your importance towards the success of a project. Although you must promote your role, be honest, and focus on the facts.
If you have spent time polishing your portfolio for each project, you know exactly what your part was and how you contributed.
Practice talking about your portfolio projects and record yourself. When you listen to the playback, you will spot areas where you can add more detail.
Of all the questions the interviewer asks you, this question should be the one that is easiest to answer as you are using your genuine experiences.
6. What was the biggest challenge you faced in that project, and how did you overcome it?
Again, this is part of knowing your portfolio. This question is part of a whole variation on a theme:
- What would you do differently?
- What went well on that project?
- What went badly?
- What did you learn?
From the interviewer’s point, they are interested in challenges that affect their profitability in projects you complete for them. As part of each item in your portfolio, have some bullet points that address the pain points and successes.
Challenges can be outside of your control (site geology), people related (demanding clients), or financial (materials cost doubled).
The interviewer is looking for your ability to recognize and solve problems. Use your answer to demonstrate your initiative and business understanding.
A challenge is anything that might prevent successful project completion.
Perhaps none of your projects in your portfolio had challenges? It is unlikely, but in this case, you can go with something like:
“All projects have challenges in completion, but I like to stay on top of my project management, so potential issues are identified early and dealt with before they become a difficult challenge.
For example, in this project, the client wanted to use a finish that is not readily available. I worked up several design alternatives using other materials and helped the client choose an option that performs better than the original material at 75% of the cost.”
7. Tell me more about how you worked with your internal team and the external consultants and contractors.
The interviewer wants to find out about your people skills.
In your answer, focus on how you communicate (email, phone call, face to face), frequency of contact (daily, weekly, monthly), and how you identify and resolve interpersonal problems and meeting deadlines.
Try and identify a typical example of each type of interaction and why this approach works in moving a project forward to completing on time and within budget.
8. If you have a demanding client that gives you a hard time in terms of deadlines and constant changes, how would you handle the client?
Clients are the lifeblood of any firm, but the sad truth is that they can be difficult, if not to say impossible, to handle at times.
Unless this is your first job, you are likely to have plenty of experience meeting many types of demanding clients. Think about how you handle it and how you wish you’d handled it.
The key points to address are:
- Paper trail.
- Manage expectations.
Your response may go along these lines:
“I like to stay in close contact with clients, so they get a regular update.
When they change the deadlines, I want to clarify with them that the deadline has changed and assess how likely it is to meet the deadline because if their expectations are physically impossible, it is best to make that clear to them.
When it comes to clients making changes to the project while underway, I like to send them a document outlining the change they want and making the impact in terms of increased cost and changed deadlines clear.
Hence, they know what they are asking, and there are no recriminations later.
Unfortunately, some clients can be awkward, and dare I say it, bullying, but I like to maintain a professional approach at all times, so there is a clear record of what we have and have not agreed.”
9. When you have multiple projects and face deadline pressures, how would you approach handling the problem?
The interviewer is looking for your time management skills and response to stress and pressure. Perhaps you use task manager software?
When answering this question, try to tie it into examples where you face this situation in the past.
The skills you are looking to express are:
- Time management.
- Willingness to put in extra hours.
Your ideal answer will include elements of the above features. A good start on this question is:
“I block out one hour’s planning and thinking time at the beginning and end of every working week to assess where I am on all my project deadlines, challenges to successful outcomes, and action I can take to progress on all fronts.”
10. What do you like and dislike about your current firm?
Ouch! It is a good job you are taking the time to prepare your answer to this question.
First, however, tempted, and even if you found yourself unexpectedly working for the Darth Vader of the Architect world:
Never badmouth your current employer.
It is a bit like gossiping. Do you know that friend who is always criticizing your mutual friends? What exactly are they saying about you?
Neither can you excessively praise your current employer because you must explain why you are looking for another job.
Before you start to come up with your potential answer to this question, compare your current employer with your potential employer.
Look for areas where they are the same and areas where they are different. Praise the areas where they are the same and mention the areas where they are different by painting the potential new employer as the preferable option.
That’s the formula!
You manage to avoid criticizing your current boss and appeal to your potential new boss simultaneously.
Acceptable reasons to “dislike” your current employer are the type and variety of available projects, a lack of opportunity to progress (the firm is too small, so you must move), and a desire to relocate to another area.
The things you like about your current employer are the same things that your new employer can offer you.
This question is one where you do want a prepared answer so you can navigate the tricky politics of moving job with diplomacy.
11. Why would you want to leave your current job?
There is an honest answer, and there is an appropriate answer.
This question is a variation of why do you dislike your current employer? The interviewer is seeking to find out if the problem is you rather than the past employer.
People leave an employer for many reasons – some good and some bad. If you have been made redundant or the company is downsizing, you can say that as an honest answer.
“Sadly, I’ve been made redundant (let go), and I applied for a role with you because I really like …”
If you are leaving because you are overworked and underpaid, then you need to come up with an acceptable explanation for your proposed move:
- Desire to progress and a lack of opportunities.
- Broadening your experience.
- A passion for the new employer’s projects or policies.
If you are honest that you are moving for more money, you want to work fewer hours, or you hate your boss – you are unlikely to get the job offer.
It is harsh, but what the interviewer hears is that you will leave them as soon as a higher paying job comes along, you won’t put in extra hours, and you are a difficult person in the office.
12. Are you aiming to be a Licensed Architect?
Ah, the license, desirable to have and takes time, effort, and money to obtain. Licensed architects are more desirable employees and build the reputation of the firm.
If you don’t want to go for the license, you need an acceptable reason that does not give the impression you can’t be bothered or lack ambition.
If you say you are going for the license, be prepared to outline a timescale and when you are going to hit deadlines to achieve it.
13. Why do you want to be a Licensed Architect?
This question follows on from the last one.
Perhaps take a few moments thinking about why you want to pursue the license. Avoid the pursuit of money (it may be true, but you don’t mention it), but you can go for the fact that it opens doors and career progression.
The more challenging question to answer is: Why don’t you want to be a licensed architect?
14. Are you LEED accredited? If no, do you plan to pursue it?
In case you are not familiar with this – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Green building and sustainable practice are desirable must-have features.
The simple answer is that if you’ve got it flaunt it, and if you haven’t got it have a plan to acquire LEED accreditation and be vocal about your enthusiasm for it.
LEED is not a single badge as there is a work requirement, specialisms, and exams – don’t try and bluff your way through it; decide what suits you and have a realistic, knowledgeable plan to present about your goals.
15. How do you see the role of green/sustainable architecture in our society?
You could memorize a standard answer to this question, but don’t!
A question like this (if it comes up) is a gift for the prepared interviewee. It is a current hot topic globally, and the interviewer expects you to have an opinion.
Your starting point for your unique and memorable answer is the company website and policies.
What is the interviewer’s opinion on this topic? Are there practical examples of sustainable practice in their projects?
Now come up with your top three points to make on this topic about how green and sustainable architecture is the way of the future. When you are talking, invite the interviewer to contribute, promoting a genuine exchange of ideas.
16. What software can you operate, and how do you rate your skills in each of them? (AutoCAD, Revit, Photoshop, etc.)
Your resume probably covers this item. Be honest and reflect your level of skills and experience without inflation.
Emphasize that you regularly get to grips with new software, and you are comfortable using the tools of your trade.
This is a factual question, so stick to the facts about what you use and how frequently you use it, and what you create with examples from your portfolio.
17. Do you see yourself more as a Design Architect or a Project Management Architect? How do you rate yourself in each of them?
What is the job you applied for? Your answer should reflect that you match the job demand, but it is worth stating your honest preferences.
If you are a design architect and hate project management, you may be looking at the wrong job.
And if the role simply seeks an architect in general, the firm may have two positions to fill. So, be honest about the type of architect you are. It is what you will be doing for the next couple of years, at least.
18. What other interests do you have besides architecture?
This question comes under the heading: tell us a little about yourself. The interviewer wants to know if you are an interesting person to have in the office and an asset to the company.
Sporting activities indicate you like to stay fit, possibly network with other people, and are likely to be a healthy employee.
When you describe your interests, be genuine, and don’t claim to love modern jazz unless you can discuss it in depth when it turns out that a member of the interview panel is a real enthusiast.
But if you have one too many time-consuming interests, it is best only to highlight one or two that put you in the best light.
When the firm hires you, they want your time and, selfishly, your undivided attention. They want to know you can give them that.
19. What was your thesis topic before graduation from architecture school?
The interviewer is looking to see where your interests lie – cover what you did, why you chose it, and if you still feel the same way about that topic now or if your interests lie in other areas.
You did your thesis, so this is a question you can relax into but focus on the points that are relevant to the potential role.
But if you’ve had more than a couple of years working after graduation, you don’t have to bother with this question.
20. Are you willing to travel if we have an out-of-state project?
Is this a deal-breaker for you?
Don’t sign up for something you don’t want or can’t do just to land a job that you are going to hate. You may have genuine difficulties in traveling away from home because of family circumstances.
Before going into the interview, be clear on your response to this – Yes, No, Maybe.
You might want to seek clarification on how frequently this happens – once every couple of months or every week.
The diplomatic answer:
“In principle, yes, but I would need enough notice to organize my family arrangements.”
Architects have families and dependent relatives, and a responsible employer is going to be reasonable about yours.
21. What is your current salary?
When answering this question, be honest because it needs to agree with your reference. But include annual bonuses and any benefits like a gym membership, health insurance, and whatever else you get as part of your remuneration package.
Specify that you get X for salary, and then on top of that, you get Y and Z.
Your current salary may be lower than the one offered by the new role, and most people move intending to increase their take-home pay.
The potential problem is the gap between your current and future salary. There is no hard and fast rule, but most employers feel comfortable with a gap of around 10 to 20%, which puts you in the same job bracket.
If you are looking to jump up the salary bands by a substantial amount, you need to justify why you are worth it. Some reasons may include working in a job that pays you less than you are worth because you wanted to work on these projects, or you needed to be in this location.
Be bold, confident, and avoid arrogance.
The new salary may be less than your current employment. You would think that an employer would be glad to get a bargain, but in practice, most employers suspect there is a problem if you are moving for less money.
They guess that you won’t stay, you are running away from an issue, or something odd about the situation.
Why are you moving for less money?
What makes this job attractive despite the cut in salary?
Reasons may include the range of experiences, the location, and changes in family circumstances – perhaps this role offers part-time hours.
Remember, you are exchanging information at this stage. Salary negotiation (if any) happens after you get a job offer because otherwise, it is hypothetical.
If pushed, ask straight out if they intend to offer you the role. Then you can move on to salary negotiation.
22. What is your expected salary if we were to hire you?
This question is one where it is reasonable to answer with a question:
“What salary range are you thinking of paying for this role, and what is the benefits package?
Your reason, if pushed, is that you need to see if you and they are in the same ballpark. You can respond to the potential offer with:
“I think we can agree on that range,” or
“I was expecting a little more than that.”
Salary negotiation is something that you need to approach when you get a feel for the interview, and there is no standard answer. When you apply for any role, you need to be clear on how much you value yourself.
23. If we were to offer you the job, when is the earliest you could start?
Sometimes a job offer is made not to the best candidate but to the one who can start earliest and is good enough. You may have a notice period and commitments. You may also have some room for negotiation.
Before answering, you can ask if they have a particular start date in mind and a sense of urgency.
You can explain your contractual obligations, and you can offer some negotiation. You want to demonstrate a willingness to meet their needs but to be fair to your current employer.
This step is crucial because it indicates you will be fair to them when in time, you may leave them.
24. Uncomfortable personal questions
There are plenty of topics a potential employer does not have the right to ask you about in the interview. If these questions come up, you can use a prepared, polite deflection.
Something along the lines of:
“I’m sorry, I don’t think that is within the scope of a job interview.”
Job interviews are stressful enough without inappropriate questions about your personal life. If the question makes you uncomfortable, you can decline to answer.
If the interviewer persists, then it is a red flag for how they would be as an employer.
When preparing to answer architecture job interview questions – or architecture internship interview questions – focus on what you want the interviewer to know about you, your skills, your experience, and why you are the perfect candidate for this role.
By understanding what you have to offer, you can position yourself to answer any question thrown at you during an interview honestly and with conviction.
Remember that you also need to prepare a list of questions to ask the interviewer – an interview is for both the employer and candidate to learn more about each other.