Congratulations, you have been selected for an interview. You have already beaten some of the competition.
But how do you make sure that you shine at the interview and get that job offer?
How to prepare for an architecture job interview to showcase your skills and experience?
1. Stalk the Firm
Not in a creepy way, but do your research by checking out the company’s online presence.
The internet has so much information that your interviewer expects you to have done background research before you turn up to interview. You probably did some of the basics when you put your application together.
Check all the usual suspects like websites, their Facebook page, and any news items. Pay attention to what this firm does and makes public.
If they have a specialty, how do your skills and experience fit with theirs?
You can also check out the key team members, charitable work, awards, and get a feeling for their public personality.
Your architecture portfolio for a job interview needs to fit with how this business presents its projects. Your research lets you tailor your portfolio to match their style.
2. Why You?
When you walk into the interview with your game face on, remember you are there to make a sale and close the deal.
To put it bluntly, you must sell yourself to the firm – the interview room is not the place to be modest.
The first rule of selling is to meet the buyer’s needs. This job vacancy means the firm has a problem they want to solve by hiring someone like you.
Instead of concentrating on why you want the job, focus on why they need you. In other words, be clear about what your offer is and what you bring to their firm that makes you the candidate they need.
If you spend some time thinking about what they need from you, then you are ready to answer interview questions with relevant material.
When you are preparing for the interview, please go through the job application information and picture who their ideal candidate is and why they need that person.
When you are talking, promote the parts of your skills and experience that match their needs.
Too often, people talk about themselves and what they like rather than focusing on what the interviewer wants.
If the job is about 3D rendering, make sure most of your examples and answers highlight it. If it is a more varied role, then give a broad range of experiences demonstrating that you are not a one-trick pony.
3. What About You?
You’ve got dreams and ambition, you know where you want to go, or do you?
A typical interview question asks you about where you see yourself in one, five, and ten years. And this question is a trap for the unwary.
Is the interviewer asking to determine if you will stay with the firm and be a loyal employee, or are they seeking a potential licensed partner?
Having career goals helps motivate you and gives you an aim. But be smart about what and how you share your personal goals.
Before going to the interview, ask yourself how this job fits your goals. Then work out how to spin it and present your career goals as a benefit to the firm.
It is acceptable to say that you believe this role will help you with your goal of progressing to gaining your license. Saying you’d like to spend a year with this role to tick off part of your work experience requirement may be truthful but is unlikely to get you the job.
Prepare to answer questions about how you see your future career; be truthful but present it with a beneficial spin for the firm.
4. What Will They Ask?
The basic questions any interviewer is asking – however they phrase them are:
- Can you do the job?
- Can we work with you?
You may be the best-qualified person in the room, but if your personality is irritating or clashes with the team, then you are not the best fit for that organization.
You can spend some time brainstorming questions that the interviewer may ask or concentrate on the top ten things you want the interviewer to know about you.
If you have mentally prepared examples that show you are talented, capable of working on your own initiative, and proactive, then you are ready with material for any question.
If you are worried about freezing or panicking when asked a question, then be prepared with some delay tactics to buy you some thinking time:
- Rephrase the question and ask them to confirm that is what they want.
- Ask them if they could clarify the question.
- Ask them for context.
- Ask them to repeat the question.
- Repeat the question yourself before moving onto the answer.
It is a small delay that gives you time to catch up with what you want to say. It also lets you double-check that you answer the question asked, rather than the one you think was asked.
When answering questions, try to give concrete examples that showcase your skills. Above all, be honest in your answers and talk about skills you can demonstrate.
Don’t forget if you haven’t got the same skill they ask for, offer up an alternative:
“I haven’t used that software, but I have used this one, and I can quickly learn that package.”
5. What Do You Want to Know?
An interview is a two-way process – they are looking at you, and you are looking at them.
You need to know if you can bear to work with this company and these people. If you don’t get the right impression from them, you can decline your job offer.
When it is your turn to ask questions, they are selling the company to you. Go in prepared with a list of ten questions (choose from this list of questions you should ask the interviewer) that demonstrate you are interested in and knowledgeable about their company.
Good subjects to ask about:
- recent projects,
- community involvement,
- social activities, and
- why they are looking for someone like you.
Avoid asking about salary, benefits, and career progression. They may bring the subject up, but generally, this is a topic you can raise in the gap between being offered the role and accepting it – when these salary negotiation tips would come in handy.
At that stage, they have already expressed an interest in acquiring you, and you have a better bargaining position.
6. Apply Some Polish
Interviews are a formal occasion, and you need to dress smart, clean teeth, wash face, scrub under your nails, and clean your shoes.
In other words, you need to pay attention to your first impression.
Everyone takes in a person’s appearance at a blink, and your interviewer will form an opinion about you before you open your mouth or shake their hand (or bump their elbow).
Most people have enough interview nerves without discovering they haven’t got anything to wear on the morning of the interview.
When you are in the job market, have your architecture job interview outfit set aside in a clean, pressed condition together with accessories. When in doubt, aim for a professional appearance with a suit.
If you know your interview is going to include a site visit, take some protective clothing with you, to protect your clothes or ask for time to change your clothing.
Despite feminism and equality, statistics show that women who wear light makeup get the job more often than those who do not wear any. That includes the job roles where you definitely won’t be wearing makeup.
It is the psychology of the interview process – you show your interest by making an effort to dress slightly better than usual.
Not wearing makeup (as a woman) does not mean you won’t get the job, but you lose points versus an equally qualified woman who does look as if they tried that bit harder with their appearance.
Whatever your gender, avoid strong scents when going to an interview. If the interviewer spent an hour trying not to breathe in your scent, they are not going to be listening to your best point.
7. Perfect Your Portfolio
Select the highlights in your portfolio and make sure you have the whole thing organized and looking great. You may have sent over a digital copy in advance, so check that everything in the hard copy is looking its best.
While going through your portfolio, remind yourself why this selection matters and be prepared to talk about them.
As part of this preparation, think about how your portfolio matches and complements the interviewer’s business. Your portfolio is part of your sales pitch.
8. Interview Pack
What to bring to an architecture interview includes your carefully polished portfolio and a few other helpful documents.
As part of your preparation, print out a copy of the cover letter and architect job resume you tailored to fit this job application. Put this together with a copy of any email exchanges, interview details, and research on the company.
Add in your list of interview questions (for your eyes only) and anything else that you think you may need on the day.
9. Know Where You are Going
It is not always possible to make a practice trip to your interview destination but plan as much as you can:
- How are you going to get there?
- How long will it take?
- Where do you need to park?
- Who do you contact if there is a problem or a delay?
- Is there somewhere you can go if you turn up early?
- Check out the street view on Google maps.
In an ideal world, your trip runs smoothly, and you turn up with ten minutes to spare.
Sometimes you get delayed – in which case, call ahead and let the interviewer know. If you are early, find yourself a quiet place to sit and review your interview notes.
10. Know What to Expect
When you get the invite to the interview, you usually get an idea of the interview process in advance. It may include a presentation, pre-interview formfilling or testing, and will always have a face-to-face interview.
Sometimes the interview takes place via a conference call or video calling. In the case of a video call, prepare your room in advance of the meeting.
Check that you are wearing neutral colors and that the background reflects a neutral position or perhaps a curated shelf of books or objects.
For personality tests, project the personality of the employee you intend to be rather than your full character. Your workplace persona is different from the way you behave when out with friends and family.
This approach is not presenting a false face but focusing on showing your professional self – the person you are when working.
11. Prepare to Lead
Interviews are a mixture of interrogation and conversation.
Most interviewers prefer to have a friendly hour-long chat with interesting people than to spend an hour coaxing information out of someone who gives terse answers.
Go in prepared to talk about yourself. Try and encourage the interviewers to talk about the job and what they expect from the candidate.
The more they tell you, the better you can reflect on what they want to know about you to convince them they want to hire you.
12. Post Interview
As soon as you get the opportunity, write down all the interview questions you can remember.
Don’t beat yourself up about not giving your best examples or your best answers. Jot down a few notes about how you could have given a better response and put this aside.
You may get a job offer from this interview, or you may still be attending other interviews. These notes are a resource to help you prepare for the next time.
Your resume gets you the interview, and the interview is the hurdle before the job offer. If you are getting interviews but no offers, then it is time to improve your interview technique.
Preparation and being comfortable presenting your skills and experience are the critical elements to a successful outcome. Every interview is a way to improve your process, and the job offer will come.