We thought we'd share an insight into the main dos and don'ts when it comes to being interviewed in the world of architecture. There is a very limited window in which you can make a great first impression - so here are our top ten tips.
1. Research the company - it always puts you in a favourable light if you go into the interview fully prepared. The interviewer will be impressed if you demonstrate that you've done your homework and know all about the company and even the person interviewing you.
2. Firm handshake - seems an odd one but always important. Rightly or wrongly, some people will judge you on the strength of your handshake.
3. The first (incredibly important) 10 minutes - people often make up their mind about somebody in the first 10 minutes of the interview so you have to get off to a great start. A great little tip here (if we do say so ourselves) is to ask the interviewer at the beginning of the interview what he/she would like to see first in the portfolio ie your most recent work experience, or a specific project that would be more relevant to the hiring practice (that may not be your most recent), or perhaps some of your academic or conceptual work (if applicable). Be prepared to be agile with the presentation of your portfolio - don't have one set presentation for all. Because if you stick to the same old formula every time then you may end up showing something in the first 10 mins that is less of interest to the interviewer - and then you may lose them forever. Grab them by the throat at the beginning, metaphorically speaking of course. If you do this then the strong chances are you will get the job.
4. Is being nervous a problem? - Not really no. If anything it shows to the interviewer that you may be keen on the job. So long as you are not a quivering quaking mess then a few nerves being shown is no problem at all. So don't put that pressure on yourself that you have to be cool as a cucumber every time. Arrive 10-15 minutes early to give you time to compose yourself.
5. Body Language - they say body language makes up the largest percentage of human communication. You don't want to be too relaxed, leaning back in your chair with arms behind your head and legs crossed (we have seen this happen) - this will be perceived as arrogant. Nor do you want to be stiff as a board with your arms crossed as this will be seen as too cold. Aim for something in the middle, relax a little and don't neglect the eye contact.
6. The portfolio - you just can't beat a hard copy A3 neatly bound portfolio. Even in the digital age, this is the preferred way for a portfolio to be viewed. We have had a lot of feedback from clients (not all but quite a few) over the years that they just don't like ipad presentations. Interviewers often like to easily flick back and forth between pages. So play safe and stick to the old school when it comes to portfolios.
7. Presenting the portfolio - a page per project (with a mix of visuals, details, photos) is generally a good strategy and keep it punchy. You don't need to show everything you have ever done and you don't want to be talking for too long. Our advice would be to: show two or three of your most recent projects at your current (or last) employer; show a project where you have had most involvement (so you can tell a bit of a story); show the project you think looks the best; depending on your level show your final academic project; and try to show at least one relevant project that relates well (or is similar to the work of) the hiring practice. On top of all this, a balanced portfolio is always a good idea showing a good mix of design and technical work. If you can throw in a few hand sketches (the rougher the better and these could be construction details or concepts), one full working drawing package and perhaps a site photo with you in a hard hat then even better.
8. Don't be negative about your past employers - you may well be asked why you left certain practices. If possible don't give negative reasons as to why you left as it can be off-putting to prospective employers. Try to be diplomatic.
9. Be honest; you can't be an expert at everything - You will score lots of browny points for being honest about your strengths and weaknesses. It can be really off-putting (and not very believable) when people try to make out they are an expert at everything. Highlight your strengths, but also be honest about your weaknesses or rather areas that you need to develop. This will go down really well.
10. Ask questions - have some good questions in mind for the end of the interview
So...... now you are ready to give a perfect interview. Best of luck with it, not that you will need it.