03 Apr Architecture Jobs. How to get hired and notes from my recent hiring search
Today I’m hoping to help you in your search for architecture jobs based on the things I have seen recently. It is currently April and it is that time of the year that I get a lot of resumes from potential interns who are about to graduate, or are looking for an internship. At my firm we don’t really do summer internships or temporary kind of internships because we are a tight-knit family, and I like to bring in people who are going to be a more permanent part of our team. With that in mind though, we have gotten really busy and we were actually looking to hire somebody as a project designer, and it conveniently happened to be at the same time that people were starting to send out resumes. I have been going through the process of reviewing resumes, portfolios and interviewing potential candidates for over a month now and we have finally got the right person. Throughout the process a few things stood out, so I wanted to take some time to give you a recap of what I’m seeing from somebody sitting on the other side of the interview table, and hopefully you can use these tips to help you in your search for these elusive architecture jobs.
1. There was a lot of disparity between resumes and portfolios.
In other careers, your resume is the most important thing to getting hired; but for most architecture jobs you need to also have a great portfolio. I have seen many resumes that looked great; they held all the right architecture jobs, they have many years of experience in the right type of projects, and they have done everything right…until you see their portfolio.Then there were times that the resume was light, meaning it didn’t have much on it, no previous architecture jobs, nothing really related to architecture besides school, but their portfolio was excellent. So if you are looking for work, don’t stress too much if you don’t have a lot of experience, or your resume doesn’t have what other people do, because you can make up for it with your portfolio.
2. Nearly everybody has an architecture portfolio website.
As I have noted before, it is nearly impossible to get all of your great work to fit within a 5-10 MB pdf that will get through email, so the only way to show all of your work is to have an architecture portfolio website. I’m happy to say that just about every application had some sort of link where I could find more of their work. This makes it so much easier for me to check out your work and it ensures that it doesn’t get stuck somewhere in my email filters. If you haven’t done this already, you need a web portfolio to keep up with everybody else, I tell you how easy it is here.
3. Many candidates are not good self evaluators.
It is important to be able step out of your shoes and see yourself from another person’s perspective. You need to be honest with yourself and see where your true strengths and weaknesses lie, otherwise you will come off as disingenuous. What I mean by that is if you know you are not good at graphic design, don’t say that you are. If you are not that good at rendering, don’t profess to be an excellent renderer. In architecture jobs, you need to prove it, so don’t try to fake it. I had resumes come in that went on and on about how they were great communicators, but I couldn’t even understand their emails, or that they were experts at hand sketching, but clearly they weren’t. It doesn’t mean this makes you a bad candidate, but just that you are not good at self evaluation. Ask your friends, or even strangers to look at your work and tell you what they think your strengths are. Those strengths are what you talk about, not the ones you think the interviewer wants to hear.
4. The tricky “how much is too much/too little” email/cover letter.
I had more than one cover letter/email that would have taken me 10 minutes to read through. It would go on and on about their history, background, architectural theory and hopes for the future. This is all fine to talk about in the interview, but don’t bombard me with it when I first meet you. That would be like going up to a stranger on the street and proceeding to tell them all about your childhood. They would look at you like you were crazy, and I feel the same way when I get those emails.
On the same note, there were many emails that simply said “please see my resume, thanks.” Well at least they said thanks. Other than that, I have nothing to go off to determine whether I should even look at your resume. Tell me a little bit about why I should even look at your resume, and show me some excitement.
5. They don’t answer my “toss up” questions right.
In the interview there are a lot of the standard kind of questions that get asked, and most of the time, I am only asking them to get a feel for how you answer and now what you answer. A lot of times I will even preface the question with what I am looking for in the answer before asking the question. I might say, “we are looking for somebody who will work well in a team and can contribute to our studio atmosphere, how comfortable are you working in teams?” Pretty easy right? I told you right there I want somebody who works well in teams, so you should talk about how you can do that. Instead I get responses like, “I don’t really care to work in teams, but if that is how you work, I can do that.” Doesn’t really fill me up with confidence that you will fit in.
I’m not saying to be somebody that you are not, but if the interviewer is clearly looking for something specific, spin it around to how something you are good at fits into it. For example, if you can work in teams, but like to get off on your own to think through a design, say, “I appreciate the importance of collaborating with the studio to achieve the best solution, and in my experience, it is also important to be able to set aside time to collect your thoughts so that you are also able to provide valuable input to the team.”
6. There is some real talent out there.
I don’t want to only talk about the mistakes people make and have it seem like everything is horrible, it is far from that. The biggest take away I have from this experience is that there are a lot of really talented, excited and driven people out there. In the end there was only one position available, but many times I came back thinking that I wish I could have hired them all. The work that is being produced is exceptional and the abilities of young designers out there exceeds my hopes. We as an architecture profession are in good hands if all the architecture jobs out there are filled with these type of people. The profession just needs to nurture them and appreciate their enthusiasm and skills and not scare them out of the profession.
What kind of experiences have you had in your recent search for architecture jobs? Do you have any stories of embarrassing or stupid mistakes you have made? In the next post I will be opening up about some of my bad interviews from the interviewee perspective, so stay tuned.
Find out more on what you need to know about your resume