Job interviews are a crucial part of the hiring process. Usually, it means your application was well received, and so now, it's time for both parties to get to know each other in a deeper way. But, how does one prepare for the interview? Surprisingly, I've found that many people do not prepare beforehand, simply winging it, and hoping things go well. I've written on the importance of researching the employer and on some of the intricacies of interviews, so here I'll focus on some ideas that I think aren't typically offered.

Previously on Archinect: Archinect Tips: Employment Edition

Research the people you will be meeting with

Yes, researching the firm is important, but researching the specific people you will be meeting with is just as important, perhaps even more so. In Tools of the Job Hunt: Understanding the Employer, I wrote:

"Say you’re meeting with the design principal and the managing principal of a prospective firm. Do you approach each of them the same way? They are two different people, and at least professionally, with two distinct areas of focus. During the interview, we need to take note of their interests; by nature of their positions, we know that one spends most of their time thinking about design and the other about operations and management."

One way to take this idea further would be to research the work history of both principals before the meeting. Maybe you discover that one of them is involved in volunteer work with the local community. During the discussion, that might help you make a connection with volunteer work that you also do (only if you actually do, of course). Another example might be if one of the interviewers has written an article or essay. You would take the time to study and read it before the interview, and, if the opportunity presents itself, reference it in some way during the meeting. This is why I've always asked who I would be meeting with before my interviews in the past. 

If you can uncover distinct details about an individual and somehow make a connection with them in that area during your interview, or even simply refer to it in a smart way, you put yourself in a position to make a more profound first impression. But, remember, we aren't trying to flatter, we are trying to connect with them in a professional and thoughtful way.

Previously on Archinect: Tools of the Job Hunt: Understanding the Employer

Have more than one story to tell

Most of us know the typical questions asked during an interview. Things like "so, tell me about yourself," or "what is your greatest weakness?" At the very least, you should have a general sense, before the interview, of how you will answer these. Take your time to make the answers thoughtful, and not gimmicky or cliche. Additionally, make sure you have a few stories ready to tell. 

When interviewing for a position on an architectural team, you'll typically want stories that outline how you worked with a team to solve a design problem, how you overcame a challenge in your career or on a project, and some kind of the story of where you went the extra mile to help your colleagues or to move a project forward.

Having the main "plot points" in each of these stories ready beforehand will give you something to fall back on if you feel stumped or nervous. But, be sure to make your response sound natural and not robotic or rehearsed,. The goal is to be personable and connect with the interviewer.

Previously on Archinect: In your search for a job, don't "just be yourself"

Have good questions for them too

Most "interview tips" articles online will have something about having questions ready to ask a prospective employer. But, it can be overwhelming to know what to ask. I usually want to ask questions that are specific to my potential relationship with the firm and their vision for their future (since their future might be my future too). Here are some examples:

  • "Let's say I join the team next week, what would a typical day look like for me?"
  • "If things work out, how do you see me contributing to the firm's current and future goals?"
  • "I'm working on getting my license, how do you support team members pursuing licensure?"
  • "If we're a good fit for each other, where would you hope to see me a year from now?"

These are just a few examples, but the answers will give you a clear idea of the plans this potential employer has for you. You want to work at a place that sees a future with you and that values your development. I've asked these questions in the past, and have been offered the position only to decline. My reason was that I sensed I was being hired to be a body to produce drawings rather than a valued team member. I could've been wrong, but it's important to remember that you are interviewing the employer just as much as they are interviewing you.