It can be stressful, and a lot rides on the outcome. It is, of course, the job interview at your potential new architecture firm.
A chance to talk about your previous projects, highlight your problem-solving skills and discuss your approach to the design process. The interview is your opportunity to shine the spotlight on your experience and expertise, and also ask your potential new employer some smart questions.
In this article, we'll discuss how you can best prepare, suggest architecture interview questions to ask, and feature insights from a number of experts on the topic. The advice will be particularly useful for recently graduated architecture students looking to take their first role in the field of architecture and design.
The role of the job interview
Before we get to the 15 possible architecture interview questions you can ask when the interviewer looks you in the eye and says, “What questions do you have for me?”, let’s take a look at the role of the job interview and what else you can do to help increase your chances of success.
A key part of the recruitment process, the job interview is “the best opportunity a candidate has to demonstrate their skills, talent, and personality,” says Katharine S. Brooks, co-author of the best-selling job-hunter and career changer’s book What Color Is Your Parachute?. “They can establish a strong relationship with the potential employer and greatly increase their chances of landing the job,” she says.
For Nicolas Roulin, Associate Professor of Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax (Canada) and author of The Psychology of Job Interviews, an interview that is “designed and conducted properly is the very best way to select job applicants for positions,” he says. Interviews that are well-designed are “reliable tools and they are strong predictors of future performance at work,” he says.
By ‘well-designed’, Roulin means that the interview should be ‘structured’. “The questions need to be chosen/created to align with the skills/competencies necessary to perform the job,” he says.
The importance of architecture interviews
Ryan Loveday, director at Fulton Trotter Architects, which has offices in Brisbane and Sydney, sees the interview as key to filling a position with the right person. “A face-to-face interview with two senior staff is an absolute requirement,” he says. “You can gather a lot from the way a candidate presents themselves on paper, and we use that to filter applicants. However, the interview is where we really test those impressions,” he says.
During the interview, Loveday says that the whole person can be evaluated. What candidates say and how they say it—this includes their “posture, manner of speech, eye contact, reactions, presentation and yes, attire,” he says—can be assessed.
Image credit: Fulton Trotter
Nathan Hildebrandt, director at Brisbane-based architecture and BIM consultancy firm Skewed, thinks the interview is “the second opportunity a candidate has to impress their potential employer,” he says. The first one is the CV/resume and cover letter. An interview enables an employer to “validate a potential employee’s resume,” he says. It also gives the firm “a chance to assess their personality, and how they present themselves,” he says.
Loveday says a candidate’s means of non-verbal communication contributes to “a more complete picture of the person,” he says. “In most cases I think we’re looking to see how accurately the things they say about themselves matches up with their presentation. And naturally they are doing the same with us—any interview is always a two-way street,” he says.
How to prepare for an architecture interview
Preparing as best as possible for a job interview will enhance your chances of success.
Let's explore three key aspects of interview preparation: researching the company and its culture, reviewing your relevant experience and qualifications, and practicing your soft skills and answers to typical architecture interview questions.
Each of these elements plays a significant role in showcasing your technical ability and suitability for the position, ensuring that you leave a positive impression on your potential employer.
Research the company and its culture
Researching the firm and its culture is crucial for interview preparation as it helps you align your essential skills and values with the organization's expectations.
It goes without saying that searching online is the best place to start. Here are a few ideas to kick-start your research.
Visit the company website
Look for recent architecture projects, news, or achievements that you could refer to during the interview. The company website is also where you'll typically find information on the company's vision and values. See how these values align with your own, and think about specific examples from your past experiences that demonstrate them well. Remember that these examples do not always need to be work-related.
Review social media profiles
Follow the company on social media platforms like LinkedIn. This is often where you'll see news on the latest developments and updates relating to ongoing projects, learn about new areas of research the firm might be exploring, and see the topics they typically engage with.
Search for employee reviews
Websites like Glassdoor or Indeed often have reviews from current and former employees. These reviews can offer valuable insights into the company's work culture.
Research news articles
Search for news articles related to the company. This can give you a broader perspective on the industry trends and design challenges the company might be facing. It might also inform you of any design awards that they may have previously received and that you could refer to in the interview.
With this research in hand, a candidate can prepare thoughtful questions to ask during the interview. This shows good preparation and a genuine interest in the company.
Review your relevant experience and qualifications
Before the interview, both candidate and interviewer should have done their homework. The interviewer needs to “figure out what are the job requirements,” says Roulin. The requirements being assessed could include things like interpersonal skills, creative solutions, and leadership qualities.
You can also “try to identify the ‘selection criteria’,” says Roulin, “that is, what knowledge, skills, abilities, or experiences the company is looking for in a candidate and will likely assess in the interview.”
With this in mind, try to identify potential questions designed to assess specific job-relevant necessary skills and architectural ability and find “relevant experience that you can match to each selection criteria,” he says.
Know your soft skills and practice answers to common questions
Architects and designers require a diverse set of soft skills in addition to their technical skills to excel in their roles. It's important to be aware of these soft skills so you can prepare for potential interview questions on these areas.
Some common soft skills that architects possess are:
Communication: Architects must be able to convey ideas clearly to clients, team members, and contractors.
Creativity: Creative thinking allows architects to come up with innovative design solutions and unique approaches to complex problems.
Attention to detail: Precision and attention to detail are vital to ensure that construction proceeds as smoothly as possible.
Problem-solving: Architects encounter various challenges during the design and construction phases. They need strong problem-solving skills to identify issues, develop solutions, and adapt to changing circumstances.
Time management: Architects often work on multiple projects with tight deadlines. Effective time management skills are crucial to prioritize tasks, meet deadlines, and maintain project schedules.
Adaptability: The architectural field is continually evolving with new technologies, materials, and design trends. Architects must be adaptable and open to learning to stay current in their field.
A candidate’s pre-interview research involves thinking about what kind of questions might be asked. They could be questions on your soft skills, but also how you handled specific situations in your previous job, or questions that test your knowledge of specific architect position-related elements, like BIM, collaborative workflow tools, real-time visualization, and virtual reality software.
Common architecture interview questions
Architecture interviews typically cover a wide range of topics, including qualifications, experience, technology, design philosophy, and problem-solving abilities. Here are some typical architect interview questions you might be asked:
Can you walk us through your portfolio and discuss some of your most significant projects?
What inspired you to become an architect, and how has your design philosophy evolved over the years?
How do you approach the initial stages of a design project, from concept development to schematic design?
What software and tools are you proficient in for architectural design and visualization?
Can you discuss any recent advancements in architecture or construction technology that have caught your attention?
What role do sustainability and environmental considerations play in your design approach?
Have you ever faced a project deadline that was particularly tight? How did you meet or manage it?
What do you believe are the key challenges and opportunities in the field of architecture today?
Tell us about your experience with sustainable and green building design. Have you worked on LEED or other sustainability certifications?
What is your favorite architectural project or architect, and what lessons have you learned from it?
How do you handle disagreements or conflicts within a project team or with clients during the design process?
Expert tips to increase your chances of success
So, during the interview, what response strategies and influence tactics can you use to increase your chances of success?
“Interviewees,” says Roulin, “can use many strategies or tactics to create a good impression in the interviewers’ mind.”
A candidate can use what Roulin describes as ‘self-focused’ tactics, which are used for self-promotion. They include “emphasizing their qualities,” he says, “experiences, or past career accomplishments in a positive light.
They can also use ‘other-focused’ tactics, for instance praising the interviewer, laughing at their jokes, or trying to highlight how their values align with the values/culture of the company. They can also use defensive tactics to protect their image, for instance trying to explain, justify, or apologize for negative elements in their past/resume, for example, explaining why they were unemployed.”
Brooks points out that candidates should employ storytelling as part of their response strategy. They should “always back up any statements with a story that illustrates what they are saying,” she says. “If they say they are a hard worker, they should have a story ready about a time when they exemplified that trait. If they say they are good at meeting project deadlines, they should tell a story about a successful project they completed.” Don’t ramble on though. The stories should be just long enough to illustrate the point.
Towards the end of an interview, the interviewer usually asks if you have any questions — but it doesn’t have to be at the end. “I’d like to think there is room for a candidate to ask questions throughout the interview,” says Loveday, “not just at the end which assumes the discussion is all one way. An interview should be a conversation and like any conversation needs a bit of back and forth to keep the energy going.”
But if there is the opportunity to ask questions, you should. Brooks believes it’s very important. “Asking questions implies that the candidate is curious and wants to learn more,” she says. “They demonstrate continued interest in the opportunity, and further encourage conversations.”
Questions to ask during an architecture interview
What type of questions could you ask during an interview with an architecture firm? Let's take a look.
Questions about the company
What is the firm’s management style?
Could you tell me about the culture here and the values that are important to [name of company]?
What future projects are you planning?/What projects are in the pipeline?
What are the downsides to working here? As you’re asking about something negative, make this a follow-up question to a more positive question about working at the company.
Questions about the position
5. What can I expect to learn in my first month on the job?
6. What would your expectations of me be in the position?
7. Can you tell me about the team I’d be working with?
8. What sort of support can I expect to receive in the role?
9. What are the career and growth opportunities here?
10. What are the hours like each day and on/at the weekend?
11. I’m interested in [the aspect of a role that interests you, like specific projects, team structures, project processes, and delivery methods]. What opportunities would there be for me in relation to that?
12. How do you measure success in this position?
These questions focus on the interviewer and can help to create a good impression in the interviewer’s mind, one of Roulin’s ‘other-focused’ tactics:
13. What do you enjoy most about working here?
14. What project have you most enjoyed working on?
15. What building are you most proud of and why?
And remember to congratulate the interviewer if the firm has won an architecture or design award recently, or even if the design of the company’s website impressed you. “Everyone responds to a bit of flattery,” says Loveday, “so it’s nice to hear what a candidate responds to within our marketing and reputation.”
Of course, you don’t need to ask all of these questions. Choose the ones that you think are most relevant to you.
Lastly, if you haven’t done so already (you can check the website during that all-important pre-interview research), remember to take note of people’s office attire when you go to the interview, if you can because on the first day of your new job, you’ll definitely want to dress appropriately.
What are architecture interviews like?
Architecture interviews can be quite competitive, so thorough preparation is important. This includes researching the firm, practicing your portfolio presentation, and preparing for all types of questions. Showcasing your creativity, design thinking, ability to work collaboratively, and your personality will help you stand out in the architecture interview process.
How do you introduce yourself in an architect interview?
Start with a smile and a firm (but not too firm!) handshake. State your name, and follow up by thanking them for their time, the opportunity, or simply by saying how great it is to meet them. This is your chance to set the tone for the interview and provide the interviewer with a good first impression.
How can I impress the interviewer in an architecture interview?
Be professional, prepared, and enthusiastic. Use the opportunity to show who you are as a person, as well as showcase your professional experience. Active listening is also key. Show that you're engaged in the conversation by nodding, asking follow-up questions, and providing thoughtful responses.