Prepare To Propel Your Architectural Career To The Boardroom
Stepping up into an Associate job is accompanied by a step up in the interview process. Interview questions are likely to be tougher, and the interviewer will be keen to explore your personality as well as your technical and design skills. Successful architects display a high level of emotional intelligence, and character traits that inform your management style and your ability to promote the company through high-level interaction with clients and other external stakeholders.
These nine tips will help you prepare for your executive level interview, so you present as an experienced and confident architect, ideal for a senior architect position, practice lead or partner role.
Sell yourself to the interviewer
The usual opening question asks you to describe yourself. This should be an easy question to answer, but often leaves the interviewee struggling.
The interviewer wants to measure your confidence and preparation, and to see how you articulate. They want to hear a little about the trajectory of your career to date, and to learn about what you consider important (your values and beliefs).
Your answer should focus on what the interviewer is interested in (the reasons for the vacancy) and your most important (and recent) accomplishments (how you fit their role). Match your qualifications and experience to the role for which you are interviewing and relate a story that illustrates this – and do it within a minute: a 60-second slot to sell yourself. Your elevator pitch. Make this sharp, practice and get it smooth.
Tell meaningful stories at the interview
It can be difficult for a non-storyteller to structure a story so that it is both meaningful and memorable. You want to make it as easy as possible for the interviewer to follow and understand the evidence you are producing. An effective method to achieve this is ‘STAR’:
A one-sentence appraisal of the task/project/management issue. For example, “I was tasked with building a team to expand our large scale development projects team.”
Summarise what you had to do, and how you established a measurement for success.
What did you do? What obstacles did you face, and how did you overcome them? Were there compromises you had to make? Walk the interviewer through your process, from the first steps to the conclusion.
Did you achieve your goal? What impact did it have on the business? If you missed a target, be honest and include what you learned and how you would do things differently next time.
Be honest – and positive – about weaknesses. Turn these into an advantage by acknowledging where you might need initial support in the role.
Everyone has weaknesses, and you will probably be asked about yours. The interviewer wants to know that you are strong enough to admit weaknesses, but also that you can accept criticism, learn, and grow. Be honest about weakness and show that you are working on it – but don’t dwell on it. Be concise when talking about weaknesses (and don’t say ‘perfectionism’).
Describe strengths that are relevant to the position
If asked to describe your strengths, be prepared with two or three examples that are relevant to the role, and be specific. You may consider showing how your current skills could be transferred to the new role.
Show that you ‘care-front’, not confront
People have different views and opinions. If you are asked about a time when you had a disagreement with a superior or there was conflict in the workplace, the interviewer may be trying to probe into your views, but is most concerned about how you handle conflict. Are you confrontational, or do you listen, reason logically, and consider differing views when making a decision? Prepare a story to show that it is the latter.
Show that you learn from failures
If you are asked about mistakes that you made, it is your opportunity to show that you are human and that you accept responsibility for your actions. You should also take the opportunity to show that you learn from your mistakes, perhaps by explaining what you did differently subsequently, or how you would handle a similar situation were it to happen now.
Asking well-thought-out questions about the company, team or role for which you are interviewing shows that you are enthusiastic and inquisitive. If structured with current news or thinking in mind, a good question will also show that you keep up to date with events in your area of expertise. If all the questions you’d prepared beforehand have been answered, simply say that they have been, but ask if you could contact the interviewer if there are any other questions that you think of after the interview.
Give a positive reason for seeking a new position
You are likely to be asked why you wish to move from your present company. A new employer will want to know if you fit in with their philosophy and culture, and one way to discover this is to probe for conflict between you and your current employer or superior.
Answer this question honestly, but as you do so, highlight the positive reasons you have decided to move on while not pondering on any conflict that there may be. Such positive reasons may include seeking new challenges, moving for greater opportunity and breadth of role, or to expand your knowledge and expertise. If asked about the reasons why you left previous positions, employ the same strategy.
Rule number one: people buy people
When hiring, people buy people. In the interview, you have one job: to sell yourself to the interviewer. By preparing well, answering questions honestly, telling meaningful stories and asking penetrating questions, you will allow your personality to shine. Instead of a gruelling grilling, you will participate in a delightful dialogue during which you and the interviewer will have learned all that is needed to make the decision that will drive your career forward.