Graduation is around the corner, and that means a new wave of first time architects are preparing to enter the market and make a splash. While right now you’re probably working hard on your projects and preparing your portfolio, it may be a good time to start looking at your past work a bit more objectively, at least for a few months.
For anyone starting off in the field, their first real job is a huge milestone. But the interview process for such a job can be complex with no real world experience. Preparing yourself to use your school projects as examples of your skills and capabilities will be crucial for you to land your first full time position at an architecture firm.
Below are a few common questions that you may face as an applicant for an architectural position in a firm, as well as the general direction for the types of answers these firm owners or hiring managers will probably be looking for.
As is the case in all job interviews, real experience goes a lot further than philosophical. If you can demonstrate through a real life situation of teamwork with your classmates, it’s much better than telling the hiring manager that you believe you would be an excellent team player.
Look back on your college career as a source of inspiration for answering these interview questions so you can push your way into a full time role.
Generic Interview Questions For Architects
The first few questions in your interview should be rather generic. The interviewer wants to get a feel of who you are and what your passions are. This is to find if there is a cultural alignment with you, and will help them to cater the following questions to really digging into your experiences to see if you are a good match. Here’s some of the types of questions you can expect to answer:
Tell Us About Your Favorite Design Style As An Architect
An interviewer will know you have no concrete style for your designs at this infancy of your career, so don’t be afraid to mix a few and share what you really strive for in your own designs. It’s okay to not be a steadfast Brutalist fresh out of college, the real world will mold your style and that’s more important to any architect.
Answer this question by blending a few styles and giving architects or buildings you really like. This will help the interviewer understand that you have really looked at various styles and can at least keep up in conversation about them.
How Do You Balance Function With Aesthetics In Your Designs
This one is a little more direct than abstract, but gives you a great chance to pull out your portfolio to show off a beautiful piece you’ve created that’s functional. Remember, a hiring manager would rather see examples than hear theories about how you love designing with function in mind. Show, don’t tell.
Answer this question by giving a real example of a piece of work you created where you thought of function first, and then worked to make it fit in aesthetically with the rest of your design.
How Do You Stay Up To Date With The Latest Architectural News?
One of the best questions to see if you have a die-hard interest in architecture is to ask how you keep up on the news. This is also a great way for the interviewer to learn something from you, so be sure to list off your best sources first in case they take notes and research them independently later on.
Answer this question by giving a few blogs or even Instagram accounts related to architecture. Your interviewer is looking for a casual answer here, and your response should show that you are familiar with the industry.
Which CAD Softwares Are You Most Comfortable With?
While you should have this information on your resume already, the interviewer will most likely ask you which softwares you’ve used in the past. As you already know from going through school, there’s quite a learners curve to a new software. And while your inexperience using a software previously may not be a deterrent, it always helps to be familiar with the tools that are currently being used in the office.
Answer this question by listing off all the tools you used and include some lesser-known tools you may have some experience with (such as AI Illustration tools) to give a larger breadth of knowledge to your answer. Bonus points if you can casually tie in some aspect of how quick of a learner you are with new tools as a safeguard in case their firm isn’t using any of the software you’ve listed.
Describe A Hard Problem That Came Out Of Your Design And How You Dealt With It
These are tricky questions, because there’s not much you can say about an architectural design in terms of problems. In these cases, you need to reference experiences at school. You can talk about how lack of materials forced you to be more creative in your mediums, or how a professor forced you to change a design last minute that had catastrophic implications for the structure.
Answer this question by giving a real-world example of a problem you solved, preferably in a timely manner. If your solution was based around reworking a project, describe to the hiring manager where you started and why, and try to display how you used creative problem solving to deal with it.
What Is Your Least Favorite Thing About Architecture?
Let’s face it, no one loves every aspect of what they do, and architects are no different. But you’re coming from a place of no experience, so you can’t default to “dealing with clients” or any other typical answers that more advanced architects would give.
Answer this question by giving a straightforward answer as to what bothers you about the profession. You can say right now that you love all of it, but you’re watchful for dealing with potential client issues and dealing with client feedback. This answer allows the hiring manager to know that you’ve thought about what the position entails and like the core of the work, which is what they are looking for.
What Do You Hope To Learn From Your Supervisor
It’s time to let your armor down and talk from the perspective of someone new to the field. You have a lot you don’t know, and as good as your college was, they couldn’t prepare you for everything you experience in the real world. Think carefully about what experience you want to gain, and how this firm can help you achieve it.
Answer this question by giving straightforward and specific points. Don’t tell the hiring manager that you want to gain “experience”, tell them you want to “sharpen your skills on residential building designs and better understand the real-world limitations of designing structures under strict budgets”. Give them concrete answers that allow them to clearly align your role with your expectations and show that you are a serious architect in the field, not just another graduate looking for a job.
How Do You Handle Multitasking In The Workspace
This is a common question for almost anyone on a job interview. Hiring managers are always concerned with people’s inability to prioritize important work. There’s probably a book you can write about how to answer this question properly, but if this is your first job, you need to focus on real world examples, which should be easy because we’re sure you’ve had more than one project due in the same week before, so you’re probably a multitasking expert if you just graduated with an architecture degree.
Answer this question by providing a real-world example from your classes where you found yourself on a tight deadline with two or more assignments. Give specifics of how you dealt with and prioritized the work. You can talk about a time where two projects were both due on the same day so that week you divided your workdays between them, or worked the mornings on one project and the evenings on another to ensure both got done on time.
Advanced Interview Questions For An Architect
If you’ve been working in the field for a few years, you stop using college as your example, and move on to more real world situations. There’s no better time to start preparing yourself for your second job than during your first job though. Below are a few examples of more advanced questions you may get further down in your career. Keeping these in mind will allow you to soak up relevant examples during your work days to ensure you have great answers next time you are interviewing.
- Tell us about a time when you have had to negotiate with a construction manager. What was the outcome?
- Do you specialize in residential or commercial projects? Do you have experience in both?
- If a client asks for a change to the project how do you handle it?
- Tell us about a time you worked with a difficult client. How did you handle criticism and unrealistic expectations?
- If a project seems to be going over budget, what will you do?
- Tell us about a time you have personally overseen a building process and what issues you saw that you weren’t expecting.
Questions To Ask A Hiring Manager At An Architecture Firm
A crucial part of any interview is giving the interviewee a chance to ask the hiring manager any questions they have about the role or the company. This is a crucial aspect for the interviewee because it allows the interviewer to gauge how much research you have done into the company and to see how you view your relationship with the role.
Meaning: ask good questions and you will have a more favorable outcome. Remember, you’re looking for an entry level position. The most important thing you can bring to the table is an open mind and an eagerness to learn. Ask great questions to get your foot in the door. Below are some questions you can ask to show that you’ve really thought about the role.
- What can I expect to learn in the first month on the job? First year?
- What sort of support can I expect to receive in this role?
- How do you measure success in this position?
- What is the culture like here? Are there common company values?
- What would my career path look like here? Is there an opportunity for growth?
- How large is the team I’d be working with? Will I have a mentor?
- Anything related to a specific project the company has executed.
Your first few job interviews can be a challenging stage. Starting a career in a new industry is always difficult, but asking good questions and displaying confidence will help you to stand out and get a chance. Remember that all great architects had to start somewhere, and the more you can learn and soak up, the better it is for your career.
With that being said, if you are ever in an interview and the hiring manager doesn’t seem interested in your work, doesn’t give you the opportunity to ask questions, or only provides vague answers, it might be better to remove yourself from their applicant pool. If your first job is awful, it can leave a bad taste in your mouth, or not provide you with relevant experience in the field.
An interview is a two way street. Be sure to understand what the company is that you are joining, their goals and ambitions, and their culture. No one wants to work in a toxic workplace, so ask smart questions and trust your gut. Good luck!