5 Critical Architecture & Interior Design Interview Questions
You’re waiting outside the interview room, running over all the possibilities, and thinking: I just want this job.
Based on years of experience, we see this as the way you WON’T land the job that fits YOU, or a great start to planning your career. A job interview is like a first date – is this the right practice? Is this the right career move? What can I bring to the table? What will THEY bring to the table?
To answer these questions, you (and your recruiter) need to do some research beforehand about the role to know the right questions to ask. This seems obvious, and yet is often not done sufficiently and to the level of specificity needed. For experienced professionals, asking the right questions is critical as they need to understand if this opportunity is a move up on the career ladder or a necessary temporary sidestep, that will lead to future career opportunities.
To help you figure this out, there are five critical questions to ask. Asking this will show your interest and research skills, that you want a future with your interviewer, and more importantly if it’s the work you actually want to do.
1. ‘I am aware that you recently undertook X project, and I have an expressed interest to develop in these types of projects’
This question is double-edged.
So why would you ask this if you have presumably done your research – you should already know this!
Firstly, this question helps affirm your research – you can pick up here if there is to be a change of direction.
Secondly, if there isn’t a history of these projects (e.g. the one that piqued your interest was a one-off) you need to assess if the practice will develop and chase this kind of work. If they are looking to chase this work, this could be an opportunity to play a strategic role.
AND … if the practice’s primary focus is not in line with your serious interests, then you’re likely in for a few frustrating months. An example could be when a practice works consistently on commercial work, but only rarely in your desired field of say … hospitality interiors. In this case, the likelihood of fulfilling your career goals in that practice could be very slim indeed. Whilst if there is a history of your preferred work, then this is where you can express your desire to develop that specialisation further, and in turn this could build the value in you and ultimately bring you closer to a career you want.
In addition this question critically shows your potential employer that you not only clearly understand the direction you want to move in, but also demonstrates a key understanding of what that practice’s projects are or have been.
2. ‘Who I will be working with?’
Asking this will influence your ability to enjoy the role, and is crucial if you’re not being interviewed by your potential supervisor. You want to be able to like the people you are going to work with – especially if it’s for a permanent role.
Assessing who you may be working with can also provide a frame of reference for how autonomous you may or may not be. It could clearly outline who your direct reports are, and who you sit under in the practice decision-making hierarchy.
If you aren’t being interviewed by your supervisor – or even if you are being interviewed by your supervisor – the follow-up question is:
‘If I am successful in my application, can I meet the people I will be working with beforehand?’
Meeting the people you’ll be working with, will help you not only transition, but also determine if you really want to be there 9-to-5 and for less experienced candidates, also allow you to find out if your supervisor is the type who can and critically will provide mentorship.
3. ‘Are there any reasons why you think I WON’T be a good fit for the role?’
Wait, hold up, why would you ask this? Why open the floodgates?
This question is two-fold.
Firstly, it tells you if they may restrict you within the practice and could reveal how autonomous you may actually find yourself within the practice.
Secondly, it gives you the chance to directly respond to these potential weaknesses – and in the process demonstrate how you could overcome them. Better to deal with an issue now than find out why they don’t give you certain work or experience a year after you joined them! Don’t let yourself be pidgeon holed because of a perception created at interview!
Remember: employers make the critical decision of yes or no in the first 30 minutes – or 30 seconds even, and you won’t know what they really think at the time. This question allows you to make more specific enquiries about the role, and determine your ability to undertake it.
4. ‘What is your vision for this role, and how do you see this role as contributing to the company’s future?’
This will let you determine if this role is:
- Fill-in – no future;
- Ad hoc – they don’t know what else to do; but the opportunity here is to make the role your own
- Planned role – where the future is envisioned and the opportunity may be a career role.
Depending on where you are at in your career, or what other circumstances you may have outside the workplace, you may be in need of a specific role – and if this is the case, this will help you plan ahead for the future. Maybe you are in need of a Contract opportunity, as they can provide you with an opportunity to do specific and varied project work, or maybe you are looking for something more Permanent?
5. ‘How is collaboration on a project conducted by this company?’ and if a dispute occurs: ‘Is there a formal policy or procedure to handle these disputes?’
This question will help determine the business procedures, professionalism, and open communication practice of the Directors and or Owners.
If they are vague with the first question, you know the practice is not as collaborative as they may say, and therefore learning and opportunities will be decided based on the personalities of the practice. If there are no formal procedures for disputes or personality clashes, business practices will be omitted.
Dissatisfaction breeds from miscommunication, poor relationships, and personality clashes which become unworkable. When this happens, you find 2-3 years later that your career has stalled, you’re stuck in a rut, and you’re honestly wondering how the hell you let yourself end up there.
Most design professionals (including yourself) are chosen at universities for being right-brain dominated: creative, artistic, innovative. The result is that creative and innovative practices are controlled by people who are not used to logical thinking like our left-brain dominated friends (the calculators and accountants), therefore these processes are often not formally in place which can lead to many issues.
So who do you want to work with?
Only 5% of the world are equal right and left brain, or variants of this – which means not all right-brained people (designers) lack business skills, but the potential to overlook certain processes are there, so you need to determine if this practice openly communicates and truly collaborates – not dictates!
Deciding on the right role for you
The above list is not conclusive – there are dozens upon dozens of questions that will be relevant for the role you are going for. But asking these five will start to help you find the right role for whatever stage of your career you are in. If you are dealing with a professional recruiter with proper qualifications and training, they will be even better placed to advise you with what questions you should be asking as well as having worked with these companies for several years if not decades. So if using a recruiter – ask them how long they have dealt with the practice personally and how long the Agency has as well. If it’s not a long time or they can’t tell you these things – get another recruiter – QUICKLY!!!
A career is obtained by knowledge of the practice, the people they employ, and not what the job is – which is why you need a recruiter with career-experience, not just having worked in the industry.
Get in touch with Bloomfield Tremayne & Partners today and enjoy the benefit of a specialist with over 30 years experience in Architectural and Interior Design recruitment.