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How to nail that interview

Written by: Pamela Buxton
Published on: 7 Jan 2019

If you don’t want to blow the interview before you’ve even opened your mouth, make sure you get the basics right.

Firstly, research your route to ensure that you turn up in good time. If you’re unlucky enough to have an unforeseen delay, ring up to explain that you’ll be late and make sure you apologise on arrival - practices are likely to understand if you handle it correctly.

‘If they’re really late and don’t let us know to explain it's not a good sign,’ says Erika Rudinska of Perkins + Will. ‘My advice is to make sure you’re on time or 5-10 minutes early so it’s less stressful for both parties.’

‘They have to have a bloody good excuse for not being there on time,’ adds Mike Lawless,’ director of Brighton-based LA Architects. ‘I prefer them to be 5-10 minutes early to give them time to prepare.’

Secondly, make sure you have dressed appropriately out of respect for the practice.

‘I like applicants to have made some sort of effort, which doesn’t necessarily mean wearing a suit,’ says Ann Lakshmanan, director of Shepheard Epstein Hunter.  ‘I don't mind relatively casual clothes as long as they look like they’ve put a bit of thought into it, preferably erring on the side of smart.’

Erika Rudinska of Perkins + Will says the practice appreciates the effort when candidates make the effort to be smart or smart casual.

‘Also, if someone comes with a very creative outfit, we are open to that. Certainly, it doesn’t have to be a suit. Dress the way that you can present yourself well,’ she says.

Do your research – make sure you are up to speed on the work of the practice. And most important of all, make sure you’re equipped to give a good presentation of your work. This means bringing a portfolio in an easy-to-show format, whether in hard copy or on screen. Make sure you bring in more than you sent in with your CV.

‘I like to see the portfolio in A2 or A. Nicely detailed, simple sheets is probably the best way to go,’ says Simon Cottingham director of London practice MEPK Architects.

Handwritten drawings or art books often go down well with interviewers and can give you a point of difference.

How you talk about your portfolio is also important. While you can expect your interviewer to ask you questions, be prepared to present your work to them, outlining your role on the projects and your approach to the design. This is your moment, so make it count. They will be considering not only the work in itself but whether you are able to communicate your work effectively.

‘Eye-contact is good but the main thing is that we want them to be listening and engaging and showing interest. And most importantly to be able to tell a story through their work,’ says Ann Lakshmanan of Shepheard Epstein Hunter.

‘We like candidates that are enthusiastic, dynamic, positive, and able to demonstrate previous experience by outlining specific examples,’ says Erika Rudinska of Perkins + Will.

Try to be self-assured, but be careful not to overdo it.

‘I don't like it when people are overly confident. They’re coming to get a job with you not the other way round. Sometimes people can be a bit too keen to assert themselves and I don’t like that,’ says Mark Doohan, director of London and Bedford practice Benchmark Architects.

Don’t be put off if the interviewers make notes during the interview. Some will have a scoring system that they use for every candidate and will use the notes to help them with this.

Expect the interview to last a minimum of 45 minutes, and often much longer.  Some practices with specific software requirements such as for Revit, for example, may follow the interview with a test.

Interview checklist

  • Research your journey to avoid being late
  • Make an effort with your appearance
  • Research the practice beforehand
  • Be prepared to present your portfolio
  • Make eye contact and be personable