Whether you are looking for your first job out of school, switching careers, or just seeking out more career advancement, you will inevitably need to sit down face to face with a potential employer. Because this is unavoidable, you will need to hone your interviewing skills. Here are ten questions that you will most likely run into along the way that could make or break your interview. Preparing for them may set you apart from the rest of the candidates.
1. Tell Me About Yourself
“Oh where to begin!?!”
Hopefully this isn’t your immediate thought. The key to answering this question is to be succinct; no more than a minute at most. A good rule of thumb is to stick to a few sentences about these topics:
- early years
- work history
- recent experience
This question is more of an ice-breaker so it is important to simply stick to the basics and move to the next question.
2. What Do You Know About Our Firm?
Before showing up for the interview, you should at least have a general idea of the work the firm has done and the areas of expertise the firm specializes in. Speak of a few projects that are particularly of interest to you. Avoid, however, pretending you know too much about the firm and don’t let your answer overwhelm the interviewer. This question is a way for you and the interviewer to discuss what the firms ideologies are and where they are heading.
You may want to start with:
“In my job search, I looked at a variety of firms. Your company was of particular interest to me because…”
3. Why Do You Want to Work for Us?
A good response to this question, and really the rest of the questions, will come from the quality of the homework you have done on the firm. You want to address the answer in terms of what you feel the company may need from a new employee and how you may fit into that role. You could say that the firm is working on certain typologies that you would like to be involved with or that the company is using principles or techniques that you have a great interest in. For instance, if the firm is doing work with low-income housing in innovative ways, you may want to emphasize your interest in rehabilitation of poor areas.
If you feel as though you have to make up an answer to this question to come off as a good candidate, it is possible that this job just isn’t for you anyways and you shouldn’t have accepted the interview in the first place. By doing your homework, you should have learned enough about the firm to know that you should avoid working in an environment where you possibly wouldn’t have a motivation to do your job. Even if you did convince the interviewer that you were genuinely interested in the position, you would be stuck in a job that you don’t really want.
4. What Can You Do for Us That Others Cannot?
Here is where you highlight your skills and talk yourself up. It doesn’t hurt to be confident and egotistical when answering this question. Mention your consistent performance and highlight specific aspects of your resume. Say that your skills and interests, combined with your history of results, make you a valuable candidate.
5. What Do You Look for in a Job?
Try to think about the various facets of growth that the firm may offer. Talk about the advancement that you wish to achieve within the firm and the acknowledgment you would like to receive for your contributions. Concentrate your answer towards the opportunity and away from the security that a job offers.
6. How Long Do You Plan To Stay With Us?
It is okay to say that you are interested in a long career with the firm but also, make it clear that you would have to feel challenged in order to remain with any company. The key is to establish that you hope to have a mutually beneficial relationship throughout the employment.
7. What Are Your Long-term Goals?
You do not want to be near-sighted when answering this question. Think beyond the current job being offered and look more towards roles that you could play within the firm much later on. It doesn’t hurt to dream big, especially if you genuinely feel that you can attain these goals.
8. What Trends Do You Feel Are Important in Architecture/Design?
Be prepared with two or three trends that you specifically interest you in today’s architectural climate. You might consider: technological advances, policy concerns, or how architecture is reacting to global demands as you think about the issues you personally feel are relevant.
9. Why Did You Leave Your Last Job?
Be brief and to the point with your answer. Do not mention personal conflicts you had with other employees or supervisors because you don’t want to come off as a bad apple. Try to spin your job search into career growth that you made the decision to take on.
If you were laid off as part of a large down-sizing, say so. Employers in the architecture industry are well aware of the economic cycles that most firms fall victim to. If you were fired, it is still okay to blur the truth and say that you reached a point with the previous firm where you needed to move on. If the interviewer suspects that you were in fact fired, mention that it was “mutually beneficial” for you and the company to part ways. Making up a story regarding why you left the firm may come back to bite you if they check with the firm for references.
10. What Do You Feel This Position Should Pay?
Sometimes, oddly enough, this question doesn’t come up during the initial interview. However, if it does, this should be taken as a good sign.
Salary is a delicate topic but it is why we drag ourselves to work 5 days out of the week, so don’t be flaky with your answer. Generally speaking, you should wait until the interviewer establishes an initial negotiation point. Ask what they feel that your experience is worth to them and put the pressure on them. Check out this link to get amazing advice on how to navigate this taboo topic.
As far as your starting negotiation point is concerned, a general rule of thumb that I like to follow is to take whatever number you would accept as an offer, and add 15%. My feeling is that you will never get it if you don’t ask for it. You can let them know that you are willing to negotiate from that price, but that is implied already and a sign that you aren’t serious about the number.
In my personal experience, I have not only matched the initial salary I asked for, but I exceeded it many times through negotiation.
These questions are pretty standard in any interview. If you practice and rehearse your answers to the above questions beforehand, you can be assured that you will have a productive interview.