Interviews are serious occasions. Practices are conscious that if you and they get them wrong they are going to lose the quite substantial investment they make in your early office upbringing - and their investment in the quite substantial benefits you can enjoy in a biggish office. Take a look at the goodies that the practices, profiled in later pages, provide for staff.
The underlying question for the interviewer is, are they likely to enjoy you working there and will you enjoy it and thus, hopefully, be productive? Tim Fyles at Fletcher Priest, in explaining its two-part interview approach, says: 'We work in a collaborative way, so ours is a much more social and interactive organisation.
To get the second interview candidates have to be talented and they have to have worked hard. But the second thing we have to be sure about is: are they Fletcher Priest people?'
As ADP's Roger Fitzgerald says: 'You want a full mutual understanding so that you have got to know the person you are going to employ - before you employ them.'
WHAT WILL INTERVIEWERS WANT FROM YOU?
It may be no surprise to learn that they are looking for people with high honours degrees and exciting design flair which will rejuvenate their practices. They want people who can design, who can draw, who can write, who can talk convincingly on their feet, are pretty expert at even obscure CAD systems. Your task, by the end of the interview, is to have convinced them that you can offer all this and more.
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR AN INTERVIEW?
As with your CV letter, you should try to put yourself in the place of the people who will be interviewing you. What irritates you will probably irritate them. And, as ever, you have to have done your research about the practice. Paul Davis says: 'What puts us off is people who haven't done any research - who just turn up and expect us to interview them.' And others are also irritated when interviewees plainly know little about the practice's work. The obvious question is: if they don't, why did they bother to apply?
And you should have thought about how the interview could run. John Assael says: 'Applicants need to think of the interview as a kind of audition. They should actually rehearse what they are going to say.'
PORTFOLIOS Architectural job interviews always involve you showing your portfolio. These days some applicants bring along a CD of their work instead of a portfolio. Unless you bring your own laptop this is a bad idea. But, even then, think about how you and the interviewer or interviewers are going to view a single laptop screen. It may be tedious lugging an A2 or bigger portfolio around, but your interviewer is going to find real paper much easier to cope with - and find it much more authentic.
At a recent AJ conference John Whiles, of Jestico + Whiles, revealed, perhaps unwisely, that he deliberately always disagreed with interviewees about some aspect of their portfolio work.
Whiles explained: 'This is to see if they can argue.' Outsiders unfamiliar with the adversarial crit mode of learning architecture might well not understand that. But members of the architectural tribe will, and will be prepared to defend their work.
HANDMADE Your portfolio is the evidence that you can design - and draw.
The jury is out on what computer sketching is all about - although you will invariably be expected to be competent at drafting using at least one of the major CAD applications. But probably all architectural interviewers will want to see if you can draw by hand - preferably with a pencil, but pen and ink will often be acceptable. Despite the fact quite a lot of architecture's heroes couldn't draw, interviewers will be disappointed if you haven't included some freehand sketches in your portfolio.
ALL YOUR OWN WORK But make sure that they are your own. Fyles says: 'It's very disappointing when you are going through a portfolio and have to ask if a person has done the drawings themselves. If they have just graduated it is normally straightforward. If they have come from an office you sometimes have to burrow a bit.' It is a general problem for interviewers. And it has been exacerbated by the increasingly collaborative way in which architects work. It is fine to have material which is not your own work, such as a computer graphic image explaining a project, but you must come clean.
COCKING A SNOOK Although you may get interviewers who are out to test your verbal skills, kindness at architectural job interviews is quite prevalent, and interviewers are normally going to be tolerant of youthful brio.
Assael, for example, has a sneaking regard for a bit of selfcon-dence. He says: 'We quite like the lippy ones. We reckon ambition is fine.' Yet here is another line which its is very easy to cross inadvertently. Fitzgerald says, and Assael would agree: 'We are really put off by arrogance, by people who don't listen, who cut across you.'
WHAT NOT TO WEAR A lot of senior architectural practice directors now are of an age which means they may have a 'ower power' past and might mark suit-wearers down as weird. But you can't afford to assume that.
In fact most practices suggest smart casual dress because, as Davis points out: 'We are in a creative industry. When people do turn up smartly dressed it indicates they are taking it all seriously.'
WHEN DO YOU ASK ABOUT THE PENSION?
Hold off asking about things like salary, work conditions, pensions and benefits. At least until after you have made your request to see around the office. Interviewers like to feel you want to work with them. A practice worth working for will almost certainly tell you about these things later on in the interview. Sometimes, of course, if they haven't, they may not be intending to offer you a job.
INTERVIEW TIPS ? Do your research: How big? What kind of work? What recent job and competition triumphs? Partners'/ directors' names? How would it fit with you? Is this a suit firm or smart casual? ;
probably conceal ostentatious piercings, tattoos, possibly mad haircuts. Definitely no hoods;
of course they need your genius.
Really, really try not to show this.
Modest confidence is the thing;
ask to look around the office to get a feel of it;
let them tell you about salary, work conditions, pensions and benefits. If they don't, ask;
try for a balance between wacky and straight portfolio designs; and tell the truth about the authorship of drawings in your portfolio.