Questions To Ask In Your Architecture Job Interview

Sara Mandeed
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Questions about the job:

The first questions you should ask are about the work environment, the people you’ll be working with, and other details about the job. It is essential that you feel comfortable with the situation before you accept the position.

The following questions will help you determine if this job would be a good fit for you.

Where would projects be?

Depending on the company, job positions with different titles can be in different physical offices. If you are wondering, should I bring a jacket to my architecture interview, I’d say at this point don’t worry about bringing anything, not job experience, nor looking good or not. You won’t need it yet.

Some companies—both small, large, local, and global ones, prefer to have their team together. Whether or not they like to have their team all in one office under the same roof depends on what they work on. There are many different architectural offices who consider traveling backward and forward from different downtown offices to be an important part of their typical workday.

Others even tend to have their offices from different countries; there are firms that have an office in New York, and one in London, and maybe another in Dubai. This is also something that they could discuss with you when you’re going to apply. It’s also something that you can ask them in your job interview that will not really affect your interview application, yet will give you much useful information how the company works.

Would I be on one project primarily or several at once?

My experience has been that your first architecture job interview question should be about how the company works.

Most places work in teams of multiple projects. You might be on one for a while then a different one later or, at the very least, you can expect to work on several projects at once.

So your second architecture job interview question should: why do you do that?

Is the company cross-disciplinary?

Why?

Explain how it helps you be more efficient. Can you justify it by saying it gets projects done earlier or turns a profit sooner? Could it set the company up to have a better reputation with clients?

What culture do you want to establish with it?

How are you going to measure its success? What metrics will you use?

Will you combine departments to gain cross-functional experience or did you find teams within the company were already cross-functional?

What is the new build versus renovation projects percentage?

A good rule of thumb is to assume that working in an architect’s office will be more similar to a construction firm than a typical 9-5 firm.

Where would I be working?

Is there flexibility in working from home?

Are there other employees on flexible working?

What are the rules of flexible working and are they reasonable?

You need to know whether it’s a flexible working culture to for your own productivity and your family’s wellbeing.

What would be my job title?

How senior will I be?

Even if you choose an organisation with high potential for promotion, you should check where you would start and what kind of job you would have initially so that you’re clear where you’re headed.

What are my evaluation criteria?

What is the normal review period?

How often do people review within this organisation?

How Will I Be Reviewed

What other tasks will I be responsible for?

Ask about how the organisation operates and how you will fit in.

Do you have any flexibility in your processes?

You might ask if it’s possible to introduce improvement in processes even it’s not the norm.

What are goals for the near and longer term?

As this could also be factors to your salary.

Why did they leave?

Lack of communication, lack of clear direction, and lack of team orientation are the top reasons why people leave their jobs.

As an employee, these are exactly the things you need to know about your job and your boss. You can tell a lot about a company’s culture based on why people walked out the door. It can help you decide if the company matches your values.

It’s also important to pick your new career carefully. You will likely spend about a third of your life at work, so it’s worth taking some time to find the perfect match.

How long does someone typically stay in this job?

You may have to be prepared to stay at your architecture job for a few years (or much longer) if you want to succeed in the profession. You won’t move into an architecture dream job position after just a few years of training. So it’s vital to know what you’re getting into before you start your architecture training.

This question about the architecture job length will help you know what to expect. It’s best to find out what the career path is like in the company or organization you’re considering working for.

For example, when you’re interviewing with a local commercial architect, you may need to be prepared to start off by working as a junior architect. So if you’re interviewing for an assistant or junior designer position, ask about the promotion process. How long does it take to move up to a senior or lead designer position, and how do you become a senior architect?

Interviewers are often hesitant to give out information about promotions and career paths. But if you can find out that the average career progression is 5 years and that there aren’t great mobility possibilities, then that’s valuable information to make an informed decision about whether or not this is a position you want to apply for.

How soon would the job start date be?

Before you apply for a job, always make sure to ask about the first day start date. You want to make sure you have enough time to sort out housing and other necessary arrangements. This will ensure a smooth transition and give you time to settle in. Also, be sure to find out if there is training or orientation that comes with that start date.

What can you tell me about this job that isn’t in the description?

It is always a good idea to get some inside information before walking into a job interview. A lot of the time companies post some really vague job descriptions in order to avoid talking about the real job. What you should do is ask questions about what the job really entails so you can get a better feel for it. For example, when you talk about job description in architecture, they talk about the benefits but don’t really get into detail about the actual work that the job entails. That is what you should ask.

What are the prospects for growth for the person in this job?

Are there other opportunities for a person of my talent to advance within the firm?

This is a question you can always ask in any job interview, but as an architect, you are particularly likely to be asked this question. Growth of a firm can be a point of both pride and concern within a firm. In past years it has been a competitive market and most firms will not easily divulge their growth or decline for obvious reasons …but you may get hints, and at the very least you can leave the question as a conversation starter.

How large is the team I would be working with?

Since you’ll be working with the team members on a daily basis, you’ll want to make sure you like and trust them.

Asking about the size of the team allows you to get a sense of the company culture as a whole.

The team size will also give you an idea of the projects you can expect to work on and how much support you’ll have from others.

You will want to be sure to base your decision to accept or reject a job offer on a firm understanding of the company’s structure and the team you’ll be working with.

What are the most important skills of the person who does this job?

You’ve interviewed for the job and you’re making it through the final round. Now it’s time to ask the tough questions.

Interviewers genuinely hope that the employees who will be reporting to them will be capable of adapting to the job. Asking what you need to know to perform well at the job shows that you care about career development, instead of just doing the bare minimum.

You may need to learn new skills like CAD (Computer Assisted Design) or other technical skills. You may also need to become fluent in a foreign language or learn new office technology.

If you already have the skills that the employer is looking for, articulate why you’re a good fit for the job. Even if you don’t have all of the skills necessary, explain why you want to learn the company’s technical lingo or become proficient in a foreign language.

If you don’t have the skills, let the employer know that you’re willing to invest in learning the skills or working with an expert to develop them. Arming the interviewers with this type of information will help advance your candidacy and perhaps even help you get hired.

Do you have any concerns with me as a candidate?

This question is a request for feedback. You’re asking if the interviewer has any concerns they’d like to discuss with you. It’s important to ask this question because it’s easy for interviewers to have doubts and reservations and either not bring them up or compartmentalize them.

If the interviewer has any doubts, you’d like to hear them spoken out loud. After all, the interviewer knows you better than anyone else, and you want them to tell you if they have reservations.

It’s best to ask this question after the entire interview has been discussed, just before you wrap up the conversation. First you’ll be ending the interview on a positive note, and second, the interviewer will have been doing a mental review of everything that was discussed and may reflect on points they forgot to cover.

Finally, you’ll give the interviewer time to come up with a reservation or two to bring up.

If anyone has failed at this job, why did they fail?

Both of these questions help you understand the critical role of leadership in your architecture career. If the person you are speaking with doesn’t have a good answer for these, then this is a definite red flag.

In the first question, you want to understand if the reason the person’s direct reports failed in the past is because they didn’t possess the necessary skills, or did they just not have the support and management to get the job done. If the person you are speaking with can’t give you a good answer, it’s likely their leadership style hinders their overall effectiveness.

In the second question, you want to understand if the way the interviewer treats their people in their everyday life mirrors how they’ll treat you as an employee. If not, you may want to seriously reconsider the position.

How many people are enrolled in IDP / Part III / training for their license?

Architectural firms tend to employ people with an architectural license from the state. Many architecture schools have a one year diploma course in architecture and are a good starting point. If a firm has a large number of employees then their ratio of people with an architectural license to those without one should be high.

Who would be my day to day supervisor?

A silly question that always takes me by surprise comes at the end of most interviews, after I’ve delivered the punch line that I’ll be bringing my three-foot fabric dinosaur to work, or whatever. This is when the interviewer says, “Now let’s talk about salary.”

But some companies actually do ask this question, as if you haven’t thought about how much you want to be paid. To be honest, I don’t know how many candidates walk into their architecture job interview, give a brilliant presentation, and have a few follow up questions, and then go home without any sense of what they’ll earn.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to think about the salary you’re hoping for before you go to the architecture interview. Figure out what you need to earn in order to live a reasonable life.

If you’re not sure (or because you’re not sure) you can do a little research. Reach out to some friends in architecture’s to get an idea of their salary, or look on the web for industry averages.

Questions about the person interviewing you:

Interviewers are people too. You’d want to know a bit more about them.

Asking these questions will help you find their dominant traits and styles and use this information to help you read their personality.

What do you like to do in your free time?

You might get some unexpected answers. Architecture work can be done remotely. While some architects can be chained to their desks for decades, others can take every chance they get to get away from it all. Depending on your personality, you either feel yourself more drawn to an outdoorsy type or a workaholic.

How has the last project gone?

Even if you’ll be focusing on a completely different project, it’ll help if you know the type of work and challenges faced on the last one. That’s because it’ll give you an idea of the type of work environment you’re walking into. Not every project goes smoothly.

How long have you worked at the company?

This will tell you if the company is stable. If they’ve only been in the business for a few years, it might be time to look elsewhere.

How many architects are there?

How long have you worked here?

Before you start asking questions, get a sense of the company culture by asking about the length of time the person you’re speaking to has worked at the company. The title you’re asking about doesn’t matter so much as the length of time.

This question doesn’t just give you information about the person you’re interviewing with – it also gives you a sense of what a long-time employee would say when they’re asked the same question.

For example, if you ask an intern, they may gush about how their work is so important at the company and how everyone they work with is amazing, but if you ask the intern manager or even the CEO, they may tell you a different story. The longer they’ve served in their role, the more likely they are to bring up issues and concerns surrounding the role.

This is because people who are longer tenured are more likely to be able to look past the rosy picture at what is really happening. The more time they’ve spent at the company, the more likely they are to say, “Oh, that wasn’t a great time for us. We made some mistakes back then.”

What do you like most about working here?

What you are aiming for with this question is twofold: first, you want to find out the company culture and philosophy. But you also want to see if this company is a good fit for you. If you only want to work for a small firm, for example, you will want to know that the company is small and if they have plans to grow.

Also, when you ask this question, you are signaling that you are genuinely interested in what the interviewer has to say and you are empathizing with their dream. Reciprocally, the interviewer should open up about themselves and you will learn more about them and what they do.

The sum of all these little facts will give you an idea about if this company would actually be a good fit for both of you. If both of you are in a place where this would be perfect, then you shouldn’t hesitate to make them an offer.

Questions about the process and next steps:

Although you want to show that you have the right skill set and that your qualifications are a perfect fit, during the interview the interviewer is looking for more than just technical skills.

The interviewer wants to know:

  • „Whether you will fit well with the team
  • „Whether you will be able to adapt to a new environment
  • „Whether you can handle new and different tasks
  • „Whether you will be open to coaching and how you might respond to constructive criticism

So, you need to find out about the process:

  • „How will the team be formed?
  • „How long will the interview process last?
  • „How many different people will be involved in the decision-making process?
  • „Will it be just the team members or will you also be talking to the HR person?
  • „What are the next steps?

By understanding the process, you firstly get some insight about what you can expect in the following days. Secondly, you will also be able to understand what outcome the interviewer is expecting from the interview. This will allow you to prepare better for the next meeting.

I am excited about the opportunity, what is the next step in the process?

This is definitely something you want to be prepared for as soon as you leave the interview.

Going in for a career interview is not the end, its the start of being part of the team. You will most definitely have more interviews and by attending the interview, you qualify.

The interview is the first step in a long process to becoming an architect. Many students regret not preparing a bit more for the interview.

This can be tough but remember, if you got the interview it is because your skills are desired by the architect. You must be a great candidate!

Who should I stay in touch with moving forward?

I always recommend that you let your interviewer know that you would like to stay in touch periodically.

You can do that by writing a short email a week or two after the interview to thank your interviewer for the time and consideration, and to let them know that you remain interested in the position and would be grateful to hear back from them if they have any questions or need anything else.

Give your interviewer a way to reach you, and make sure that you check your email often so that you don’t miss any opportunities to communicate.

Questions You Should NOT Ask:

Asking Follow-Up Questions:

Don’t show your lack of knowledge. If you think you haven’t understood the question, just ignore it and ask the interviewer to clarify their question. The key here is not to give them a reason for the interviewer to dismiss you for not understanding the question.

Technical Questions:

During the interview you should try to focus on showing interest and enthusiasm for the company and the position. Also, you should give them examples of what you’ve done in the past and what you can do for them. Writing code on the whiteboard or attempting proof-of-concepts if they are not needed should wait until you’ve convinced them to hire you.

Get To Know Them:

You may also be tempted to tell the interviewer a little about yourself or ask them questions like, “What do you like most about working here?” That kind of information will come out in the course of the interview so there’s no need to ask.

If you’re planning to go on multiple architecture job interviews, be sure to take a look at my guest post on the topic: Architecture Job Interview: The Basics.

Do you check references?

What kind of skills are you looking for?

What is the management style?

What kind of advice would you give me if I was considering applying for this position?

Do you have any concerns about my qualifications?

What do you like most about working here?

What benefits are offered?

Is there a dress code?

How many hours per week do you work on average?

What is your favorite part of your work?

What job functions do you have and what are some of your responsibilities?

What is your typical day like?

What would you do in the first few days on the job, or if you were called into work over the weekend?

How do you like this job?

What type of manager are you?

When are you planning to fill this position and what is the timeline to fill it?

How is performance evaluated?

What is the advancement potential of a person in this position?

What does your company do best?

Do you believe in work-life balance and why or why not?

When did you decide to work in this field?

How do you think this position aligns with company goals?

What are the most important jobs at your company?

What was the last thing you personally accomplished that you are proud of?

How do you plan for the future?

Do you conduct drug tests and/ or background checks?

This is a fair question, and an every bit as honest one, as to whether or not you have been doing your job thoroughly.

For instance, if an applicant has no jobs to show for the last two years, and no formal education, should the company verify employment? You should always ask this question.

During many office job interviews, a potential employer might ask if you have any questions for him or her. This is also a time that can be used to bring up drug testing and background checks.

Call the company ahead of time and ask if they conduct background checks and drug checks. If not, you might want to make a note on your resume when you prepare it.

How quickly can I get promoted?

A good thing to look for in these responses is the word “flexibility,” as this means that the company is willing to work with you and provide changes to the advancement paths or a chance for it to happen faster.

More importantly, though, you’ll want to answer this question with a follow up of your own:

What kind of architecture do you do?

This is one of the first questions you should ask in an architecture interview. It’s important to know if you’re going to be doing the kind of work you were expecting to do. If you don’t like the answer, you may want to look into alternative job openings. For example, architects work in a variety of areas. Some specialise in renovation and refurbishment, while others concentrate on historic buildings and monuments. Many architects work in small teams on a variety of projects, while others work independently and enjoy the freedom to work on the whole process from drawing up plans for a school building to seeing it rise from the ground.

Other architects work in the corporate world, drawing up designs for offices, factories, and supermarkets. You may want to work on a particular aspect of design, so ask about the variety on offer.

Who is the firm owner?

Architecture firms are businesses. Like all businesses, they are designed to produce and sell a service. And, to accomplish that, they are managed like any other business.

This question gets to the heart of who you will be working for. Each architect is different in terms of management style, work ethic, personality, and personal desires. This question will help you identify the different characteristics of your potential employer.

It may seem like an overly simple question, but there are a few interesting things to ask about your potential employer when you bring it up in your first interview.

For instance, if the firm is still owned and operated by a principal architect, he will most likely be on-site and available. This is great if you are looking for immediate mentorship and feedback.

But some small firms are dominated by management, which means that you will have to rely on that management team instead.

There are also some small firms that are family-owned and operated. While that may appeal to you, you need to know if there is anyone else around to offer mentorship and guidance.

How often are raises given?

You’ll likely be hired for salary alone. This means that subsequent raises will be based on the performance of you and your fellow employees. The biggest factor in determining the frequency of raises is the overall growth and success of your company.

Even if you get a raise, you should never receive an increase in base salary in less than one year. An architecture salary isn’t determined by how long you’ve been with the company and can fluctuate at any time. It’s based on your actual work and the value you’re bringing to the company.

How many sick and vacation days do I get?

Although it may seem like a bit of a weird question, depending on the type of position you’re applying for, it’s actually a fairly common one.

Construction jobs are renowned for difficult conditions and often, with long work hours, so it’s natural that you’d want to know how much time you’re spending at the office.

Same goes for other industries – maybe you do have the freedom to work remotely, but are you expected to be there 12 hours, or is it more of a 9-5 policy? The time varies based on the organization, so it’s important to find out what’s expected of you.

Download The 82 Architecture Interview Question and Answer Flashcards

If you are serious about your career and want to get the best architecture job available, it is time to get serious about the process of getting the job.

An architecture interview is a very tough process and one that you should absolutely be prepared for.

If you have done your previous homework and have a better understanding of the position and the firm in general, you will be one step ahead of the competition.

Interview preparation is essential and the first step should be to carefully read the job description. This will give you an insight into the company’s values, vision, and what kinds of problems they solve.

Next, read the organization’s mission statement to gain an understanding of the firm’s goals and objectives.

How the firm works is also essential to understanding how an interview will be conducted.

If the firm is not a huge concern in your mind, the next step in preparing for the interview is to narrow down an appropriate time-frame to look at the firm’s website. Track the firm’s social media activity and their associated blog to get an idea if they are a good company to work for.