How To Ace Your Architecture Phone Interview
“No, I don’t regret anything at this point. That may change on the next phone call, but at the moment I don’t regret anything.”
Often an phone interview is the first contact the potential architecture firm will have with you. The phone interview is often used as a way of weeding out the candidates that aren’t really interested or a good fit.
It is therefore essential for you to make a good first impression. This can be intimidating for most people so here are a few techniques to help you advance to the next step.
As with the in-person interview this shouldn’t be an issue as long as you have prepared well.
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The Cold Call
I have a strict rule when it comes to answering the phone while in the middle of a job search: never answer the phone.
This may sound a little crazy but it is for good reason. The majority of job correspondence is handled by email now but occasionally a hiring manager, HR or the architect will make an unscheduled call.
Reasons not to answer:
1. This will typically be during the day and assuming you are currently employed you really shouldn’t be taking personal phone calls. Also, the last place you want to be talking to a potential employer is within earshot of your current employer.
2. Odds are you will be unprepared.
3. They will leave a voicemail or at the very least you will be able to call them back.
It is much better to make a call on your own terms when you have all of your information in front of you. This includes your resume, cover letter, portfolio and any emails previously sent.
You are likely applying to multiple firms at the same time so you want to be sure you have the exact documents you submitted to that particular firm.
If you do happen to answer and you are not ready, try to reschedule for a better time.
“I am about to head into a meeting, would it be possible to discuss this afternoon, call you back?”
This has the bonus of conveying a bit of importance to your current role. Just make sure you listen carefully to the response, if they are hesitant you might just have to plow ahead.
Try to always have a printed copy of your resume and important documents nearby. You don’t want to have to rely on an internet connection, or worse, the phone you are talking on.
Be prepared with the answers to the typical architecture interview questions. You don’t have to have them memorized but have a general idea of your responses.
Make sure you know your resume inside and out and have a list of questions ready.
Remember the goal of the phone interview is not to get the job. The goal is to get the in person interview. So if they are asking difficult questions try to remain calm and don't make up responses, this will backfire down the road.
Try to be as open and flexible with all of your responses. Typically they will not ask about salary at this point but if it does come up try not to mention a number, but be vague and say something like, "I am open and flexible on the compensation".
Don't give them a reason to reject you
If they called you it means they liked your application materials so the hard work is done. All you want to do at this point is not give them an obvious reason to reject you.
Some obvious and not so obvious reasons you may be rejected in an architecture phone interview include:
1. You seem (or are) crazy.
2. You have unrealistic salary expectations.
3. You won't / can't move to where the office is located.
4. You can't start when they need you to start.
5. You don't pay attention to their questions.
6. You can't validate what is in your application materials.
7. Are negative towards your current employer.
8. Other potential red flags based on your current situation or future goals.
Stand up while on the phone, it gives your voice a bit more power and helps you to relax. I find myself pacing around when I am on an important phone call, it helps to relieve some of the potential anxiety too. Just don't get out of breath.
As strange as it sounds, don’t forget to smile. This can help you sound more positive, even over the phone.
Make sure you speak clearly and not too quickly. If you are using a cell phone make sure you have a good signal (also charged!) and you are in a quiet place with minimal distractions.
Home is ideal but if you are at work you might have to settle for a quiet coffee shop around the corner.
As with the in-person interview don’t forget to ask what the next steps are in the process before ending the call. You might have to bring this up if it seems like the call is ending and the interviewer hasn’t said anything about what happens next.
At the very least make sure to get their email and phone number so you can keep in touch. This may or may not be the person you are talking to.
Avoid asking their name at the end of the call. You are supposed to be paying attention and they should have introduced themselves at the beginning.
I hope this helps with your next architecture phone interview, let me know in the comments below if you have any questions.
For further reading on applications, portfolios, interview preparation and questions see The Complete Package.
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Brandon Hubbard, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C