Monday, June 8, 2009

How to interview in a down economy

If you're just getting out of college right now, the job market looks pretty dim for you.  You may be looking for any job right now, anything that will pay some bills.  Be that as it may, it hurts nothing to contact a firm and ask for an informational interview.  An informational interview is simply that--looking for information about what a firm does and how they do it.  Ask the firm's head of HR (or whoever you reach via phone or email) if there's anyone there you could meet for lunch or coffee or even at the end of the workday just to chat.  Tell them that you're new to the architectural workplace and while you understand they and many others may not be hiring now, you'd like to know more about the work world that you'll eventually enter.  Let them know that you have lots of questions about architecture firms, as you know they're quite different than architecture schools.  Remember: people like to talk about themselves and be asked questions, so you may indeed get a bite on this.

If and or when you get a chance to meet with someone, polish up your resume and project/image portfolio and bring it along so that the person you talk to can make suggestions.  After the meeting, mail them a cover letter that serves as a thank-you note along with a hard copy of your amended resume and portfolio.  During the meeting, dress like it's a job interview, because it ultimately is.  If you don't have a lot of contacts in the architecture work world, then this is your first one; make it count.  Ask lots of questions, but do a little research beforehand if you can.  Look at their firm's website so that you get a general idea of what kind of work they do.  After seeing what they do, you can ask them about how they put together project teams, how do they pick the projects they go after, what do they find valuable in their employees and team members, and so on.  As the person how they themselves got into architecture and what path their professional career took.  Again, people love to talk about themselves, so let them.  However, don't forget to take an opportunity to tell the person about your strengths and interests, especially things that might make you a good fit for their firm later on when they decide to start hiring again.

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