Interviewing Tips

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Initial Housekeeping

Make sure your resume is grammatically correct, up to date, and complete with relevant company and educational information. A good rule of thumb is to limit your resume to one page—two at the most—and keep it in chronological order. Start with your most current job and work your way back to the first job you had out of school. Your resume should focus on accomplishments and results, not boilerplate job descriptions. In architecture and construction, your project list is very important. It should be a one- or two-page addendum to your resume. List your project’s name, size, location, and result (on time, under budget, etc.) in chronological order starting with the most recent project. Finally, clearly state what your involvement in the project was. Please be accurate and feel free to share the glory, but don’t embellish.

Gather letters of recommendations, your portfolio, and a list of professional references that includes current and past supervisors, peers, subordinates, consultants, and clients.

Next, thoroughly research the company you will be interviewing with. Visit their website and research any major or recent projects, history, clients, recent news, etc.

Finally, set aside the time to interview. It’s best to take a whole day off so you can be focused, prepared, and not rushed. If it’s not possible to take off a full day, at least take a half-day.


Ask yourself why you’re going on this interview. What are you looking for? More importantly, WHY are you looking to change jobs?

Prepare a list of questions and approach the interview with the same enthusiasm and seriousness you would expect of someone asking for your valuable time.

If you’re working with a recruiter, ask them any and all questions you can think of. Most importantly, be honest with them. They’re acting as a representative of your interests, and the interests of the company you’re interviewing with. You need to tell your recruiter why you’re looking/interviewing, if you’re talking with other companies, and exactly what your compensation is. It’s in the recruiter’s interest to ensure the best possible match between you and the employer they’re representing.

The Interview

On the day of the interview wear your best conservative suit or ask what the dress code of the company is, shine your shoes, show up 15 minutes early, and bring multiple copies of your resume and project list.

During the interview anything can happen so be prepared and stay flexible. Most likely you’ll be meeting with busy people and anything can happen. Be yourself during the interview, show enthusiasm, ask questions, never criticize your current or past employers, answer questions succinctly, be honest, and be humble.

These are people you might be spending the next ten years of your life with! Get to know them and make sure that they get to know you.


After the interview, take time to reflect on the situation. Did you like the company/people you met with? Was it what you expected? If not, what was missing? Do you have more questions? What are the pros and cons of staying where you’re at vs. going to the new firm? Is this a good career move? Why is it a good career move?

When you have all the information you need to make a decision, commit yourself heart and soul to the process. If you are serious about the new opportunity, send thank you notes to everyone indicating your continued interest.

If you can’t do that, it’s not the right career move. You should still send thank you notes to everyone, but then recommit to your current role and move on. Time is valuable and it makes no sense to continue the process if you’re not interested or god forbid, just shopping around for no specific reason.

It Just Got Real

What happens from here has as much to do with you as anything. Your enthusiasm, willingness to be flexible, honesty with the new employer and your recruiter, and overall “fit” for the job will determine the final outcome of the process, including the offer. Of course, people’s schedules, unexpected situations, family, etc., can and most often do, come into play. The company you’re interviewing with has to follow rules as well! Like any good relationship both parties have to play by the same rules.

The new employer and your recruiter should have a very specific outline of your entire compensation package and will have discussed money with you on numerous occasions. Please make sure that you’ve been very specific about this and include the following:

  • Base salary including last and next increase
  • Bonus potential
  • Bonus history including next bonus date
  • Perks
  • Benefits
  • Car allowances
  • Commuting allowances
  • Educational allowances
  • Stock plan
  • Partnership plan or potential
  • Housing situation and spouse’s employment if relocation is involved
  • Pre-existing conditions

In other words, everything that is related to your compensation should be laid out.

The offer process cannot be a guessing game. It’s not fair to the new employer to prepare an offer without all of this information, and it’s not fair to you as the end result will usually be an incomplete offer.

As the process evolves it’s very important to leave no stones unturned—don’t hold back any information. Lack of information and incorrect information from either party is a recipe for disaster.

Please do not ask for an offer unless you absolutely want the job, intend to negotiate in good faith and will not accept a counteroffer.

When you’ve received an offer, it’s expected that if you don’t accept the initial offer, you will negotiate in good faith. If a counteroffer is extended from your current employer, you need to contact your recruiter immediately. By this time the counteroffer discussion should have already taken place and you should have no intention of even considering it, right?

If the company and the candidate have both followed these guidelines there should be no surprises about the opportunity, the motivation for change, or the compensation package.

Contact me for more expertise about interviewing with the leading AEC firms in North America.

Jerry Adams