What to take to an Architectural Interview

Interviewing for any new job is for most people a very daunting prospect and one of the most anxious processes’ to go through. There are worries about leaving on time, finding the location, arriving on time, what to wear, first impressions, what to say, what questions you’ll be asked, what questions to ask yourself, what to take …it goes on

…but it is the question of “what to take” that is arguably one of the most significant and therefore what we will focus on here.  

What to take to an Architectural Interview

What to take with you into an interview is a very important subject, and particularly when being interviewed for an architectural position, as what you choose to bring with you can make or break the interview, and be the difference between getting the job and not. 

There are few vital items to take; buy arguably the most important is your portfolio, followed by the list below: 

  • Physical portfolio

  • Portfolio case

  • Memory stick/hard-drive

  • Cloud storage

  • Address & contact details

  • Notepad and pen

  • Bag

  • Bottle of water

  • Chewing gum

  • CV copies

  • Sample port

  • List of questions

 To then look at these items in more detail:

Physical architectural portfolio

Unless told otherwise by the practice or person interviewing you, always prepare and bring with you a physical portfolio of your work. 

This should show a selection of your best and most relevant work in chronological order, with the predominant focus being on your recently completed and current projects and experience.

Much like your C.V and sample portfolio (used for the application process), be restrained with how much work you aim to show. You will only have a short time to run through what could be a quite a number of years’ worth of work, so again be selective.

The size of portfolio is also important and should ideally be an A3 size, which is both easy to carry and handle when showing and talking about your work.

Portfolio case

A portfolio case is a fundamental item of interview equipment, and you should never take your portfolio anywhere without one.

It’s obvious use is to firstly protect your portfolio and keep it clean and in good condition, but additionally it also forms part of your general interview appearance, and influences the vital first impression we reference to here. 

Ideally the case should be an A3 size, relatively rigid and be a muted colour, black is best. 

We recommend this portfolio case available on Amazon.

Memory stick/hard drive

Always upload your C.V, sample portfolio and full portfolio to a memory stick and/or hard drive, and take it with you in your bag. 

Some interviewers may ask for this, more than likely because they will want to view your portfolio via a digital screen or projector, however if they haven’t it provides the option and show you are prepared.

It also enables you to leave them a copy, and provides a backup should something happen to your physical portfolio.

There are many options to choose from but we have always used and can recommend the WD hard-drives available here on Amazon

Cloud storage

For a simpler reason to the above, uploading a third version of your presentation material to a cloud-based storage facility such as dropbox provides that extra level of backup and peace of mind.

…if you lose everything, you still have an option!

 Address & contact information

Take note of the address and location of the practice and building your interview is scheduled to be in, and write this down on both your phone and a physical piece of paper.

Secondly, write down the interviewer’s name or person who contacted you, so you have reference and someone to ask for when you arrive. This should be accompanied by a contact number, in case you get lost or are running late.

Notepad and pen

Put a notepad and pen into your portfolio case (not your bag where it might be hard to find under pressure) and use it to take notes. Even if you don’t write anything down, this shows that you are prepared.

It can also be used as a handy reminder for any questions that haven’t be answered at the end of the interview.

…you will always be asked if “you have any questions”

A smart bag

A good “architects bag” should be able to carry anything from your USB drive, to your lunch, and will just tidy up your appearance and aid in portraying yourself as a professional.

Bottle of water

…and in the above bag you should have a bottle of water.

You are likely to be a little nervous and/or be talking for a large amount of time, and having an itchy or dry throat will only distract you.

Chewing gum

It’s important to make sure that you don’t have bad breath, and so take some chewing gum or at least brush your teeth before leaving.

But please make sure that you remove the chewing gum before you enter the location of the interview, do not start your interview with it in your mouth.

CV copies

As mentioned above, having multiple copies of the important portfolio items in various formats could be a life saver, and whilst having a few copies of your C.V won’t make or break your interview, if they are required, it shows organisation and forward thinking.

It’s likely that if you have more than one interviewer, the second person may not have seen your C.V, and so this also provides them with a copy.

These are all plus’s and good qualities to demonstrate.

Sample portfolio copies

Same can be said for your sample portfolio, take two hard copies, or one for each interviewer just in case.

List of questions

Finally, and prior to attending your interview, make a list of questions to ask at the end, even if you don’t really want to know the answers or already know everything you require, make some up.

This shows that you’ve done a little research into the architecture practice and the position being advertised, which again demonstrates good personal qualities to your interviewers.

What not to take into an architecture interview!

Next we’ll take a quick look at what to not take to an interview:

A bad bag 

A bad choice of bag believe it or not can have a real negative impact on how you are perceived as you walk into your interview.

Under no circumstances should you use a bag that is worn and/or tatty looking, has graffiti, a key ring attached, is plastic, or sport related, and really you should also stay away from any form of ruck sack. 

We have a good list architects bags here

Turn your phone off 

We all know this one but it’s very easy to forget …turn it off or at the very least put it on silent. There is really no excuse for it interrupting your interview.

Physical models

Every architect likes a physical model …but not in an interview situation.

They are firstly incredibly hard to travel with and so you’ll be lucky if it makes it in one piece, and secondly they are often very cumbersome and will take up too much space on the interviewers table.

To get around this, photograph your models and create a dedicated sheet to them in your portfolio.

Larger prints 

We recommend an A3 portfolio and case above for this very reason …do not take large prints with you into your interview; they are too cumbersome and are very likely to not fit on the interview room table!

Friends and family 

We have seen this before, particularly with younger applicants, do not attend your interview with anyone else but yourself.

You must appear capable and professional.

Pets

Similarly, the same goes for pets. Find someone to look after them if you have too, but do not bring them to or into the interview space.