What Architectural Firms Look For?
Over the years, I have been asked what characteristics architectural firms look for in new hires. In my experience, the answer to this question centers around three specific areas:
1. Fit with the firm brand (or culture). This one is very important. Firms have a distinctive (or unique) culture and identity that reflects who they are and how they go about the practice of architecture. Many variables factor into this including the type of work they do, the clients they serve, where the firm is located, the way the firm is structured, and how the firm operates. As an example, if engagement and collaboration are important parts of a firm's culture, the people that they look to hire will be evaluated through this lens. Firms want to find new hires that will fit their existing culture, and help it grow positively. Sometimes this may mean that individual talent may not always be the top new hire evaluation criterion. Instead, how a new hire candidate can demonstrate an alignment with a firm's identity becomes a key differentiator.
2. Depth of potential is another important criterion that firms look at when considering a new hire. It might not always be about the most talented "right now", but instead the potential for developing the most talent over time. This will depend on several factors. On the firm side of this, do they have a strong professional development focus? Do they have a strong culture of mentoring? How clear are the pathways to advancement? Does the firm consciously look to eliminate barriers to career development and eventual promotion? Do they do so in a way that supports diversity, equity, and inclusion?
On the candidate side, do they demonstrate ambition? Are they highly organized and focused on ongoing learning and growth? Is becoming a registered architect part of the vision they have established for their career? How wide are a candidate's interests? Often, too narrow of a focus can seem limiting, and even come-off as setting a boundary for potential. Candidates that can demonstrate a willingness to embrace a wider range of career development options, and the needed flexibility that goes with it might have good chance of succeeding at convincing the interviewers that they are loaded with potential.
3. The other important characteristic that firms look for centers around energy (drive, passion, and commitment). It's one thing to obtain a great education and be poised to begin the process of developing your career in architecture. But is that enough? Firms want to see energy. Why? Because the profession is a complex one, full of challenges and a wide range of opportunities. Careers develop at different paces for people, but when a firm is looking to hire, they want to see that the person they are interviewing has the energy, drive, and passion to see them through the many climbs ahead. There will be difficulties navigating internship and registration. There will be unhappy clients, consultants, contractors, and coworkers. There will be projects that you invest a lot of yourself into only to have it go on hold, or worse. There will be errors and omissions in construction documents, and costly mistakes on projects under construction. But all of these can be managed and navigated more easily with energy, drive, and passion. These also help accelerate advancement and development in a career. Years in practice is only a partial measure of experience. It has been my observation that those with the energy, drive and passion get much more out of each year in the profession, which helps shorten the time between promotions.
In the end, firms look for people to add to their team that not only bring talent, but that also fit their culture, have a large upside potential, and who have the energy to thrive in the profession.