15+1 warning signs in an architect job interview

If I were graduating from architecture school today, I’d be very conscious about choosing a job – not just the one that came my way, but definitely aiming for the coolest place to work.

The problem is that when I started my career, I had no idea what an employer wanted and what kind of job I should choose.

I wasn’t lucky, so after 6 years of sucking it up, I set up an office because I didn’t have a proper job. I had to make one.

So here are the lessons I have learned and what you should look out for when choosing a job.

What to look for in an architect job interview?

There are four factors that define an office:

  • Culture at the workplace
  • Professionalism, visual quality
  • Innovation, technological background
  • Internal education system

But let’s look at the nogo points.

Poor workplace culture

1. The organisation is hierarchical

An office can be a good working environment if it is agile. You can tell because the managers are direct, people dare to ask them questions, they’ll have a conversation with you, with anyone.

In contrast, in a hierarchical organisation, the lead designer demands respect. He doesn’t earn it, he demands it with violence and verbal aggression. You can see this in the way your prospective colleagues in the office don’t work in a relaxed and flowing way, they shut up, they are tense and afraid. You will feel the atmosphere.

If you see this, run.

2. No common goal

At NASA, during the moon landing, a senior military officer asked the cleaning lady, “Excuse me, what are you doing here?” The reply was “well, I’m sending a man to the moon.”

An architecture firm can have many different motivations. It may be to create uncompromising spaces, to create high visual quality, to change the way an industry operates through innovation, or all three.

But if you ask them what’s worth getting up and going to work in the morning and they look at you like you’re a fried fish, run away immediately.

3. The community sucks

Normally, you spend more time in an office than with your loved ones. It’s important to be surrounded by nice people you trust, who become a second family, who are fun to be with and who you enjoy spending time with on weekends.

If you find that people are cold, distrustful and indifferent to you, the next few years will be a drifting experience, like spending them in a train station waiting room. You will have strangers walking around you, people who will pass the time and, if need be, get in line with you, but it will be boring and you will be waiting for the end.

Life is short for that, I think, but the good news is that when you walk through the door, you’ll feel it straight away.

If you see this at an architect job interview, run immediately.

4. Appreciation, ergonomic working environment, good chair, good coffee

The most important resource of a good company is the knowledge and commitment of its employees. That’s why they pay attention to the health of their employees, an efficient working environment and high-quality additional services.

If you’re sat down in a dark hole in an uncomfortable chair behind an old monitor and have to pay for coffee, think how much you’re appreciated.

Professional dead-ends

A design office will be successful if it has professional goals and if it creates viable solutions while remaining rational.

5. Architecture for livelihood

At the beginning of my career, I had the opportunity to work for a company that didn’t want to create anything outstanding. There was no real professional objective, the goal was to achieve just enough quality and the design fee from the many small revenues. For droids, it’s an ideal choice for a lifetime of drifting, but you won’t grow out of it and you’ll have livelihood problems for sure. If the company’s slogan is “pull the carcass over the fence”, run immediately.

6. The constellation in the floor plan

The other extreme is also life-threatening, when the design office is made up of abstract and theoretical artists who are convinced that they are creating a sculpture and it is almost embarrassing that people are using the building. It’s a matter of judgement, but at the end of the day it very rarely results in a successful project.

It’s a bit like trying to stop the the tram with poems. Some people like it, but if you listen to me, you’d better move quickly.

7. No career plan, aka the droid finder

My first serious job had four rooms. The droid room, the small designer’s room, the middle designers’ room and the head designer’s room. I was put in the droid room and spent a week editing wall views before I found out that the colleague to my left and right had been doing the same thing for 4 years. I quit that day.

In a good office, you’ll be part of a team and you’ll be given autonomous tasks from the first week. It might be a dumpster with 4 legs and a roof, which is a step down from the eco-skyscraper of your graduation plan, but you’ll have to see it through and if you get it, you’ll get a bigger one.

If you have no idea what kind of career plan you’re meant to have, leave immediately.

Technological dead ends

Our world is changing at an exponential rate. The profession is very slow to catch up. It’s very important to go to work for a company with potential, otherwise you’ll end up like the Titanic’s saloon band. They were still playing, but the ship sank a long time ago.

8. The office is working as it has for 5 years

Ask what software has been introduced in the last 5 years. What is their attitude to cloud hosting, what are they looking at, have they spent on development.

If you get evasive answers, maybe they have tried something, but as an entrepreneur you are expected to bring in all this broken software, run away immediately.

9. Your superior does not know how to use a computer, to model in 3D.

The 2008 crisis meant that many of the current 40-somethings left or changed careers. Therefore, those who are now in the leading design age are either in the freehand or 2D CAD era. He will never understand why you need to build a model and will not only not support you in it, he will even smile at you.

If you’re in the mood for a headwind, go for it. I’d move.

10. Engineers working in 2D

There are many projects where the disciplines are modelled in 2D. In a few years, this will be seen as the nostalgic steam locomotive on 15 March. You decide what you want to ride. A magnetic train (BIM), a diesel locomotive (3D+IFC) or a steam locomotive (2D)

11. The office did not yet have a proper BIM model.

Generally speaking, today’s cooler agencies understand BIM to mean a heavy, hard-boiled 3D design that is good for nothing in the world after the design is delivered.

Ask if the delivered plan was used for anything at the construction site, perhaps afterwards during operation, and what information was included.

If the answer is that this is where the implementation coordination came from, and then a digital as-built is where the operation comes from, then you’re in the right place.

If they ask you back, “What????” Then… you know…

12. The CDE environment in planning coordination is unknown.

Ask what CDE (Common Data Environment) environment they use.

If they ask you back, “What????” Then… you know… if you don’t know either, read our blog.

No education, no career plan

University education cannot keep pace with technological change. If I find out today that a BIM specialist is needed, a curriculum is prepared for 1-2 years, validated for 1-2 more years, and then in 5 years the first year is taught with a material from 8 years ago that will be as up to date as the instructions for a tape recorder.

So it makes a big difference which company you go to work for. One that teaches you the latest technology, or one that’s still operating with the old computers.

13. No mentor or onboarding material

In a good company, when you join, you get an instruction manual. Onboarding material and a mentor to help you settle in and acclimatise as quickly as possible.

In an average company, you get an old computer, a few blind lectures on the task at hand and a few bounces if you miss a deadline or don’t do something right.

See also: droid point

14. Internal professional training

I was once asked if I wasn’t afraid that if we lectured people they would leave. The truth is, I’m much more afraid that we won’t educate them and they’ll stay.

So a sensible company pays attention to the continuous training of its colleagues. It’s in their interest.

Ask what kind of education you’ll get and if they say, well… then run away.

15. No language skills required

Theoretically, it is possible for an architect to work only in Hungarian and not use English, but given how much professional content is produced in English and how location and distance are becoming secondary, it does not seem perspective for a firm not to use a second language.

It’s up to you, but if you listen to me… learn English as soon as possible and go to a place where it’s used on a daily basis.

+1 advice

You know what’s most important to an employer today?

Of course there are some basics.

Know how to use some software, know the materials, the drawing techniques, have a degree, although practice is worth more.

But most importantly, be a “believer”. Believe in continuous improvement. That technology will transform our industry.

Be the one who believes you can do it. The one who does not struggle, but goes for it and has the power to create. Putting solutions on the table and not analysing from an armchair.

Have ambition, be brave, dare to make mistakes. If you’ve made a mistake, own up. Always be honest.

Don’t sunyizz. We’ll find out. Be punctual. You can give everything back to a man. His money, his things, but if you’ve wasted his time, you can never make up for it.

Be positive. There are two kinds of people. Question fixers and question breakers. Never start a sentence with “the problem is that…”.

Always approach your colleague with the solution, never the problem.

And always give. Give to your colleagues, help someone who is stuck. Be a good person.

The decent man… Finish the sentence.

So be yourself and become the best version of yourself. This is the attitude that makes you a good team player. If you have this attitude and the will shines in your eyes, believe me, they will have no problem overlooking your professional shortcomings.

This is the new smart, the cornerstone of the next generation of jobs.

Join us!

Check out our careers pageor email job@buildext.com – we’ll read it and get back to you!

Csaba Livjak

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