What Not to Say in an Interview

As Owner’s Representatives we have participated in hundreds of interviews witnessing some engaging, educational and enlightening presentations from an impressive list of architecture firms and general contractors. That said, every now and then we observe professionals fold under pressure and say things they might regret. Here are a few things we advise not saying during an interview. “Sweetie” Nothing is as impressive to a woman as using terms of endearment in a professional setting. “How are we doing?” There is no way an Owner can answer this question honestly when you are halfway through an interview. It’s an obviously awkward question with an even more awkward response, yet we hear it often. We cringe every time. “Who are you?” Basic rule - know your audience; if you missed a name, fake it. “Estimate prediction” Be careful on using imaginative terms in your response; it may sound like you

Feedback Etiquette

The cursed proposal, and the hopefully-to-follow, nerve-inducing interview, are both part of what the A/E/C industry endures to win work. The process costs teams thousands of dollars in staff resources, printing costs, even on small projects. It is a serious decision and investment to submit. When working with owners during the procurement process, we advise them to respect the efforts put forth by the submitting firms, particularly those who weren’t awarded the work. We communicate that they prepare detailed feedback to those who inquire. Typically, not all firms will place the call. In our experience, general contractors are more comfortable (1 in 3) than architects (1 in 5) reaching out to us or the Owner. We provide the following list of dos and don’ts for our clients to consider: Do 1. Collect relevant documents including notes from the process and the actual proposals during or immediately after the

Here’s Your Fee

In speaking with a Principal of an established architectural firm that recently entered the Front Range market, I came to find out he and his colleagues were perplexed by firms’ common practice of sometimes using professional fees as a differentiator when submitting on projects. “What’s the deal with professional architectural fees in this market?“ he asked. Not sure where he was going, I replied, “How do you mean?” He went on to explain that his firm, established in other geographic markets, is not accustomed to deviations in fees between firms. It appears that in the Front Range market, fees carry weight in owners’ hiring decisions and teams are willing to set their fees to differentiate themselves. While our market has a common industry fee (by project type) and although the standard fee has never been corroborated, it is known by all. My new colleague was clearly frustrated as

Liar, Liar

So, the dilemma unfolded, a crossroads of sorts. What to do? I am sure that most A/E/C professionals have been faced with a situation where they had to decide between telling a client what they would like to hear versus the painful truth. We received a RFP calling for a combined design and construction schedule of six months. Upon analyzing the project details, it was clear that an eleven-month schedule was required. This left us with the option of proposing a schedule and fee that matched the client’s delusions, or present the reality. Do we tell the truth and risk losing the project? Do we tell the client what they want to hear? Should we lie? The answer was obvious - present the truth. As an owner’s representative, it is counterintuitive to mislead the owner. We are, after all, supposed to watch out for their best interests. We secured

Trick or Treat?

Recently, we were interviewing for a project and upon entering the room, I was perplexed to see a table full of treats that would rival a school bake sale. Turns out, our competition thought the client was diabetic and brought them the fuel to get through the day. We didn’t bring anything; should we have followed up with tea, perhaps? The experience heightened my awareness of the give-em-treats approach. It has been interesting to observe our clients' reactions. Let me share a few stories that come to mind. A team came into an interview and gave a solid presentation. Everyone in the room felt positive about the possible fit between the firm and client. Upon their departure, the firm’s Principal handed out a custom branded box with the potential client’s logo along with theirs. Inside the box were branded items and snacks that totaled approximately $25. The client

What Makes An Interview Memorable?

As an Owner’s Representative, we have participated in many architect and general contractor interviews and have witnessed all kinds of wins and fails. At an event recently, we were discussing the best ways to approach interviews. Some of the questions raised included: What are some winning interview strategies? What do people like to see in interviews? Does a PowerPoint presentation typically help or hurt? We have blogged in the past about our insight on interviews and proposals and over time, it seems not much has changed. Our recurring advice remains simple: be memorable. Imagine yourself on the selection committee. Think about reading eight proposals or sitting through five interviews. As someone who has, I can tell you, I have observed how hard it can be for the selection committee to keep track of who did which projects and which team each person is on; it can get blurry.

My Super Model Is Hotter Than Yours

It’s long been debated who is the most beautiful person.  Be it Maxim’s Hot 100 or People’s Sexiest Man Alive, there is a lot of room for debate.  If you look at my wife you would know that I prefer tall blondes, my brother-in-law short brunettes. We could debate forever on what is better, but in the end there truly is no better, just what we prefer. When making your personal ranking would you create your shortlist by selecting someone who has done the most photo shoots, won the most awards or is the highest paid?  No, but sometimes we do. Stop playing the better game, it doesn’t work. You can’t convince anyone that your design is superior any more than you can convince them you should be on the Hot 100 list. When you look at the Hot 100 list you may see the typical definition of

Interview No-Show

As a small business of eight, I, as the owner, have never had to miss an interview in person; until today.  This raised the question of what do you do if you, or one of your team members is a no-show due to a conflict.  Let’s start with what we have seen as options: The cardboard cutout.  Albeit cute, the cardboard cutout lacks any sense of personal connection.  You might as well bring a cutout of a supermodel or sports star, it will be more interesting to look at. The substitute.  More personal than the cardboard cutout, but imagine going on a date with the person’s friend as opposed to your future wife, it just doesn’t feel the same. Send in the sales team.  Sending in the sales team can be effective as presentation skills and talking points are dialed in but this is risky and can fall

Charrette Syndrome

Do you suffer from Charrette Syndrome?  You can determine the degree of your ailment simply by counting the number of times you use the word “charrette” in an interview. 1-2 times – Early onset and you should be monitored 3-6 times – You have the syndrome and you should seek therapy 6 or more times – You should be institutionalized and no longer attend interviews After interviewing architects with clients, they often ask, “what is a charrette and why do I need one?”  We don’t give them the institutional answer, but for this blog, we will provide some detailed information. The word charrette refers to any collaborative session in which a group of designers drafts a solution to a design problem; it is born out of working up to the last minute of the deadline.  According to Wikipedia, the word charrette is French for “cart” or “chariot". In the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 19th century

Setting the Mood

So you have settled into the interview and your carefully crafted PowerPoint presentation is ready to go. The audience is waiting to hear what you have to say. Your heart rate is up and you are wide awake and full of anticipation. The committee members are sipping coffee and trying to sort through all the data; they are exhausted from cramming in the re-review of five proposals.  You are interview number three, it's 1:30 p.m., they just had lunch and are ready for a siesta….and then, off go the lights. People often say using PowerPoint in the interview process are always a bad idea, but is it really the PowerPoint that’s the problem? I can tell you, as someone sitting across from presenters, it’s not the PowerPoint, it’s the mood. I personally have been in an interview where the team closed every blind, stood in the corner of