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:

  1. What are some winning interview strategies?
  2. What do people like to see in interviews?
  3. 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. Then, you come across the team that does something memorable. It may be cliché, but selection committees will often boil your presentation down to a label.  You may be referred to as:

  1. The Funny team
  2. The Revit team
  3. The Fast team
  4. The Boring team

To illustrate this phenomenon, I’ll share a couple memorable interviews that come to mind…

Architect.  When interviewing, one firm brought some simple tools including clay, blocks and, yes, even trace paper. The team introduced themselves stating their role on the project, per the usual. But as they continued it became memorable; they began leading what felt more like a design meeting rather than an interview. The Project Manager set the stage for what was happening, gave clear goals, and ran the meeting in the allotted timeframe. The Lead Designer worked with the client, asking questions as they began sketching on a site plan, all while outlining pros and cons. The Project Architect assisted by generating some simple Sketchup massing and collaborating with the team.  Finally the Principal-in-Charge roamed the room ensuring that each selection committee member was engaged at some level. In the end nothing of any meaning was generated–no final design, no approval and no deliverable. What was left was a memorable experience and a level of engagement that no other firm matched. They provided the client a tangible experience on how it would feel to work with them – under clear leadership and guidance. They were the named the Design Exercise team.

Contractor.  Ok, before I start the second example, remember, this blog is about memorable interviews, not about the best interview. At this particular interview, the proposed Superintendent was hanging back for the majority of the team’s very formal presentation. Then, it was his turn and he began to sweat it, literally. He must have known this would happen as he was prepared with a small towel. The committee watched him struggle through his script and when it was more than he could even bare, he stopped the interview, asked for a glass of water and took just a moment. When he started up again, he went off script saying “as you can see I really sweat the details.” It wasn’t pretty, but it sure was memorable and the selection committee loved how the situation was handled; thus was established, the Authentic Sweaty team.

~ Paul Wember, Owner’s Representative