Inside Look: One A/E Firm's Successful Interviewing Techniques

PSMJ Resources, Inc.
Posted on: 05/24/19
Written by: PSMJ Resources, Inc.

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The architecture and engineering industry is facing a shortage of new recruits, putting the war for talent centerstage in 2019. Consequently, firms should be continually testing new methods of attracting key staff as business conditions warrant. 

One A/E firm takes a unique approach in its interviewing techniques to ensure that top candidates get top-flight treatment and want to join the firm. 

To begin with, this Chicago-based A/E firm appoints a senior-level manager to serve as the “host” for the candidate. This individual is key to creating that all-important “first impression” and must convey an air of professionalism throughout the interview process.

Once a candidate is targeted for an interview, the responsibility for scheduling and designing the interviewing process is assigned to the “host.”

The “host” should possess the following qualities:

  • Have at least four years of experience with the firm

  • Be an ardent supporter of the firm

  • Have a personal interest in recruiting other top-notch people

  • Have an experience level similar to the candidate’s

  • Be well versed in the firm’s culture and business and be knowledgeable about all its clients and projects

This firm has the “host” manager take the following steps:

  1. Personally contact the candidate to confirm interview arrangements.

  2. Ensure that all travel plans are handled properly and communicated to the candidate.

  3. Meet out-of-town candidates at the airport or train station and drive them to the office.

  4. See that an appropriate package of company materials—with a cover letter —is sent out to the candidate in advance of the interview.

  5. Ask the candidate to fill out an application form before the interview.

  6. Develop an agenda that is agreed upon by the appropriate managers.

  7. Send the agenda to the candidate in advance of the interview so that he/she knows what to expect that day.

  8. Communicate with all staff members who will be involved in the interview process to ensure that each one is available and familiar with the schedule and the candidate’s qualifications.

  9. Meet with all of the interviewers to make sure that each one knows his/her role in the interview process. This step helps to avoid having the candidate answer the same questions from seven different interviewers.

  10. Escort the candidate through the day, attempting to keep to the schedule as closely as possible.

If the other interviews have gone well, the last stop should be with the CEO or the most senior individual in the office. This particular interview is the most essential one.

The CEO’s role is to sell the firm. A strong pitch by the head person in the organization is one of the most important factors when high-quality candidates determine which offer to accept.

After the interviews, the host:

  1. Holds a relaxed lunch with several other staff members—not the interviewers—who speak knowledgeably and favorably about the firm and the area.

  2. Conducts a tour of the office and, when feasible, visits a nearby project site.

  3. Arranges for some sightseeing and other activities designed to present the city in a favorable light for out-of-town candidates.

  4. Makes sure that all interviewers document their discussions with the candidate.

  5. Ensures that reimbursement of the candidate’s travel expenses is handled promptly.

  6. Sends an immediate thank-you letter to the candidate, and lets him/her know the time frame for decision making. Stays in touch with the candidate until a decision is made.

  7. Finally—and perhaps most important—the host manager ensures that a timely decision is made and that follow-up is handled in such a manner that the candidate will either accept the firm’s offer or feel positive about the firm even if an offer is not made.

This successful A/E firm offers some final advice about conducting interviews:

Make sure follow-up procedures are handled professionally with each and every interviewee. Unprofessional follow-up after a candidate has taken the time to interview with you is sure to earn the firm a black eye.

What's the takeaway here:

Those A/E firms that successfully recruit valuable and sought-after employees communicate a high level of professionalism both during the interview process and afterwards—and make sure candidates feel they are truly wanted by the firm.

What unique methods does your firm used to attract new talent? Let us know!


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