The search for employment is unpredictable and demands unrelenting patience. When you're at your wit's end, it can be tempting to send the same exact resume to what feels like the same job ad over and over again. However, no two firms are identical. Possessing certain technical skills are required across the industry, but there are particular qualities and red flags that a firm won't always simply list on their job ad. In Archinect's “How To Get A Job At ____”, we asked some architecture firms how candidates can stand out from the crowd when applying to their practice.
Over the last decade, David Kohn Architects on London's Camden High Street has built up a notable reputation with a portfolio that comprises a range of arts, education, research, residential, and urban design projects around the globe. Founded by David Kohn, the small-but-mighty practice has attracted international attention for projects like the stunning Carrer Avinyó apartment that won INSIDE World Interior of the Year in 2013, their exhibition design for Designs of the Year 2011 in London, the “A Room for London” rooftop installation, and awards like the 2009 Young Architect of the Year”.
For David Kohn Architects, producing top-quality designs is a core principle, and in 2017, the practice continues to grow a team that determinedly works to achieve those goals. So when it's time to recruit new staff, what does DKA look for in their most promising job candidates? Liz Betterton, a longtime Practice Associate at DKA, took a moment with Archinect to share.
1a. What positions are most in-demand at your firm?
Positions most in demand with applicants are Part1 and Part2, in the office we require a balance of Part1, Part 2 and Part 3.
1b. What are the three most important qualities for any new hire to have at your firm?
In regards to professional and technical skills, it differs from position to position; we try to be as clear as possible in our job adverts. The most important qualities we look for in all new hires are: a positive attitude, tenacity and proactivity.
1c. What information do you expect potential candidates to know about your firm's practice and work?
We would expect them to be familiar with our previous work and have an understanding of what is particular about DKA and why that appeals to them as a potential employee.
2. After reviewing their CV, what are you looking to learn about an applicant from an interview?
How they would fit within the office, what relevant previous experience they have, what their short and long-term career plans are.
3. What do you say is the best thing about working for your firm? What is the most challenging thing?
The quality of the work is one of our strong positives in the office, together with an inclusive culture. The main challenge is to keep pushing to be the best we can be.
4. What are some immediate “red flags” for you in applications?
Spelling mistakes and not taking care in preparing a portfolio. Also not responding directly to the job as advertised, for example not following the application process accurately.
5. What’s the most common mistake candidates make when applying to work with you?
Not reading the job applications properly and therefore not tailoring their CV/ portfolio to suit the specific requirements of the advertised position.
6. What kind of technical skills are absolutely essential for applicants?
Depends on the level of the applicant as skills required are specific to particular jobs. We try to be as clear as possible when advertising for an available position and we expect applicants to be just as clear in responding, stating the relevant technical skills they possess.
7. What kind of training do new hires undergo when they’re first starting?
A full induction on systems and procedures. Once settled, we determine together areas of strength and weakness, and specific interests, and tailor a training plan for every employee.
8. Do you have an internship program? If so, briefly describe.
We do not have an internship programme.
9. What are three words that your employees might use to describe your firm?
Design excellence, research-led, collaborative.
10. When interviewing, how do you describe your company ethos? What part of your working environment do you promote with potential candidates?
An inclusive, transparent and collaborative environment with a clear structure of support, continual improvement of processes, high level of autonomy and involvement in progressing designs.
11. What additional social activities do you do as an office?
We organise annual office trips, promote visits to key lectures, shows, exhibitions and relevant events through an in-house cultural working group.
12. If a candidate had the choice between you and another firm, what argument would you use to win them over?
- The quality and diversity of our projects;
- The opportunities for career progression;
- A positive and inclusive office culture;
- Continual training which encourages all team members to progress their careers (and their education) as far as possible during their time here;
- A clear management structure, providing support at all levels
13. Which areas of your firm are growing the fastest?
Arts and Education projects.
14. How do you see your firm growing in the next five years?
Within three sectors: Arts and Education, Office and Housing, Houses and Interiors, with significant projects in all three sectors.
Interested in joining David Kohn Architects? Check out their Archinect profile to see if they have any current listings. To see more active listings from hundreds of firms, browse Archinect's Job Board.