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People in HR at Architecture Firms: Do you not bother talking to someone unless you are hiring them?

Oct 29 '13 32 Last Comment
dsq96
Oct 29, 13 1:28 am

Call this a rant I suppose, but I am really hoping for some input from people who work in HR in architecture firms.

I recently graduated with a masters degree from a prestigious school of architecture. I have been relentlessly sending out portfolios, CV's and emails to contacts and all that. I recently was invited to an interview at a major international architecture firm. I submitted my materials online. 2 weeks later, they emailed me (on a Friday) asking to fly out and interview with them on Monday. Not only was it incredibly short notice (ie incredibly expensive), I had to pay for the travel,hotel,rental car out of pocket. But it was a huge opportunity, so I did it. I flew out and had the interview, which went well enough in my opinion. I was told I would hear a result (either positive or negative) "pretty quickly". Fast forward to today, it has been more than 2 months since the interview, and I have been unable to get any update from them whatsoever. I have emailed the people with whom I interviewed directly a few times, and when that was not getting any answer, I tried calling in. Every time I called, they would tell me the person who interviewed me is out of the office and will get back to me. I got through once about a month ago, and they said "we're still sorting that out" and brushed me away. Recently I have tried calling and it appears that they are no longer even going to answer the phone when I call. Nobody picks up and it doesn't even give me an option to leave a message. At this point, I do not expect to be getting the position. Believe me, I can take a hint. However, that is not what bothers me. What bothers me is that THEY asked ME to come out to their office and pay for it all out of pocket. Seems to me that at that point, they at least owe me a simple "you don't meet the requirements of this position" email or something. I am used to not getting responses when I send out speculative applications, but to be treated this way after being asked to come out for an interview, was absolutely absurd and unprofessional in my opinion. The moment they asked me to do all that, the responsibility should be on them to at least provide some closure.

So what I want to ask HR people is: Is this actually how you deal with people at your firms? Do you only reply to people who are getting an offer, and just leave the rest to hang in limbo until they give up? As I said, I understand not being able to respond to every application that comes into the office, but to me it is absolutely unacceptable to treat interviewed candidates in this manner. 

 

DeTwan
Oct 29, 13 1:32 am

Oh babie gettz me on that EBT, b/c I needz that PCP... sing along gurl!

DeTwan
Oct 29, 13 1:36 am

I mean, cool story bro... what tree did yah fall outta yesterday?

LITS4FormZ
Oct 29, 13 6:32 am

You lost me at prestigious.

Sounds pretty standard though.

gruen
Oct 29, 13 7:22 am

That's lame. I've paid for my own cross country job trips before but on my schedule. Next time ask for a phone interview first and ask them to recommend other firms in the town for you to interview at. And ask them to actually call the other firms to set it up. If they are confident that you are a fit and that they are an awesome office they will do it. This makes you look more valuable to them. Don't be afraid to name drop about the other firms you are interviewing at.

curtkram
Oct 29, 13 8:01 am

this doesn't sound right to me, but maybe it's how things work now.  it isn't that hard to tell someone you hired someone else.  if it's a more qualified candidate, go ahead and tell people that.  i once interviewed at a place where i was told they hired a student of one of the other principals, who apparently taught part-time at yale or something stupid like that.  it sucks to be told you din't have a chance even after you've gone out of your way and all, but if the person who called you in for an interview can't back up their actions, they shouldn't be doing whatever it is they're doing.

you didn't say who it was you're interviewing with, but if they can't even pick up their phone it sounds like the firm is failing.  they're the employer and you're a potential employee.  for them to be afraid to confront you and talk to you is all sorts of pathetic.

geezertect
Oct 29, 13 10:36 am

Their lack of balls in at least talking to you is inexcusable.  There is a tremendous supply/demand imbalance in this profession and you are on the bad side of it.  I've heard stories of people being "hired" for an out of state position and showing up the first day and being told "oops, guess we should have told you we decided not to fill that position after all".  Be glad it's not you.  Chalk it up to a learning experience.  Good luck.

shuellmi
Oct 29, 13 12:51 pm

what is the firm?  I'd rather not make a similar trip!

DeTwan
Oct 29, 13 1:24 pm

Yeah... since I would believe that you didn't get the job from what you said above, and the lack of professionalism on their behalf, I would say that you should prove further insight (ie. the companies name).

But you're probably holding out, hoping that you'll get that magical phone call. And you feel that being young and starting out you need to be professional yourself.

And you should be that way.

Once you're 30 and in the industry for 8 years you would have mention their name in the first sentence.

I do wish the best with the job hunting, I think most all archinectees would wish you that!

Go gett'em tiger.

akldp
Oct 29, 13 6:15 pm

They appear to be very rude and unprofessional.

What is the name of the firm?

archinet
Oct 29, 13 6:37 pm

I have encountered similar situation as that before. It could mean two things.

1. They are in the process of laying people off however are still interested in you. That is why they are not saying no yet. You might actually get an offer in 2 - 3 months from now. 

2. They find you too ambitious/good/expensive and are fishing around for a cheaper version of yourself. Someone who will not leave or move up too fast. Either they eventually find that person and perhaps finally tell you no or suck it up and make you an offer. 

Forget them and keep looking. Never put your eggs in one basket. 

dsq96
Oct 29, 13 7:53 pm

Archinet,

Well neither of those options sounds so bad haha. But believe me, my eggs aren't in just that basket, I just needed to get my issues with that particular basket off my chest

Brian HenryBrian Henry
Oct 30, 13 10:13 am


Some firms like to take their time. I sent materials to a firm at the end of July, and got my first response back from them last week, asking for an interview. The good firms that you'll want to stay at are fairly organized and prompt, even if it's just to let you know they are still interested but not making any offer yet. 



But your situation sounds more like what archinet suggests. Good luck, keep looking, be patient. 


thisisnotmyname
Oct 30, 13 10:49 am

The dysfunction you are seeing in the firm's hiring process is probably indicative of other dysfunctions you'll discover after they hire you.  Find a job somewhere else. 

Peter NormandPeter Normand
Nov 2, 13 12:05 pm

First, this is too bad, I did get paid for travel once when I interviewed but this is less common now.

Hiring takes time and when a firm is busy taking the hours to research and decide on even a small field of candidates can be time consuming and if there is a deadline after deadline the deadline comes first and checking references comes second. Also a new hire may be contingent on a specific RFP coming through for the firm, they are waiting for a new big project before they add staff, in smaller firms this is a difficult balancing act to keep the billable hours in balance with the overhead cost. My two experiences interviewed in August had an offer in Late November same year.  Interviewed in 2008 had an interview and pending offer in 2013. Timing is weird and hard to predict.

The folks making decisions to bring on new team members often are very busy on multiple fronts, did you email every three days, months and months waiting sounds like you may not have been as aggressive as you should have been and they may have forgotten about you. Or the decision is still up in the air as to whether they bring new people on or not.

Often I fall into this trap of being so excited about an interview and what seems like a perfect opportunity that I stop or slow down my job search waiting expecting this opportunity to come through. This is hard to do but you have to be methodical and machine like No is a No and Yes is a Yes and until you hear one or the other it is an open item and you need to continue looking. Ideally you have 8-10 open items at a time and you have a plan to contact them once every 4-5 days until they say yes or no. and yes means yes you can start on this date!

One thing to do in the future is to have your references agree to call or email you when they hear from a prospective employer this gives you a heads up as to who is checking on you and you can use this to help speed things along.

Remember that small firms less than 20 folks may not have the resources for a full time HR person or they are not using a professional recruitment service or temp agency.  Lots of people are going the temp to hire route as making a hiring mistake and laying-off repeatedly in a year can be devastating to the bottom line as the unemployment insurance taxes go up if you churn through people over the course of a few years.

Also let this be a warning, you were applying to a Major international firm, maybe a Starchitect firm, this is a red flag, if a firm with over 300 employees doesn’t arrange for travel or reimburse you, they may feel that they can shop around based on their name and prestige.  If Studio Gang in Chicago offered a job in a damp basement with minimum wage and 60 plus hours they would have a ton of candidates, not that Studio gang would be so mean to their talent. Unless you are absolutely perfect and willing to work for substance wages you are better served to steer clear of the big firms with big name architects, or at the very least don’t become emotionally vested when you do apply.

You are a valuable employee, there are lots of others like you and it is no fault in your character or ability that it is taking you so much time to land a job, luck and timing have as much to do with this process as talent.

Best of luck

Peter N.

observant
Nov 7, 13 12:45 pm

A firm that does the "I'll talk to you" thing, when not hiring or simply to waste time, and "we want to see who's out there" is a douche bag firm.  I have heard both of those comments, verbatim.  If they get your resume, see that it has a professional degree and some varied typologies, and possibly even a license, and I heard "I'll talk to you" or we want to "see who's out there," they need to take a flying fuck.  It's usually a boutique or fledgling firm, anyway, but the bigger ones have reportedly done this too.

Chances are that, by the time they're ready to decide on who's out there, some 6 months later, you probably found something else.

BulgarBlogger
Nov 8, 13 1:28 am

Was the firm SOM? I would bet money it was...

thisisnotmyname
Nov 8, 13 10:52 am

Observant, you are so right!  The d-bag firm I'm familiar with called them "courtesy interviews".  The candidates rarely knew that the bosses were sending minor partners and various flunkies to meet with them and had no intention of hiring them.  As you say, the purpose was to "see what's out there".

observant
Nov 8, 13 11:44 am

Was the firm SOM? I would bet money it was...

No, they were boutique-type granola small firms I contacted after graduating.  I didn't even need to go in.  These guys sounded like they had smoked way too much weed on the beach at Santa Cruz or Big Sur in their younger days.

The candidates rarely knew that the bosses were sending minor partners and various flunkies to meet with them and had no intention of hiring them.

Yes, I'm sure it would have that way in a larger firm where there is a pecking order among partners, yet I heard it from small, fledgling firms.  However, from archinect, I learned that large firms do this, too.

BulgarBlogger
Nov 9, 13 9:55 pm

I wasn't asking you... I was asking the OP...

observant
Nov 10, 13 2:30 am

^ Got it, BB.  That's why there's the protocol of italicized repeats of quotes if the quote is a ways up, or using ^ or just posting right afterwards if it pertains to the post immediately above.  I'm just messing with you.

s=r*(theta)
Nov 10, 13 9:06 am

I think the big question here is what did you take away from this experience? i hope it was:

A) if they're such a BIG int. firm, why are you paying your own expense's

b) When my pro. career level was at 0-1yr exp, (due to you said recent grad)  never considered moving across country, 1). it could not work out and you're stuck prostituting and stripping to make ends meet, 2). it could not work out, and you're stuck prostituting and escorting to make ends meet. 3) it could not work out and you're stuck prostituting on cragslist to make ends meet.

c). going fwd. if you dnt get a call or an explanation within (2) weeks, scratch them off the list. kinda like dating, if you're out and meet someone, and you're the one calling and texting them for more than a week or two w/ no response or shady excuse's, its pretty clear "they are just not that into you" move on. & if she's super hot stop calling in 3days

d). Recent grads with a "prestigious school grad. degree" are a  dime a dozen like chic's getting of the bus in Hollywood who are going to be the next big thing.

e) a humbling experience, welcome to the real world 101, you are not in college anymore

p.s.

dont thank me

Volunteer
Nov 10, 13 10:51 am

You mean his GSD-like degree didn't put him at the top of the hiring list? There must be some mistake! How will he ever repay his student loans? Unemployment is so State U.! Pretty soon you will be reading stories of Haarvaard Law grads not being able to get a job. No, wait.....

Gregory WalkerGregory Walker
Nov 10, 13 10:56 am

OP - so, my take as someone doing interviews is: they probably had (or, thought they had) something large in the pipeline that they would have had to ramp up quickly for. said project could have come through but they found other candidates which suited their needs better (and are simply unprofessional about telling you so) or it may not have (and they didn't need to hire and are still not being professional enough to tell you). 

 

i am sorry that you didn't get the job after paying for the plane, etc. but it is simply not in most firm's best interest to cover those expenses for everyone in the process. if i'm paying 5 people to fly in, put them up, etc., that could be 10k for just one set of interviews. it's a risk, on your part, and you have to decide in the future whether to respond to these types of opportunities or not (now, whether a firm would pay relocation expenses as part of making an offer is separate. my firm cannot; most firms that do, in my experience, only pay for higher level positions where they're trying to get a very specialized person on the team). 

 

to the idea that doing a 'courtesy interview' is b.s. - really? since when is getting an hour of someone's time, in that kind of position (even though you may consider anyone less than thom or frank a 'flunkie') a bad thing? ever? it's called networking. my advice? go. make a great impression - even if you don't land a job there, you may get their recommendation to somewhere else (i know, since i've referred several people we've interviewed that didn't quite fit for us but whom i thought would be great for another firm). you may meet them further down the road somewhere. you may get an offer 5 months later or 5 days later. i would never, ever ask someone to fly out on 2 day's notice for something like this (and if you're asked, politely say you can't and figure out if there's another time/way to talk), but if you live in town or are already going to visit, there is nothing - i'll repeat for the 19th time - NOTHING wrong with taking a courtesy interview/meeting. ever. 

if you guys think the sole purpose of meeting with someone is to make them an offer on the spot (or even 2-3 days later), you're already lost. it almost never, ever works that way, both when hiring someone or when we go out to meet with prospective clients ourselves. but, hey, what do i know...

Steven WardSteven Ward
Nov 10, 13 11:43 am

i'll follow greg's post in answering the title more than the post. 

we're not typically talking to out of town folks, not receiving many out of town resumes here in louisville. we DO interviews with a variety of people, whether we're currently hiring for their skills or not. we're typically interviewing people here to see who's here - who's available in our market. and we tell them so in advance. 

at the time that we actually need someone RIGHT NOW, we need to know who's in the pool, y'know? 

Stephanie BraconnierStephanie Braconnier
Nov 10, 13 5:49 pm

I agree with what's said above. One of my 'informational' interviews led to a recommendation to another firm and landed me a job. Take it as a complement that a firm will take an hour to talk to someone when they're not in a position to hire... you'll be in their mind for the future if you make a good impression or it will lead to some other kind of connection. It also takes the pressure off and you can practice talking about yourself and your projects. 

observant
Nov 11, 13 1:27 am

^

However, you can tell a lot about a firm through their website and then through communicating with them over the phone, listening to nuances.  Before, everyone trudged through AIA Profile if they hadn't landed a job through a school connection and/or had relocated upon graduation.

If they are a polished, up front, and an entity you'd consider working with, then, sure, take the informational interview.  Water seeks it own level.  They may connect you to a firm of the same caliber.  If they are fledgling, flaky, and not your cup of tea, then their pipeline will be of the sort that probably won't interest you.

That's why there's an adage "trust your gut."  Also, it depends where you are in your life and career path, though in today's climate, the rules have been tossed out and things aren't as linear, not they ever are in architecture. 

Stephanie BraconnierStephanie Braconnier
Nov 11, 13 9:40 am

^ Why would anyone apply to a firm that they wouldn't consider working for? 

s=r*(theta)
Nov 11, 13 10:21 am

@Steph,

so they can sharpen their Jedi mind tricks :)

thisisnotmyname
Nov 11, 13 11:14 am

Courtesy and informational interviews are fine, as long as the job seeker is aware that there is no job being offered by the interviewer.  The organization I described above never discloses to candidates getting these "courtesy interviews" that they are not being considered for employment.

iamus
Nov 11, 13 12:03 pm

As someone who has conducted interviews and also travelled out of state to interview, I'm wondering why the OP would agree to flying out on such short notice and doesn't appear to bothered to contact other firms in the same city.  For every firm that is advertising on some job website or even their own website, there are countless others that are quietly hiring without posting that they're hiring. Most firms, if they know you're out of town would at least give you more than a weekend. 

The number one objective of anyone looking to relocate is know your market. That's business 101. Do some research on the city you want to relocate to and find out what firms are doing. I'm not sure if the OP sent their CV & portfolio to random "star" firms in various cities or concentrated on one or two cities they' actually like to work and live in. It sounds like they took the shotgun blast approach. 

If you're looking to get hired right out of the gate and hoping that embossed piece of paper means something you should have been busy networking with professors and visiting jurors, perhaps looking locally first. If you're looking to relocate you need to do some research before hand, take a 2-3 day trip and set up as many interviews as you can during that trip.

I relocated from Denver to DC in 2001. I sent out my CV & portfolio to multiple firms in the area that I was interested in working for. In my cover letter I told them the dates I will be in town and when I'd like to stop by and meet with them and then followed up with a phone call to confirm a date and time. About 50% of those interviews end up as curtesy interviews and the remaining 50% are firms that are hiring or looking to hire. So timing is important (knowing your market).  Sometimes what would appear to be a courtesy interview because the firm wasn't advertising openings, will result in you getting an interview and in the door.

I can't emphasis enough. Know your market. Sure we all take that wild stab and send our info to those top-tier firms and sometimes we get lucky and land a courtesy interview (which says a few things about that firm) - 1) they're interested enough to give you some time and 2) it's a good learning experience.  Other times the timing is off and they've decided to fill the position. You have to be diligent but not a pain in the ass. If they're non-responsive after a few attempts to follow up, write it off and move on. I've had firms contact me months later because they weren't hiring at the time and then contacted me because they were hiring. But by that time, I took another position because I had bills to pay and needed to eat.

When the economy starting going sour in 2008 and firms in DC shed jobs like a husky in summer I started sending out feelers to colleagues in other states and abroad to see what the markets were like where they were. The consensus was everyone was in a holding pattern. Firms that did public work froze hiring, boutique firms were cutting back and holding, others were waiting to see what would happen. By this time, my DC firm was one of the last big firms to cut staff. I was in the last round of that where a firm of 140 goes to 30 in a matter of two months you get a sense of how bad things were.

One of the few markets that was doing well at the time was New Orleans. Because of the rebuilding pace there was a shortage of experience for several firms. I and my GF at the time planned a long weekend trip to visit family and we scheduled several interviews on that visit as well. We both ended up getting offers a few weeks later after our visit and we relocated. I haven't looked back since. And we both ended up with better jobs.

The point being, If you see an uptick in commercial work and you want to gain experience there, focus on the firms doing that. Public work? Same thing. If you're looking to score that position with a boutique firm, it's a tougher row to sow. You might get lucky and get a call back.

You say you just graduated with your master's. Are all of your colleagues still in town? Did any move away? Perhaps the biggest piece of advice I can give you is network. Make friends and acquaintances at other firms, stay in touch with professors. A lot of firms will hire on recommendations from other employees first. I've made plenty of recommendations to firms I've worked for when it comes to recommending someone to hire and I have friends and colleagues whose work I respect.

Having interviewed young people trying to start out, a firm is really looking for someone that knows the programs the firm uses and can do good work and would seem to be a good fit personality wise. If the firm is hiring someone with experience, then the depth of knowledge, quality of work will speak for itself, the interview is really to narrow down to the people you think would fit and seeing how they present themselves, if they're familiar with the firm's work, if they act professional but also relaxed in the interview.

In the end, you are selling yourself and it's your responsibility and your dime to spend to get you in front of the firms you want to work for. A firm has absolutely no obligation to pay your way to fly you out, put you up in a hotel and give you a rental car.  Heck, if you can negotiate relocation money then you're a step ahead of most architects these days.

Good luck.

observant
Nov 11, 13 12:42 pm

 Why would anyone apply to a firm that they wouldn't consider working for?

^ This is was a hair before everyone had a website.  Prospective applicants used AIA Profile, as thick as a Sweet's book, and sent out many resumes from an IBM PC.  You were able to see the size of the firm, and their mix of building typologies in writing, on AIA Profile, but you could not see their personalities and vibes.

A phone call alluded to their personality and vibe.  A visit confirmed it.

So this is the finessing of a generational issue.  Capisce, young lady?

redchairs
Nov 13, 13 8:09 pm

There is no reason for bad manners. Like many have said here, best to move on. If this has aggravated you to this point, why would you want to work for them?

Recently I have tried calling and it appears that they are no longer even going to answer the phone when I call. Nobody picks up and it doesn't even give me an option to leave a message. At this point, I do not expect to be getting the position.

Maybe you're contacting them too much? That can be annoying. I have been receiving a resume package from the same fellow at least 4 times a year for 18 years! I used to respond with a rational explanation why he was not a good fit, but I've stopped responding!

Good luck!

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