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Many good interviews but no offers.

jwsd

I have been interviewing in the past two months trying to secure a new contract position for 1 year before I go back to school for my MArch. I already have 1,5 years of professional experience.

So far I've had great success securing several interviews at top firms, but no job offers.

I have interviewed at places like Gensler, AECOM and various others very large firms where I was shortlisted from over 400 candidates. I have received various compliments on my portfolio like 'very proficient' 'advanced' 'excellent' 'exceptional' and I am certain that my work is of high quality.

In terms of technical skills, I have experience working on CD sets and I am a Revit Certified Professional. Some firms asked for parametric skills (Dynamo, Grasshopper) but I don't have any experience in that.

I approach all interviews in a very professional manner, dressing well, eye contact, smile, strong handshake, positive attitude and I follow up with an email or LinkedIn note two days later.

The only negative aspect on my resume is that I have been on a sabbatical leave for the past 6 months but that only came up twice in interviews.

Other than that, I have difficulty understanding why I have not yet been successful in securing a new position.

Some possible reasons I can think of:

-Interview technique

-Overqualified

-Age discrimination (I am 28, as I was a mature student at school)

-Not having a connection to recommend me for the position as opposed to other candidates (I have approached all firms through a formal job application)

I keep applying but I am somewhat discouraged as I have already been turned down from 8 interviews at very good firms and the summer recruitment period is now coming to an end.

Has this ever happened to you and what would be your advice?

 
Aug 21, 19 12:22 pm

3 Featured Comments

All 11 Comments

SneakyPete

Generally asking for a job with a built-in one year sunset is difficult.

Aug 21, 19 12:34 pm
jwsd

All the positions I interviewed for were 12-month contract roles.

SneakyPete

Interesting.

Non Sequitur

It's the 12month limit that's the factor here, not your over-qualifications (18months?  that's not overqualified anywhere) or your age.  It takes time and cost firms money to train new staff so why would they go through that effort if they know they won't be able to renew your contract at the end?

Aug 21, 19 12:56 pm
jwsd

In the country where I am based, all firms recruit BA graduates as (paid) interns for a fixed 12-month period before they return to graduate school. All the roles I interviewed for were for 12-month contracts.

Non Sequitur

so, maybe you don't have the billable skills they require from disposable staff.

jwsd

Which skills are these in your opinion?

Non Sequitur

Likely heavy-production roles if you're applying to the big guys.

jwsd

I have production experience in my previous role and I have both front end and technical work to show in my portfolio. How would you identify that one doesn't have this particular skill during an interview?

Non Sequitur

Everyone says they do. Either yours is not a stellar as you make it out to be or you don't fit in the hole they are trying to plug. Since you've been passed by a few places, I'm thinking it's the former. Post your folio if you want feedback.

jwsd

Non Sequitur, I have sent you a PM with a link to my portfolio. Please let me know what you think!

Featured Comment
Non Sequitur

I saw the link and took a quick look. Renderings and graphics are fine but there is little progress work. Nothing I saw explained to me your thought process so it looks like every other polished folio.

jwsd

I thought you mentioned the key is production skills. Progress work (assuming you are talking about the school work segment) would be more suitable to present for a designer position, not heavy production roles as you said above.

Non Sequitur

Yes, but when everyone has similarly polished folios, good progress work shows how you solve problems. Who knows how you got to those shiny images? Including the dirty napkin sketches help show off character. I did not see much in the folio I would consider good for straight production tho. Technical drawings appeared messy and not as well organized as the school stuff. My 2¢

jwsd

I was actually told that the portfolio lacks in the creative side at one of the unsuccessful interviews.The technical drawings done in practice were reviewed by a PA before issue and frankly I have seen much messier drawings sets than these ones!Unfortunately, I can't edit them now as I no longer have access to the rvt files. Thank you for your comments though and I will work on the feedback provided.

Non Sequitur touched on some good points. I didn't see your portfolio but firms tend to want to see how you think. Even for a production role, you will need to problem-solve, understand how to compose a drawing set, analyze code, etc. Renderings and graphics don't show this well. Not to mention that every portfolio will have a slew of money shots. If you give them a hint into your thinking it could set you apart. Have you tried asking these firms why they did not pick you?

Archlandia

What are your answers to questions like: "Can you tell me more about yourself?" and "Why do you want to work at XXXXX?" "What can you bring to our team that we already don't have?" "What are your strengths and weaknesses?"

These kinds of questions are important to be prepared for in a corporate environment. I'm sure that you're aware of this, but are you putting thought into these questions and fine-tuning them for each firm?

Aug 21, 19 1:10 pm
jwsd

I briefly introduce myself, listing my achievements to date. I do research before applying and during the interview I tailor my answers to the firm's profile. For example if they have sustainability expertise, I point to relevant projects in my portfolio, list possible graduate research areas etc. I always mention that I am attracted to the firm's reputation and portfolio. I also make sure that I ask questions regarding the firm and the role.

Archlandia

The other things that come to mind are: Thanking your interviewer for their time (in person and follow up email), making sure that you're not being negative in any way during your interviews, make sure that your physical portfolio/materials are editorial quality/very professional or maybe you just weren't a good personality fit for their office culture. Did you ask them what they are looking for in a candidate or what needs they have for the position being filled? That could be a good question in the first few minutes to give you a good focus area

jwsd

I always thank the interviewer for the opportunity and follow up with a Linkedin note, reiterating my interest and suitability for the role. In terms of personality fit, I am mostly genuine as I think that's the best approach. I have also sent you a PM with a link to my portfolio, please let me know what you think!

thatsthat

This is a really good question. The best advice I ever got about interviewing was to be open about the fact that you're there to learn and to contribute to a team. The questions are an opportunity to expand past what is on the resumé, showing some of your personality outside of work. For instance, in my portfolio, I had a hand sketch I did of a car I was in love with at the time. One of my (now) bosses picked up on that, and while the hand sketching would be a valued skill, he knew I'd be a good fit with staff members who are also interested in cars.

Featured Comment
monosierra

Sometimes it just boils down to other candidates being more skiller/better fit than you are. Not a knock on your qualifications but the competition could be very tough for mainstream corporate roles. The ones who succeed tend to be the least-risk candidates.

Aug 21, 19 2:03 pm
jwsd

Competition is fierce indeed and getting shortlisted for interview from 400 candidates is an achievement in itself. I am currently targeting less large/known but still well reputed firms to see if I can get offers there.

I have sent you a PM with a link to my portfolio. Please let me know what you think.

monosierra

Cool. I will take a look. One interesting hint I found out during the last round of hiring was that the best students tend to get multiple offers while the rest of us fight for scraps. Very much a winner takes all situations when it comes to big firms. But every labor market differs and I can only speak to the American hiring season last summer for new grads.

jwsd

Hi, thanks for your PM and your feedback. I will keep applying, although at this stage I think it might be quite late.

3tk

Widen your pool, keep applying.  Don't let the rejections affect your attitude.  Keep networking, and if you had a good connection, perhaps ask for feedback from someone who evaluated.  Lot of firms out there and everyone is interested on fit.

Aug 21, 19 2:50 pm
jwsd

Thanks for your comment. I have sent you a PM with my portfolio, in case you want to give me some feedback.

3tk

Portfolio is solid, though the first project took a bit to dive into (and graphically I am not a fan of CAD hatches except in construction details). Bookend portfolio with best projects, maybe throw in a bit of process drawings/sketches to widen the skill set demonstrated.

Featured Comment
jcarch

Why don't you ask them?  Call the people who you interviewed with - assuming you can get them on the phone - and politely ask them if there's anything specific that you could/should have done differently in the process.  Be clear that you're not looking for another bite at the apple at their firm, just looking to be better at your next interview.

Some may not want to answer the question, but I bet most would be fine giving you some insight into how they perceived you.

Aug 21, 19 5:22 pm
jwsd

I am just curious (because a friend just mentioned this to me)..

At what stage would references be checked? Is it likely that a firm would have shortlisted me and say another 2 people for the job, ran a reference check and selected the candidate with the best reference?

Or is the reference check done strictly after a formal offer has been made?

Aug 21, 19 6:26 pm
thatsthat

​I know at my firm - and this could be different elsewhere - we check references after the person has interviewed and made a good impression. The references make a big impact on whether or not we will make an offer. A few years back, we had a guy come in who made a great impression, but after checking his references, the bosses absolutely could not make him an offer. One of his references had died 20 years ago, and the interviewee didn't even bother to check.

jwsd

This starts to make some sense. All the companies I interviewed are large so they must definitely check references before making an offer. However, who would they call since I haven't yet named anyone as my reference? Would they call the HR of the previous firm I worked at? If they do, HR policy is just to confirm dates of employment. HR can't disclose any information regarding skills, personality or performance. Do you think they could call and ask to speak directly to my former manager? If that's the case, could that person be creating a problem to me?

thatsthat

In the US, providing references or include a small note at the bottom of their resumé 'references available on request' is common. So maybe if you don't provide any, they may find it suspicious. I typically include at least email addresses for my references as many of them travel oversees often and are unavailable by phone. I'm not sure what is typical where you live.

jwsd

I have been advised against listing references on my resume as resumes are circulated and phone numbers/emails of people in corporate firms can be misused. I probably have to rethink this to make sure that whoever checks, gets through to the right people who will give a reference that we mutually agreed on. Saying that though, the last job I had (large corporate firm) references were taken after the offer was made.

midlander

do you have someone who would provide a bad reference? why? architecture is a small community - it's very possible someone asked about you in their network and got feedback even if you didn't provide references. typically the references a candidate doesn't list are the most salient ones.

dingdong

In my case they asked about reference on the second or final interview. The interviewer who is the associate director of the firm told me that he's going to contact my references. I put my reference contact at the bottom of my resume because they told me to do so.

However, my references told me that the firm did not contact them, It seems the firm have made their decision before checking my rereference.

Threesleeve

I'm on the side of don't list references on your resume - let the firm ask you for them, and then just email a list. And definitely don't waste space on your resume with "references available upon request". It's a given. Including that sentence always looks like the applicant is afraid they don't have enough content to fill the page (kind of like including an objective statement. It's just empty space filler. Everybody knows what a job-seeker's objective is.)

Usually firms won't check references until they're sure they're interested in you - so sometimes before they make an offer, but sometimes not until after you've accepted their offer (contingent on your references checking out ok) - and some don't even do it until after you start working there, if ever. 

3tk

If I have a common connection to the firm, I mention it in the cover letter (an implied reference). I often also send it as part of the follow up from an interview - sometimes a reference will be able to present you in a better light than yourself.

Veuxx
Where are you looking? Send me a PM with resume and portfolio - we are hiring in Phoenix.
Aug 21, 19 6:49 pm
jwsd

I am not based in the US.

dingdong

Hi, pardon me for jumping in but I am interested in employment. would you mind share the details? or If i have your consent, I can send you my resume and work sample.

archi_dude

Why do firms even ask for a portfolio, want to see a "process" and hire based off the graphic design skills of a well laid out rendering pamphlet when the candidate will most likely be drafting ADA bathrooms 9 hours a day?



Aug 22, 19 9:23 am
ArchNyen

=D

3tk

There's a certain level of thinking that is desired for even an entry level position.  In most cases even the interns are expected to catch basic issues in design and drawing, be able to come up with a few solutions and present them to the project team.  Graphics can convey understanding of proportions, colors, textures, etc and the text is evidence of being able to write intelligently.  Nothing like misspelling, writing like a teenager texting, and grammar mistakes to lose the confidence of a team.

Aug 22, 19 11:21 am
flatroof

If 400 applicants are applying you can do everything right and not get the job through no fault of your own. During the recession in the US there were a similar amount of applicants for positions. Even today, entry level positions at US design-oriented firms can still get 300+ people applying. 

If employers are demanding perfection, what can you do? Aim lower, work yourself up from there, gain connections. It's who you know these days, and if your country is inclined to do this, how much you're willing to pay to get it. 

Aug 22, 19 2:38 pm

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