In the competitive Architecture and Interior Design world, attracting top employees is no easy feat. Enticing the best of the best to consider working for your firm requires careful planning and preparation; from understanding what the best want; to crafting the right job description so they'll apply; to ensuring a first-class recruitment experience to increase the chances they'll say yes to your offer.
So how do you make your job out stand amongst the rest? The following steps will guide towards this goal and make your Architect and Interior Design talent quest a success.
While every individual will have their own list things of they want in a new job, there are a few overarching categories Architects and Interior Designers consider. Here are some key ones:
A great base package
While it's not always about money, top Architects and Interior Designers feel they should be paid their worth. How does your firm compare to others when it comes to salary? Are you on par, or below?
Check out our 2019 Architecture and Interior Design Salary Survey here and see how your company's salaries compare.
Type of project work
Great Architects and Interior Designers have a clear career trajectory in mind. They might be looking to take the step up to large-scale commercial projects, or even go the other way, by working on smaller, bespoke projects that offer more scope for creativity and innovation. Some are keen to jump on board with a firm who has a 'green' focus, promoting sustainability in every aspect of their work. Communicating what you have to offer in terms of projects in your recruitment materials is essential to attract the right candidates.
In the fast-paced Architectural scene, the best Architects and Interior Designers stay relevant by keeping their skillset fresh and current. This often requires formal training, either on or off-site. It might be as simple as keeping up to date with the latest version of ArchiCAD, or as involved as launching themselves into the world of BIM and all that goes with it. Whatever the case, it's important to consider a training budget for your new position.
Many Architects are tied to their work stations for hours at time, so it's important they are set up to suit this. Ensuring your office ergonomics are on point is a fantastic way to show employees you care about them. Furthermore, some Architects may enjoy working in open office environment, while others prefer to be seconded away in a quiet spot. As this is tied to personal preference, it is something you should seek to uncover when interviewing potential candidates.
This one often comes down to working hours and what is expected of an experienced Senior Architect or Interior Designer. Some may be happy to put long hours when necessary, as long as there is some flexibility in downtime with say, days in lieu. A work from home option is also enticing, as is the ability to offer autonomy project planning and execution.
Great colleagues and culture
This is a very broad topic that can encompass any number of things. However, many Architects look for an environment where they have support from management, and can develop good working relationships with their peers. If you can create a culture such as this, it's extremely powerful and enticing.
Your current design team are a goldmine of information when it comes to how your firm fares in these categories. Use this valuable resource. Ask them how they rate you in each area, and what you could do to improve.
Digest and action feedback, if necessary, but also use this intel to inform and refine your recruitment process. It would also be a good idea to draw on your design network, asking colleagues and perhaps even, trusted clients, about how they view your firm's performance in these areas.
It's vital you fully understand how your firm presents itself to the candidate market, plus how you stack up against your competitors. Once you have this information, it's much easier to work out how to sell your value to a potential new employee. What follows is a brief outline of some steps you can take:
Review what your firm offers
Consider the following areas when thinking about what your firm offers a potential new Architect or Interior Designer, remembering how you articulate these in your recruitment materials is key (job ad, job description, interviews and job offer):
Company mission/values: This one matters. Potential employees want to know if there's an alignment between what you value and what they value; between the way they like to work, and the way you work.
Team: New talent want to know who they might be directly working with (How big is the team? Who is responsible for what? What part do they play in the 'bigger picture'?), and what type of leader is in charge (Do they seek input? Do they implement feedback? Do they champion proactivity, innovation or have a more structured work approach?)
Growth potential: What scope will the candidate have to grow? What sort of projects do you currently have on offer and in the pipeline? How will these help them expand their skills?
Benefits & perks: A good compensation package, great culture and challenging work are likely to win out over any perks and benefits. But having said that, if you have flexible work hours, that is definitely one to trumpet!
Review your online presence
Architects and Interior Designers want to know as much about your business as they can to help them decide if you're a good fit for them. And of course they will search online to find out. What does your online footprint say about you?
If you don't think it matters that much, Glassdoor study statistics show just how important your online presence is in making a good impression on potential applicants.
1. 61% of job seekers read online company reviews and ratings before making the decision to apply
2. 79% read social media profiles when applying for a job
3. 69% wouldn't take a job if the company had a bad reputation (even if they were currently unemployed!)
4. 84% percent would consider leaving their current job for a company with an excellent reputation A 2017 CareerArc study also found a huge 55% of job seekers abandoned a job application after reading a negative review.
Some keys ways to check the health of your online presence:
Google your company (and yourself): Where do you currently stand? If you find negativity, it is worth responding to it in a logical and respectful way, using examples to illustrate why you don't agree. After your initial response, take the conversation offline. Should the reviews contain valid points, think about what you can to do to address them in your firm. While these changes will take time, you will be rewarded in the long run.
Review your social accounts & strategies: Do they align with your firm's brand? Confusion between the things you espouse on your website and on your social sites can send up red flags to potential candidates. Review your social strategy and align with your website if needed, particularly when it comes to core components like your values and work culture.
Review your website: Are your values, mission and culture clearly defined? Does your website capture all that makes you great to work for? Perhaps consider asking some of your happy team members, clients or customers for a video testimonial. Or if you have a great work space, film a virtual tour. Your current staff may even be interested in penning some blog articles to help establish you as a thought-leader in the Architecture and Interior Design space. Up-to-date content is must to keep your website relevant and impress potential employees.
One of the most important parts of your recruitment campaign is developing your role’s position description (PD).
Your PD dives deep into your job’s details covering important information such as:
It’s imperative to capture these details accurately so your PD can assist you in attracting the most qualified candidates. Your PD can also be used to:
Help you quickly sift through applicants - Cross-check each applicant’s resume with your PD to identify their degree of suitability for the role. You can then focus your time on only selecting the most relevant applicants.
Set clear expectations - Candidates are left in no doubt about what is required from your role.
Structure your interview - Your PD easily identifies the job’s top selling features so you can build your interview around them. You can also use it to plan what questions to ask applicants.
For performance reviews - Use your PD reflectively. After your new recruit has been with your firm for some time, use it to evaluate their performance. It’s a quick way to spot over (or under) performance.
As you can see, developing a compelling PD is great way to not only help guide your recruitment campaign, but also attract the right talent. Let’s now turn to what to include in each section within your PD.
Your PD’s position title is the first thing an applicant sees so it’s vital it accurately reflects your job’s roles, responsibilities, experience level and specialisations (if any). Avoid using lengthy phrases or internal acronyms that are not standard within the Interior Design and Architecture industry. Instead, aim for clarity, accuracy and brevity.
Some appropriate Architect or Interior Design position titles might be:
Depending on your company structure and size, this section may not be appropriate for every Architect or Interior Design job. If you deem it relevant, it will help give applicants a well-rounded picture of the position.
Culture fit is arguably one of the most important factors employees consider when taking on a role, particularly when it comes to whether they stay or leave. Often overlooked, including a culture-based statement in your PD will help a candidate identify alignment between your values and their own, which is important for long-term retention.
You can opt to go detailed here, or provide just a few sentences about your work culture. The following are two examples:
A prestigious Architecture and Interior Design firm who are an industry leader in hospitality, leisure and retail. Based in a luxurious central Sydney studio, this multi-disciplinary firm offers a positive, welcoming and social environment and a strong work life balance, flexible working and regular social and team activities.
This studio offers a very inclusive and supportive culture, and places emphasis on promoting staff from within, providing real and proven opportunities for long-term career development.
The position statement, also known as the position summary or description, is an expanded version of the job title.
One way to formulate this crucial part of your PD is to think of it as an elevator pitch to a potential client. What are the key points you want to get across to an applicant to help them decide if your firm is a good fit?
Your summary might include the major responsibilities associated with the job, where the role sits in the greater firm, location, plus job expectations. For example, an Architect position statement may read:
Based in metropolitan Sydney, you’ll work closely with the project leader on a range of hospitality and retail projects - from concept & pitch right through to project delivery – with a strong emphasis on front end design development and space planning. Whilst this role will rely heavily on your creativity, your strong technical Revit skills will also be well utilised.
EXTRA TIP You might like to include here any progression opportunities within your firm. This will show applicants how they can grow with your company and the impact they can make, both of which are very enticing and great for retention.
Applicants will hone in on this section to discover what the job entails on a day-to-day basis. Write a detailed but concise bullet point list of core responsibilities, including all major activities incumbent in the job.
As an example, here’s what an appropriate responsibilities section might look like for a Senior Architect/Studio Manager:
Your responsibilities will include:
- Taking projects from early concept design through to DA & tender stages
- Developing concept & design ideas with a strong focus on green building values
- Liaising with all external parties including clients, consultants & various councils etc
- Managing & mentoring a team of three designers
- Attending regular executive meetings to report on team progress
When creating a compelling PD, it’s important to list the requirements of the job role so applicants understand the level of skill demanded. For example, your firm may require Architects to be conversant in a range of software programs including Revit and CAD.
List the minimum and preferred skills, experience and/or qualifications you require. This needn’t be a comprehensive list as that may overwhelm and scare potential candidates away. Instead, focus on the key ‘must haves’.
An example for an Architect position:
- ArchiCAD or Revit skills
- Large scale multi-story & mixed-use project experience
- Solid technical knowledge
- Excellent communication skills
- Leadership experience
- The desire to mentor & develop younger team members
- NSW Architect registration
- Willingness to travel within 100km radius
All applicants are keen to discover what exciting opportunities and benefits your firm offers. It’s important you highlight what makes your company and role unique, and why they should choose to apply for your job over others.
There are ample opportunities to list benefits throughout the PD. One example might be in the responsibilities section where you could state “Develop and expand your leadership skills by mentoring a team of three Graduate Architects”.
Or you could choose to feature a standalone ‘benefits’ section. Some examples of statements you might like to use:
“Long-term career focus with opportunity to move between different types of projects within the firm”
“Training and development opportunities both in-house and externally”
“Six monthly reviews incorporating pay reviews & future goal setting”
“Chance to move laterally within the firm”
“Personalised professional development plan, reviewed annually”
While it might seem like an onerous task, taking the time to write a great PD will bring you great rewards, most certainly in the form of top Architecture and Interior Design talent! You can use it through every stage of the hiring process to sell potential candidates on the benefits of your firm. From writing your job ad, to interviewing, to your new hire’s first day on the job, your PD will save you time and effort finding the right person for the position.
Should you need some extra assistance in crafting the perfect job PD and related job ad, feel free to contact us. We’d be happy to share our expertise and tips in using your PD to craft an enticing job ad and invite some exciting Architecture and Interior Design talent to apply in the process.
Candidate interviews are the ideal way to determine the best applicant fit for your firm. Getting it wrong at this crucial stage can be costly - in time and money - so that’s why it’s vital you prepare well and carefully craft your interview questions.
The first step in this process requires you to do two key things:
1. Gather your recruitment team & review your PD - All those present at interviews should know your PD inside and out. This way, everyone is on the same page when it comes to spotting applicants with the requisite skills, qualifications and desired attributes.
2. Research each applicant - Delve deeply into each applicant’s resume, portfolio (if they submitted one with their application) and professional profiles such as LinkedIn or websites.
All of these will give you a solid foundation concerning the person you are due to meet. They can also act as a springboard for creating individual questions for particular candidates. An example: an applicant might have experience in a large-scale development situated in a remote location that presented unique Architecture or Interior Design challenges. This piques your interest and warrants further exploration during the interview with some specific questioning.
Once you have completed those steps, you can turn to compiling the questions themselves. The following are a broad selection of some of the best Architecture and Interior Design interview questions. Feel free to select a few from each category that cater to your firm and specific role (ie Graduate, Lead Interior Designer, Studio Manager etc).
There is no need to use the entire list as that would result in excessively lengthy interviews (and overwhelmed candidates!).
Tell us about yourself
This open-ended question is designed to put candidates at ease, establishing the interview as conversation, not an interrogation. As it’s quite a common question, it’s likely the interviewee will have an answer prepared, but this is a good confidence boost when they are nervous.
Why are you interested in this particular role with us?
The way the candidate answers this question will demonstrate whether or not they’ve done their research on your firm. If they haven’t, that doesn’t bode well for their chances at securing the job!
Why are you moving on from your current role?
This is a good way to find out what the interviewee desires from your firm. They will likely frame their answer to speak about what they are looking for now that they don’t get from their current job. Perhaps it might be increased personal and professional development opportunities or better working conditions.
Think back to a day when you came home from work very happy or satisfied. What did you do that day to make you feel that way?
Uncovering what drives an employee intrinsically is extremely valuable in determining a culture fit for your firm, but also for long-term retention. Based on their answer, does your firm foster an environment that will make them happy?
Tell us the most recent skill you learnt (can be work-related or not)?
Then follow this up with:
Is there further training you’d like to do to increase your skills and knowledge? If so, what?
Architects and Interior Design professionals must keep up to date to remain relevant. Green design, tech advances and an ever-changing offering of new materials are a few vital areas. Candidates should answer both questions in a way that reflects their desire to continue to learn. Bonus points if they can articulate how they have researched and used a new design methodology in their work.
Can you recall an occasion where you didn’t see eye to eye with a teammate and how you resolved that?
This question speaks directly to their ability to be a team-player and resolve inevitable points of contention in a reasonable and constructive manner. The example they choose is also very telling. Do they pick a conflict that has a sound basis? Or is it something trivial that may reveal a weakness in their judgement?
What do you think you do really well? And not so well?
A variation on ‘what is your greatest strength and weakness?’, this should give you insight into what the applicant values most about themselves work-wise. If they incorporate some of the most important skills needed in your job, all the better.
As for weaknesses, at best, their answer should give you a good indication of their ability to self-reflect and learn. At worst, it may send up a red flag i.e. an Architect candidate who feels they aren’t good at being organised!
Is there a particular Architect or Interior Designer who inspires you? Why?
This question should spark a passionate response. Most Architects or Interior Design professionals can name at least one person who has influenced their work for the better. Look for a candidate that can eloquently offer the ‘who’ and ‘why’ when answering this question.
Which project are you most proud of in your portfolio and why?
The choice of project and the elements that underpin its success should be a very accurate reflection of the interviewee’s values, abilities and strengths. Do they match up with those needed at your firm ie highly organised or collaborative?
Imagine a client shows you a magazine picture and asks you to design their home, room for room. How would you respond?
The answer to this question should clearly demonstrate how well the applicant can negotiate, persuade and dissuade – all essential elements when dealing with clients!
If you need to complete an Architecture or Interior Design job and you lack experience in that area, what would you do?
Most of us have come up against problems when coordinating different parties during a construction project. What did you do to overcome yours?
Can you provide an example of a creative idea you had that resulted in an improvement?
All of these questions are aimed at uncovering an interviewee’s organisational, conflict-resolution and time-management skills – all crucial attributes. As they are all example-based responses, you should receive a wide-range of answers and hopefully, hear some innovative ideas.
Talk us through the steps you take when you are first given a project
Project planning is an essential tool in any Architect or Interior Designer’s toolbox. Those candidates that can clearly explain a logical project planning sequence - and properly identify priorities - are the ones you want for your firm.
For Architects and Interior Designers, there is often a struggle to balance function with aesthetic appeal. How do you do that?
This can be a tricky question to answer so let applicants know they can have some thinking time to formulate their response. When they do, what they say should first obviously illustrate they understand what you mean by the terms ‘function’ and ‘aesthetics’. Next, consider what value their place on their ideas versus the clients’, and whether this will work for your firm.
Do you have a solid understanding of the Building Code of Australia (BCA)?
Can you rate your Revit/AutoCAD/Sketchup skills on a scale of 1-10?
The answers given here are purely to enable you to ‘tick the boxes’ to ensure applicants have the required technical skills for your role.
Let’s fast-forward 5 years – what would you like to be doing?
Knowing where your potential employee wants to go in the future is vital, particularly in determining if your firm can support them in this growth. Is there alignment between your future goals and theirs?
Do you have any questions for us?
Journalists always leave this question for last as it has the potential to be the most revealing. Allowing the interview subject free rein to explore issues that are most important to them can offer up some interesting insights into their core personality and future aspirations. It’s then up to you to decide if they are a good fit for your role.
Now that you’re armed with some great questions, it’s worth spending some time honing your interview skills. The most important skill to develop – and the one that will increase your chances of finding the best candidate – is that of active listening.
Active listening involves displaying characteristics, both verbal and non-verbal, that show the interviewee you aren’t just passively taking in what they are saying. Rather, you are absorbing and seeking to understand more. An example:
“Yes, I hear what you are saying but I’m not really engaging with you. I’m just waiting for my turn to talk.”
“My body language and words tell you I’m right there with you, fully focused on what you are trying to tell me.” Here are seven tips to help you develop your active listening skills:
1. Set up the interview room to make it conducive to active listening:
It’s imperative you give the interviewee your undivided attention. It’s very easy to get distracted by a text message or email notification so switch your phone to silent, and shut down your email and messaging systems on your computer. If you need to keep in contact with the firm, check and respond to urgent queries between interviews. It’s also a good idea to choose an interview room with good sound proofing, or one that is least likely to suffer from staff interruptions.
2. Engage with your eyes AND body:
What you say non-verbally holds just as much weight as the words you speak. A slight frown, the set of your mouth or a slump in your shoulders may make the interviewee feel you’re bored, frustrated or irritated.
Non-verbal signals are also a way to feed back to the interviewee that you understand what they are trying to convey. Back up what you are saying with natural eye contact and positive body language such as nodding, angling your body in their direction and smiling.
3. Talk less:
It can be very easy to over-talk - rather than actively listen - about the role you have on offer. You love your firm and the work you do so that’s only natural. But knowing when to talk and when to listen is a crucial component of active listening. After all, the more you talk, the less you learn. The whole point of an interview is discovery, so it makes sense you will achieve this if you talk less.
Developing the skill of effectively silencing yourself takes just as much practice as that of becoming a great speaker. Striking the balance between giving the candidate enough prompts to talk freely, and coming across as abrupt, is difficult. But with time, you can improve this skill and put it to good use during the interview process.
A few suggestions:
4. Activate your listening time:
When the candidate is talking, you must listen and absorb. But it’s all too easy to get distracted by what you want to say next.
Persistently doing this means you may miss golden opportunities to ask follow-up questions. You may even miss crucial information that results in a misunderstanding about what an interviewee is trying to convey. Both of these outcomes are dire in this pivotal stage of hiring.
It takes an ordinate amount of concentration and discipline to actively listen to someone. To illustrate this, the next time you’re in a meeting listening to someone speak, pay attention to how much effort it takes to continue to attend to what they are saying. Take particular note when you find your mind drifting, or you begin fidgeting, discreetly checking your email or phone, or mentally rehearsing what you want to say next. It will likely happen much faster than you might think!
5. Don’t interrupt or ‘sentence-steal’:
When an interviewee is responding to a question, avoid jumping in and interrupting or ‘sentence stealing’ (where you finish the interviewee’s sentence for them).
Interrupting or ‘sentence-stealing’ conveys a number of negative messages to the potential recruit, such as:
“I’m more important than you are”
“What I have to say is more interesting or relevant”
“I don’t have time for your opinion”
It’s easy to fall into this habit for a few reasons - perhaps you want talk as you don’t want to risk losing your train of thought while waiting for the other person to finish. Or you may be conscious of staying on time, particularly as you will likely have many more interviews to get through.
If you’re worried about forgetting, keep a notepad handy and jot down any follow-up questions that come to mind so you can let them finish their answer without cutting them off.
Should you run over time, let the candidate know in-between questions. Be honest with them about needing to wrap up soon.
6. Ensure you fully understand the interviewee’s answer:
It’s very easy to make snap judgments about a person based on what they are saying. Our personal belief system will often cloud our judgement and misinterpret the meaning behind what is being said.
This is why clarifying questions are an important active listening technique. If the candidate says something that seems odd or unexpected, ask them to elaborate on their answer to ensure you are clear on what they are saying.
For example, “Can we go back to what you said about XXX for minute. Can you tell me again what you meant?”
Another technique is to paraphrase their answer by saying “So I think this is what you’re saying …. Am I correct?” This gives them ample opportunity to restate to ensure their meaning gets across.
7. Summarise and reflect back:
Another important way to show the listener you have been active listening is to summarise their point and repeat it back to them. It also gives them the chance to correct you if you got it wrong, or perhaps add another little nugget of information they may have forgotten.
There’s no need to do this after every question, just the most important ones. Or you might like to sum up the main points at the end of the interview. Ensure you ask the interviewee if you got it right, or if there is anything else they may wish to add.
8. Follow-up after applications and interviews:
So you’ve managed to get through the interviews with your very successful set of bespoke questions and your active listening skills. Your recruitment team has taken some time to review all candidates and you’re ready for the next steps.
Before you take those, consider this: the recruitment process is tough on candidates. They put a lot of time and effort into crafting their applicants and portfolios and it’s extremely disheartening if they don’t hear back from a potential employer. Worse yet, they secure an interview and then it takes forever for the employer to advise whether they were successful for the next stage.
As the Architecture and Interior Design industry is relatively small in Australia, the way you treat potential employees during recruitment may impact your reputation. The potential employee you fail to get back to could very well rise to be the head of your competition somewhere down the track. Or they could score a job at a rival firm and bad mouth you to other industry professionals or clients (you would hope they wouldn’t, but it does happen).
This is why it’s important to remember that while you are judging during recruitment, you are being judged too. Treat candidates the way you would like to be treated. This means getting back to them in timely manner during the application and interview stage, whether they were successful or not.
The perfect offer is not always all about the money, even though that is a crucial component. It must be tailored to get the candidate's emotional buy-in.
You have plenty of data by now about what the candidate is really looking for. Meld their desires to the opportunities in your role to increase your chances of them saying yes. Perhaps you spoke about a particular project during the interview that got them excited, or they mentioned they have children? In your offer, you should mention assigning them to that project, or include flexible work hours to allow them to do the school run.
When putting together the job offer, ask yourself:
It's likely the candidate has met some of their potential colleagues during the interview stage (if you aren't considering doing an office tour during the interview, you should. Countless studies show employees' opinions about their workplace culture far outweigh those of management). If possible, invite the candidate into the office to present them with your offer, but tack on a casual 'drinks and nibbles' meeting afterwards. It's just another informal opportunity for the candidate to get a feel for your firm and envision their place within it.
Once you've extended the offer, there are a few things you can do to help seal the deal:
At this stage, you need to move fast. Addressing any questions or concerns in a timely manner will help ensure the candidate says yes to your offer before any other offers come their way.
Getting the best Architect or Interior Designer to say yes can be tricky. But following these steps should put you firmly on the path to success. Should you need further support during your recruitment search - whether it's in developing your recruitment materials, tips for interviewing or putting together the best offer to capture 'the one'- we'd love to help.
Dealing with a counter-offer is not ideal. But it is a situation you are likely to be faced with when recruiting top design and architecture talent. Here are some things you can do if you find yourself in this position.
To dissuade your A-grade candidate from accepting a counter-offer, ensure your original offer is difficult to refuse.
When making your offer, it's vital to tailor it to the candidate's needs and wants, as well as solve any pain points they may have with their current position. If you conducted your candidate interviews in the right way, you should be adequately armed with this important information.
An optimal design or architecture personalised offer includes:
When presenting your offer, be enthusiastic and specific about why you want them to join your agency. Tell them exactly why you chose them over all the other candidates.
Remind them about your fantastic culture, particularly as this is something candidates are really looking for in a new role, as well as giving them a recap of all the exciting projects and opportunities you have on the horizon.
A further suggestion is to present your offer in person by inviting your potential hire into the agency. You might like to consider adding on an informal meeting afterwards with colleagues. This is just another key opportunity to help the candidate envision their place within your firm.
If your candidate then receives a counter-offer, there are still a number of actions you can take to address it.
Encourage your potential hire to fully explain their counter-offer, and the reasons why they are considering it.
You might uncover the current employer's counter-offer matches yours, but the candidate is either reluctant to leave the 'known' and jump into the unknown, or concerned their departure will leave long-standing colleagues in the lurch.
Should this be the case, explain that you understand their reluctance to leave. Remind them of the reasons why they wanted to leave in the first place, which you explored in the interview. Be upfront about how your agency differs, and what opportunities your role presents in contrast to their pain points.
While you don't want to get into a bidding war for their services, think about whether you can match or exceed the counter-offer. It might not necessarily be in terms of salary, but may be extra benefits such as a work from home option, or a bigger training budget. Think back to what excited them during their interview when you talked about the role, and hone in on it.
Should it be the case you have no room to move, let the candidate know. If you believe you may have opportunities in the near future that match what they're currently being offered, tell them. At the same time, reiterate why you feel they would be an important part of your agency.
If the answer is still no, thank them for their time, for showcasing their work, and for considering joining your agency. With the Australian design industry being so small, it's always a good idea to leave candidates with a positive impression of you and your firm, no matter what decision they make.
You’ve found and hired a great Architecture or Interior Design professional. While the process was likely lengthy, your firm is faced with some exciting times ahead.
Having invested so much time and effort into finding your new hire, it’s important to turn your focus to what you can do to ensure you keep them. This is precisely where a great onboarding process can help, particularly when you consider what a not-so-great one can do (US labour forces stats show around 20% of employees leave their new job in the first 45 days).
This onboarding guide is a roadmap for the first four weeks of your new hire’s employment. It also contains a few further suggestions beyond that time. As you read through it, keep in mind there are no hard and fast rules. Feel free to tailor it according to the individual needs of your firm and your new recruit.
There are many things you can do to internally prepare for your new hire to ensure your new employee’s first day and week are all they hoped for and more.
While the following may seem like a lengthy list, remember you can use the same onboarding process for all new talent in the future (albeit with a little tweak here and there for individual needs).
SUGGESTED ACTION POINTS FOR PRIOR TO YOUR NEW HIRE’S ARRIVAL
1. Send your new starter an introductory email:
Your first email should be warm and welcoming, letting them know how excited everyone at the firm is to have them on board. You can take the opportunity to introduce yourself on a personal level, as well as provide some details about their team/colleagues. Ask them if they are comfortable emailing you a small bio so that you can forward to others to ‘pre-introduce’ them. In this same email, pre-empt any burning questions they’ll likely have about their first day by reconfirming start date and time, and detailing any specifics they need to bring (ID, bank details and so on to fill out paperwork such as tax and super forms)
2. Introduce them to the rest of the firm via email or in person:
When you receive their short bio, send out an email to all firm personnel and introduce them. Or you might find it works better for your firm to invite them in prior to their official start date to have a coffee with the team. It’s an informal way to help them start forming connections, so their first day isn’t as daunting.
3. Set up their workspace:
It’s not a good feeling to arrive at your new desk and sit there twiddling your thumbs as nothing is set up for you. To avoid this, ensure your new employee’s workstation is ready to go before they arrive. Consider things such as:
You can take it a step further by loading up time-saving tools such as hyperlinks to firm policies, procedures or any software they may use on a daily basis. If appropriate, add them to email distribution lists. You could also send them a welcome email with their first day schedule all planned out. One last suggestion is to put together a personalised kit of firm-branded materials (if you have them) such as stationary, portfolios, sketch books etc
4. Block out a portion of your day:
Even if you’re not with your new hire for their entire first day, it’s still a good idea to keep your day open and ensure you’re accessible.
5. Consider a buddy and mentor:
There are merits in having a mentor and buddy program to help a new employee transition into their role, but this depends on the size and nature of your firm. If you feel it would work, pick a mentor who is a senior firm member and a buddy who is a peer. Arrange a few meetings with each during your new employee’s first week. They can then meet weekly - or whatever suits - to discuss issues that may arise and job shadow if appropriate.
6. Training schedule:
Your new employee’s learning curve is steep - from day to day work to policies and procedures to firm branding to client briefing. As such, it’s important you spend some time thinking about all your new recruit needs to grasp over their first four weeks. Then, create a training schedule to encompasses these tasks with a daily or weekly workflow (there are some further tips to help you design this in the coming sections).
7. Create a ‘day one’ agenda:
First days are always overwhelming but you can negate this somewhat by creating a structured agenda…
First impressions count. What do you want your new hire to say to their family and friends when they return home after their first day? Answering this is a great way to guide you in structuring your employee’s first day schedule. The following are some tips to assist you, but adjust according to what suits your firm best.
SUGGESTED ACTION POINTS FOR THE FIRST DAY
1. Arrive an hour early to get organised:
Use this time to check everything is in order, from their desk to their first day schedule to any social plans.
2. Office tour:
Take your new starter around the office. Ensure your tour covers key facilities and contacts that are important for their day-to-day job.
3. Colleague and/or team introductions:
How you do your introductions depends on the size and structure of your firm. If you’re on the smaller side, they may have already met most of their colleagues during recruitment or at your informal coffee catch-up. But if you are a bit bigger, they will need to do the rounds. Keep it informal and ask each firm member to briefly state who they are and what they do. The new employee can spend more time with each person later in the week so brief is best, particularly as it will be overwhelming meeting lots of new people.
4. One-on-one with you:
Sit down and spend some time clarifying expectations and running through job requirements (your position description will help you here). You can also broadly introduce the firm and your particular clientele, plus attend to any housekeeping items (paperwork, leave, benefits etc.).
If you have any online documentation that would help them learn more about your firm, direct them to it so they can peruse it in their quieter moments. It may be a simple as giving them access to prior successful projects so they delve deeper into your design process.
5. Give them some time at their new desk:
Let them familiarise themselves with their new workspace and computer system. This might be a good opportunity to have their peer sit with them and help them navigate through firm specific systems.
6. Something social:
While onboarding is about education and compliance, personally engaging your new employee is also extremely important to start building internal relationships. Arrange a social get-together for their first day, whether it’s big with all staff or small with just few direct colleagues. It might be a welcome lunch, afternoon tea or after-work ‘drinks and nibbles’.
The first week is all about building relationships with firm staff and knowledge transfer. Keep a close eye on your new recruit during this time to gauge whether they are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. If you notice this, check in with them and ask how you can help.
SUGGESTED ACTION POINTS FOR THE FIRST WEEK
1. Regular mentor and buddy time:
If you’ve put a mentor and buddy program in place, your new employee should have adequate one-on-one time with each during their first week. Not only can they transfer knowledge, they can also touch base about how the new employee is feeling and answer questions. If your firm is on the smaller side, arrange these regular meetings with yourself or another principal Architect or Interior Designer.
2. Invite them to important firm meetings:
Firm meetings are a great way to impart information to a new employee, but also help them understand work and team dynamics. They should attend such meetings from day one.
3. Meetings with other relevant stakeholders plus one client:
Working in the Architecture and Interior Design space, you have many key personnel you deal with outside of your firm such as councils, surveyors, engineers and of course – and most importantly - clients! Allowing your new recruit to sit in on a meeting with each during their first week is an excellent way to build the foundation of knowledge about the way you work.
4. Systems-related training:
If you have specific design tools, systems and processes, a training session in the first week is a must. While it’s highly likely the new employee has experience and skills in some of these areas, it’s still important for them to come to grips with the nuances of the way your firm does things. Online training materials are very helpful here, for example, short video tutorials or cheat sheets.
5. Some daily ‘quiet’ time:
It’s very easy for your new employee to feel overcome by all they have to learn. It’s wise to schedule in some quiet time each day to come to grips with all the new information.
6. Your availability:
Your new employee should clearly understand they can come to you with questions, and that no question is silly. Take the time to connect with them at the end of each day too, and ask how it was.
7. Payroll check:
Do your due diligence when it comes to paperwork and pay. Contact all relevant departments to ensure all is on track with your new hire’s information.
After their first week, your employee should have a good grasp of your firm’s systems, their daily workload and have also met all key personnel. Their second and third week is about further training and strengthening relationships.
SUGGESTED ACTION POINTS FOR THE SECOND AND THIRD WEEKS
1. Style & brand induction:
You have specialities and/or philosophies that make you unique. That’s why clients come to you. It takes time for an employee to absorb - and then live this ethos - but it’s extremely important. Ensure your new recruit has ample opportunities to develop this knowledge during their second week (and beyond).
2. Strengthen internal relationships:
Continue to focus on building internal relationships. Liaising with their colleagues regularly on-the-job and small social activities are important. As an example, lunch is a great way to nurture relationships and get to know your new talent. This doesn’t require you to take them out each day. It should be as simple as sitting together at the same time and chat while you eat.
3. Continue with knowledge transfer sessions:
The new employee should continue with their systems training if need be, but the second week should also focus upon task-related training (for example, your preferred method of creating client briefs). Combining online and in-person teaching works well, so perhaps job shadowing in conjunction with reviewing previous client briefs.
4. Assign first tasks and deadlines:
If you feel they are ready, assign their first task/s in the middle of the second week with a clear outcome and deadline.
5. Lock in an ongoing weekly review meeting:
This is a perfect time to check in with the new employee, but also learn more about them personally. Set a short weekly meeting towards the end of each week to do this.
By the end of this week, most of the formal onboarding process is over. But to ensure you retain this great employee you’ve invested so much time and money in, it must continue in a deeper way.
SUGGESTED ACTION POINTS FOR THE FOURTH WEEK AND BEYOND
1. A comprehensive review and feedback session:
At the end of their first month, schedule in a longer review meeting. It should go beyond your weekly review meetings. It’s a chance to delve deeper into not only the employee’s progress and happiness level, but to provide encouragement and suggestions for continued learning.
Let them know you are happy to take on feedback too from everything to do with the onboarding program to everyday processes. Fresh eyes are often the best ones to spot inefficiencies and offer up better ways of doing things you might miss.
Here are a few suggested questions:
2. Ongoing training:
Training goes beyond the first month and should be regularly scheduled until the employee feels they have a good grasp of all they need to do their job. Then it’s time to set up training to help them achieve their future career goals…
3. Develop a personal development plan:
The best way to retain the amazing talent you’ve found is to show you are invested in them. A personal and professional development plan is a wonderful way to do this. Include a few short and long-term goals, while also identifying any onsite, offsite or online training they might need.
As you can see, there is much to do to create a valuable, efficient and effective, onboarding program for your new Architecture or Interior Design talent. But the rewards it brings your firm is happy and engaged employees who will become great ambassadors for your work and brand.
Losing Architecture or Interior Design talent is hard, particularly if it’s to your competition. While the experience is disheartening and frustrating, you can still salvage valuable information through an effective employee exit interview.
An exiting employee has a wealth of information about the health of your firm. Conducting a well structured exit interview gives you the opportunity to mine this vital intel.
Use it to help you:
The ideal time to conduct an exit interview is at start of the employee’s final week as much of the emotion surrounding handing in their resignation, or having been let go, has dissipated by this point. It’s likely they will be in a more emotionally-stable place, so should provide you with honest, thus valuable, feedback.
In the same vein, avoid holding the interview on their last day as they will have disengaged by this time.
Direct managers are not a good choice. Choose someone who is removed from the employee’s everyday work environment, someone they will see as neutral party. This will encourage them to open up and speak honestly.
Opt for someone who has seniority in the company so the employee feels their views are valued. An HR manager is good choice if you have one, but you can engage an independent external consultant (although you may have to educate them about your firm so they can ask pertinent follow-up questions).
The interviewer should also be adept at expressing empathy, while remaining respectful and diplomatic.
The key to a successful exit interview is preparation. Pick the right interviewer and schedule a face-to-face meeting with the employee (you can supplement with a follow-up written or electronic survey).
At the start, explain the process is confidential. They must understand this to encourage honest responses. It may also help if they know their feedback will be used to improve conditions for those remaining (as in all likelihood, their current work colleagues are their friends).
The following is a comprehensive list of questions to assist you in structuring your off-boarding interview. Don’t be overly concerned with sticking hard and fast to them. It’s important the interviewer goes with the flow of the conversation so it remains personal therefore, constructive.
1. What attracted you to your new job and firm?
2. What is the main reason for you leaving?
3. Before you decided to look for a new job, did you look at other opportunities here, or speak to anyone about changes that might have made you stay?
4. What have you enjoyed about working here?
5. What haven’t you liked?
6. Were you satisfied with your job’s: salary work/life balance conditions such as work hours?
7. Do you feel your everyday tasks and responsibilities aligned with your expectations of what the job would be? If not, how did they differ?
8. Do you think you had enough training and support to do your job effectively?
9. Did you have access to the right resources to be able to complete your tasks?
10. Do you get enough support from your direct manager? If not, please provide some insights about what they didn’t get right.
11. Do you think your efforts were recognised by your peers and management? If not, how can we improve this?
12. Did you get along with your manager and peers? If not, why?
13. What could the firm have done differently to encourage you to stay?
14. As a firm, what specific areas could we improve upon (i.e. client briefing, client experience, project management etc.)?
15. What skills or experience should we look for in a replacement?
16. Do you have any other concerns about our firm you’d like to share?
17. Would you consider returning if a position became available in the future?
18. What else do you want me/us to know?
Carefully review and then action your exiting employee’s feedback.
In doing this, you increase the chances that the next Architecture or Interior Design talent you secure will remain engaged and happy, allowing you to focus your efforts on growing your Interior Design firm and client base.