Great news! You’ve just received a call from a recruiter inviting you to interview for your dream job. Now for the bad news: In a highly competitive job market, you’re probably one of dozens of candidates who will be interviewed for the same opening.

How can you improve your odds and impress the hiring manager? Ask any top recruiter or career coach and their answers will boil down to one word: Prepare.

Too many job candidates walk into the first interview with little to no knowledge about the organization or hiring manager. Strike one. Other candidates fail to anticipate the type of questions they will be expected to answer. Strike two. And then there are the candidates who underestimate the importance of a good first impression. Strike three.

Here are some simple tips to help you prepare for your first interview at an architecture firm.

Do Your Research

In a world where you can ask your phone, “OK, Google. Who is the CEO of ABC Designs in Manhattan?” and hear the answer in less than 10 seconds, there is no excuse for slacking off here. 

  • Check out the architectural firm’s website, LinkedIn profile, YouTube channel, Facebook page, etc. Learn what they do. What is their claim to fame and who are their target customers/key clients?
  • Investigate the company’s reputation in the marketplace by searching for mentions in industry journals and news stories. If, they are publicly traded, check out their current stock price and rating. 
  • Do a quick Google search on the firm’s leadership team and the hiring manager (if you know the name) you will be meeting with. Don’t be a stalker, but do gather some basic factoids to drop into the interview.

Gather Your Materials

Think of your upcoming interview as a sales pitch. This is your opportunity to sell your skills and show off your expertise, so don’t leave it to the interviewer’s imagination. 

  • To make sure that you are bringing the right samples with you, review the job description (paying particular attention to the “Desired Skills” section). Take a quick look through your portfolio and pull out anything that takes focus away from the skills you are trying to sell.
  • Don’t assume that the recruiter has properly prepared the hiring manager. Print copies of your resume and references list. And if you don’t already have a business card, buy some perforated sheets and print off a dozen or so to leave behind.

Practice Your Pitch

Even before you walk into the hiring manager’s office, you know that you will be asked some basic questions—Where are you working now? Why are you interested in working here? Answer the question, but remember that your number one priority is to sell yourself to the hiring manager.

  • Rehearse answers to the typical interview questions until you are comfortable with them and can interject your skills and qualifications smoothly into the answers.
  • Think of examples of specific behaviors you want to emphasize in the interview, such as quick thinking or teamwork, and practice telling those anecdotes confidently and concisely.
  • Prime yourself to be asked by the hiring manager to solve a hypothetical problem or role play a client meeting. While the hiring manager will be interested in your solution/approach, he or she will be every bit as interested in hearing the thought process that got you to that solution/approach.

Job candidates have to overcome many obstacles on their path to employment. Taking time to prepare for the first interview will help build your confidence and prove that you are the best choice for the job.

Good luck!