For those that just graduated this past spring, I am posting additional answers to the above question from Becoming an Architect: A Guide to Careers in Design.  To best prepare for your job search, review the answers listed below and the answers that were previously listed last June and May 2019 (see below).  Also, please note that the employer listed for some of the individuals quoted are no longer current.

Hiring a New Designer – June 2020

What do you look for when hiring a new designer – May 2019?


I look for an excellent listener who has experience designing and planning buildings for the environment I work in.

Alan Brangman, AIA, Vice-President of Facilities, Real Estate Auxiliary Services, University of Delaware


I do not hire yet, but I would look for design partners who are the whole package. In other words, they can think big, speak knowledgably to clients and have the ability to get into the nitty-gritty of the tools we use every day.

Rosannah B. Sandoval, AIA, Designer II, Perkins + Will


Professionalism (organizational and communication skills), how do the individuals pursue their work, interest, design capability or potential, and computer literacy with hand sketching / drawing as a bonus. Broad design perspective. Level of artistry and craft in presentation.

Mary Kay Lanzillotta, FAIA, Partner, Hartman-Cox Architects


First and foremost I am looking for someone who embraces the collaborative, evolving nature of the process.  Good design is iterative, so a person must be able to take criticism from team members, embrace change rapidly, and always be searching for ways to improve the project.

Cody Bornsheuer, Associate AIA, LEED AP BD&C, Architectural Designer, Dewberry Architects, Inc.


I looked for well-rounded individuals who were interested in contributing to a firm. I appreciated those who conveyed that they were just beginning their careers yet were ready to work hard and learn from others. I was definitely not interested in individuals who stated that they were seeking employment with a firm because of how it would help them—business hires are not altruistic acts and to convey a primary concern for your personal goals doesn’t relay a good message about your work attitude. Also, I was not interested in those who thought of themselves as “only” designers. If you are a good designer, you should be able to bring that perspective to any role in practice as the work needs quality design at every opportunity. Writing and spelling are as important as design—I have typically found that students who organize thoughts well can do so in any medium.

Karen Cordes Spence, Ph.D., AIA, LEED AP, Associate Professor, Drury University


People hire people, not portfolios. While excellence in design work is necessary, it is irrelevant if you cannot clearly articulate the details of your exploration or demonstrate the value of your design solution. Good designers have the ability to provide value, to communicate a clear and compelling design vision that directly addresses the needs of a client.

Also, architecture is a team sport. Compelling design ideas are great, but it is equally important to demonstrate your cultural fit with the organization you wish to join, and to articulate your x-factor, the unique value that you bring to the team.

Andrew Caruso, AIA, LEED AP BD&C, CDT, Head of Intern Development and Academic Outreach, Gensler


In emerging professionals, including those just out of school, we look for strong hand drawing and sketching skills, strong computer aptitude, a spark of design inspiration and understanding in the portfolio, and an eager enthusiasm and openness to a variety of experiences. Good communication skills, a great attitude and positive personality are essential – the technical skills can be taught at work, but these cannot.

The ability to solve design problems through sketching solutions in real time with the client is a key differentiator in our services. Also critical, our designers must have an aptitude for and willingness to use a computer.

Carolyn G. Jones, AIA, Principal, Mulvanny G2


The best designers have an open mind and a desire to learn.  There are constantly new technologies, theories, and ideas circling the world, and I think that the best architects take what we have learned from the past and use new technology and innovation to make something better.  The designers I look up to most are always drawing, thinking, learning, and problem solving.

Amanda Strawitch, Level 1 Architect, Design Collective


In addition to being skilled communicators and critical-thinkers, I have noticed that the most successful individuals I have recommended have throughout their educational career developed a strong design process that directs them in both the analysis and solution of problems.  The able designer needs to be able to think quickly on her or his feet while skillfully representing ideas in visual and verbal media.

Brian Kelly, AIA, Associate Professor and Director, Architecture Program, University of Maryland


Practical views on how space is used, drive to pursue their own ideas while continuing to learn from new experiences and impeccable organizational skills.

Megan S. Chusid, AIA, Manager of Facilities and Office Services, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation


I look for people who will integrate well into the culture of the office – or fill a void we are currently missing. Technical skills can be taught, and there is a technical learning curve in every position, but if you don’t have a personality that is going to work well with those who you interface with, it is going to be hard to enjoy doing your work, and therefore, contribute to the team.

Ashley Wood Clark, Associate AIA, LEED AP, SMPS, Marketing Manager, The FWA Group Architects


What is most important is having passion for what they are doing. If the person exhibits a real passion for their work, this excites the interview team. I can see passion in the work as well, so displaying work examples that successfully exhibit ideas and resolving these ideas into buildings is paramount. At an interview, it is important to express what drives you and how this would be important to the firm.

Joseph Mayo, Intern Architect, Mahlum


Within my architecture firm I lead our consulting practice that is less about drawing and more about facilitating, analyzing and consensus building.  Our consulting practice focuses on workplace strategy, change management and research.  Most of our work is spent convincing people to make major investments in a building and changing the way they work to benefit their organization.  To be successful, we have to be able to speak, write, illustrate and connect with people.  We have to be comfortable talking about how our client’s business vision and how design can help support that vision.  The ability to draw is a “nice to have,” but not nearly as important (to my group) as the ability to communicate ideas.

Leigh Stringer, LEED AP, Senior Vice-President, HOK


I recommend you have a concise and informative single-page resume and a single-page sample of work sent as a PDF with a brief, yet thoughtful cover letter.  I remind candidates that the people who review these packages have very little time to do so and they appreciate brevity.  Beyond the application package, I tend to favor candidates who are able to convey their creativity, demonstrate diverse experience in the field and show community involvement.  Verbal communication and computer skills are important as well, especially computer modeling and rendering capabilities in today’s marketplace.  Personality is a factor in decision-making as well.  Some people are better suited for certain office environments while others might flourish in different environments.  It is very useful for candidates to learn as much as they can about an office, organization or agency before applying for a position.

Kimberly Dowdell, Project Manager/Director of Marketing, Levien & Company


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