New York is one of the most competitive and opportunity-laden cities in the world. So, when it comes time to submit a proposal for a new project, what separates one company from the next? Two recent projects we competed for—and ultimately won—provided insight into this question. After presenting, the decision-makers, one of whom had interviewed three other architectural firms that lacked a spark before dialing ours, rendered their decision about who they planned to work with. Interestingly, they both used the same term for why they chose us: enthusiasm.
That’s why, when interviewing potential new hires, from the intern level right on through project management, one of the very first qualities I look for in a candidate is a genuine interest in the position and in the work we’re doing. People like doing business with people, not drones. A little personality and energy go a long way.
Of course, enthusiasm is not the only thing that matters. I need to know that the technical skill set is there, along with the right schooling, background and credentials. And believe me, I notice if someone is punctual for the interview. However, hiring is much more complex than sifting through well-written resumes and checking your watch. When a member of the team has all of the “musts” along with an ability to engage others, it’s nothing short of magic. Enthusiasm plays a pivotal role in breaking the ice with a new client and in letting a current one know they have a team in place that is fully on board and not just going through the motions and taking orders. Employees with a light in their eyes come across as more confident and optimistic, a plus for us and, apparently, for the firms who hire us as well.
What else do I look for when recruiting? I gravitate toward the well-rounded individual. Are you an athlete who knows how to work well as part of a team or can set a long-term goal and diligently work at it? An artist with out-of-the-box creativity for design? Committed to giving back through community service? All of those scenarios have appeal when it comes to a new hire.
Then there’s another very important quality I look for: a willingness to learn—and try—new things. We don’t do cookie cutter and don’t hire people who do either. Each day is an opportunity to learn something new and to create functional, striking designs. A team member who is resourceful, can multitask and ask questions and is open to what’s next is always at the top of my “to-hire list.”
Scott E. Spector, AIA, is a principal at Spector Group, one of New York’s premier architecture and interior design firms and a leader in corporate tenant and building owner-based design. The award-winning company has affiliate offices nationally and internationally. To date, it has completed more than 1,500 projects.