I saw a presention by Karen Johnston of Johnston Training Group, during which she shared some research she has done with various selection committee members about what gets architects/engineers selected for projects (you can see a brief recap of her results in the June 2011 Zweig Marketing Letter). Her research has shown that “the influence of visuals during the interview is dead at last.” I know, I know. I’ll give you a moment to recover from your shock.
I understand why this notion terrifies architects and marketing folks alike. We LIKE creating our visuals! It’s the only part of the interview process where we get to have fun, use color, smell the Spraymount! The problem is, she’s right.
Remember, by the time you’ve gotten to the interview stage, everybody who is being interviewed is someone the committee believes has the experience and qualifications to do the job. You’re done proving that you know your craft. (Really? Yeah, really.) At this point, scary as it is, it’s about whether the selection committee feels like they can work with you or not, whether they believe you “have their backs”, whether you have the people skills to strike a balance between hearing them out, meeting their goals and, occasionally, saving them from themselves.
Truth is, the time you spend preparing boards, powerpoints, prezis, etc. is the least effective interview prep time you can spend. You’re better off focusing on 1) understanding who is representing what role in the interview, 2) getting clarity about the message you want to get across, 3) making sure you’re addressing any issues the committee has asked you to address, 4) making sure you look like a cohesive team, figuring out how to answer and ask smart questions.
Here’s one caveat about visuals: Yes, there are a very few points that are better gotten across visually than verbally. In that case the best tools for the job are a blank Post-It Easel pad or a white board and some markers. Creating “on the fly” beats seeing pre-packaged, pre-printed creations the vast majority of the time.