How to fix 3 common mistakes AEC teams make in project interviews

In a LinkedIn post, Scott Johnson, business writing specialist at Johnson Training Group, highlights three common missteps that AEC firms make during project interviews. His insights are based on more than 90 interviews conducted with members of various selection panels.

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December 16, 2015 |
Steven Burns
How to fix 3 common mistakes AEC teams make in project interviews

Have you ever walked out of a project interview feeling like your team nailed it—only to find out later that you didn’t?

In a LinkedIn post, Scott Johnson, business writing specialist at Johnson Training Group, highlights three common missteps that AEC firms make during project interviews. His insights are based on more than 90 interviews conducted with members of various selection panels.

1. Not fully answering the panel’s questions

Panelists may create a question to address a specific concern that was left out of the RFP, or they may come up with a complex question to test the team’s ability to think quickly and rely on each other. When teams don’t answer the exact question or don’t answer it completely, they lose points.

How to fix it:

Johnson advocates allocating time during preparation for practicing potential questions. Try to anticipate what questions you will be asked—then think about why the panel might be asking those particular questions. Then record your answers and listen to them. Teams that do this are surprised to learn their answers are often too long and too general.

2. Poor presentation skills

Selection panels understand that everyone gets nervous, but good presentation skills are mandatory. Reading from notes, relying on copy-heavy PowerPoint slides, being overly scripted, and rambling give the impression of being unprepared.

How to fix it:

Since every smartphone has a video and/or audio recorder, it’s simple to record content and then listen to how it really sounds (and how long it is). What many are surprised to learn is that the camera also reveals what team members are doing right—a huge confidence builder.

3. It’s not you; it’s me

Teams waste valuable interview time talking about how successful they have been, listing the number of past projects, or reciting their work process without explaining what makes them different from the competition.

How to fix it:

When using examples of past projects, make sure that the problem you solved for the client is a problem that this potential client cares about. Then, talk about how you solved it. Details are important, because they make the examples interesting and memorable.

Read more from LinkedIn.

Steven Burns | The Business Behind Design

Steven Burns, FAIA spent 14 years managing the firm Burns + Beyerl Architects, and during that time the firm’s earnings grew at an average rate of 24% per year. After founding his own software company, Steve took his management expertise to BQE Software, where he is refining their business strategy and product development for the company’s groundbreaking project accounting solution, BQE Core.

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