Contract - October 2013 - (Page 28)
PHOTO COURTESY RICHARD POLLACK
Winning Work at the Interview: It’s All About Chemistry—Part II
by Richard N. Pollack, FAIA, FIIDA
In last month’s column, I described interview techniques to implement
after your firm has completed the proposal process. In this column,
I will drill down into the details of what makes an interview successful
to secure a project.
table. No one knows what it contains, which creates anticipation.
Open the box ceremoniously, then remove the black-matted,
large-format photos and place them on a tabletop easel. The client
immediately understands that your work is precious and important.
Bring bakery cookies to the interview to break the ice and allow time
for the team to get seated, get through the introductions, and exchange
business cards. Realtors often suggest having chocolate chip cookies
baking during open houses, and the same approach applies to having
cookies in a conference room. If the client does not immediately take
a cookie, I would reach for one. Then the others will likely dive in.
All team members must exhibit good body language. Don’t place your
hands in your pockets, don’t jingle change or keys, and don’t look at
your notes while listening or speaking. When a team member is
presenting, the rest of the team should look at the speaker and not
glance at clients, or anyone or anything else. An occasional nod to
support whatever a colleague is saying can be very effective. When
presenting or responding to a question, make eye contact with each
of the clients, not just the questioner.
Your team can benefit from not having all power players seated at one
end of the table or across from each other. Arranging seating is easy
when the interviewers are already seated, or if they are taking a break
between interviews and you can see their names on anything left at
their seats. Having the firm principal seated at one corner and the
senior client seated at the diagonal corner is the ideal scenario.
The role of interview principal
During your firm’s meeting, the interview principal:
• Runs the interview for the firm, and is typically also the project manager.
• Starts the meeting and briefly introduces the team members by name,
credentials, and functional role. A great tactic for the interview principal
is to put his or her watch on the table to reinforce adherence to time
parameters and demonstrate their project management skills.
• Says there will be time at the end for Q&A, but also explains that this
should be a conversation, so questions along the way are encouraged.
• Notes the team’s understanding of the project and asks about any
additional items the client might want addressed.
• Uses “sign posts” to signal the second presenter while restating the
person’s name and functional role. Sign posting is a methodology used
to transition cleanly from one presenter to another. The cues are visual
and/or spoken and help reinforce team chemistry. As does smiling!
PowerPoint is often a crutch. I recommend that it not be used unless
it is absolutely critical to show specific images or videos that can’t be
shown in another manner. My preference is to place framed photos in
an archival-quality photo box and position the box at the middle of the
Do not bring any hardcopy material to hand to the client because the
client has already seen your brochure and/or proposal. If you must
have hardcopy material, hide it until the end so that no one is reading
it during your presentation. The goal of the interview is to have the
client focused only on your team in order to build chemistry.
It is worth stating that you should always rehearse for an interview.
Not fully preparing or rehearsing invites failure. In my firm,
presentations were organized to be completed within 20 to 25 minutes,
and to answer all client questions before they were asked. When
finished presenting, we would ask the clients for questions, and
90 percent of the time they would say, “No, you’ve answered all our
questions.” Also, always ask to be the last interview so the client will
actually remember you!
Effectively using these techniques will demonstrate your team’s
great chemistry and help you win more work.
Richard N. Pollack, FAIA, FIIDA, writes a regular column for
Contract on business practices in design and professional
development. Pollack is the CEO of San Francisco-based Pollack
Consulting, which supports firm growth and success through
improved business development, winning presentation techniques,
recruitment of top talent, business coaching, and ownership
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Contract - October 2013
Contract - October 2013
Columnist: Winning Work at the Interview: It’s All About Chemistry—Part II
Product Focus: New Classics
Product Briefs: Health and Wellness
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Advanced Health Sciences Pavilion
Banaji Pediatric Dental Specialists
Seattle Kids Dentistry
Healthcare Environment Awards
Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital
Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre at Austin Hospital
Seattle Children’s Building Hope: Cancer, Critical and Emergency Care Expansion
Dale & Frances Hughes Cancer Center
Kent Campus Expansion, Phase 2 Pavilion
Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey
Camp Southern Ground
FOUND: An Adolescent and Young Adult Cultural and Wellness Center
The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Healthcare Design
Book Review: Sustainable Healthcare Architecture, Second Edition
Designers Select: Healthcare
Contract - October 2013