The shortlist interview is one of the most complex and critical elements in the selection process for architecture, engineering, and construction services. Among a group of highly qualified competitors, you must show the owners and users that your firm is best suited to complete their project and work with them.
You may have a group of staff typically involved in preparation for these interviews. Still, we have some surprising suggestions for updating your interview process and habits to create a firm-wide, all-in mentality. Here are four ideas that will allow everyone in the firm to prepare teams for project interviews.
Hold a firm-wide elevator speech training. The term “interview” can mean more than just a project presentation. As the front office administrative staff answers the phone or greets clients, consultants, or vendors, they represent the firm in a crucial image-building way. Consider training all of your staff with an elevator speech training session. This firm-wide training teaches everyone in the company how to articulate and “present” firm services, target markets, team member qualifications, and your company’s competitive advantage to everyone they meet. An effective pitch is a concise, carefully planned, and well-practiced description of your company that your mother should be able to understand in the time it would take to ride up an elevator (30–60 seconds).
Brainstorm the Q&A. Involve everyone in a brainstorming session to develop a master list of potential questions. Having a variety of perspectives and insights from your colleagues can be eye-opening. Anything you don’t want to be asked … will be. Keep this list of questions as boilerplate and pull it out when it’s time for interview rehearsals. Don’t just brainstorm the questions you might hear—create a list of questions you can pose to the selection team if you feel the conversation slacking.
Develop impromptu public speaking skills. Improvisation is an excellent way for your entire staff to get comfortable with public speaking, especially thinking on their feet. Hold a training session that can be as enjoyable as it is beneficial.
Have everyone in the group write a topic such as:
- Describe your last vacation
- Explain why you chose your profession
- Describe your favorite characteristics of your mother-in-law
- What was your best college experience
- Tell the story of your most embarrassing moment
Put the topics in a jar and have each person draw and immediately go to the front of the room to speak for three minutes on their topic using proper public speaking techniques and organization. Continue so everyone has a turn. Hold these sessions quarterly so everyone can stay sharp and be able to think on their feet. Make it fun!
Organize a videotape/peer review. Everyone can benefit from seeing and hearing themselves speak via video. Even the most seasoned management staff can use every opportunity to perfect their skills. Ideas for the organization of this activity include:
- Break technical staff into groups of 3-4 depending on staff size.
- Give the group a proposal/RFP from a previous pursuit. Or, have the group use presentation materials that you have from an earlier interview.
- Each group must put together/re-create the interview using 5 -7 minutes of speaking time.
- Videotape each presentation.
- Once completed, watch the presentations back and have the entire group (include as many from the firm as possible) give constructive feedback.
Winning a project is one of the best tools to boost camaraderie and confidence in your company. Engaging everyone interested in preparing for this final step in closing the deal is a sure way to create an all-in marketing mentality. Try it!