By Nate Berg

From entry-level interns to top-tier management, the business of architecture relies on smart workers [staff]. To stay competitive and endure an ever-turbulent job market, design firms need to recruit the best and the brightest while holding on to the skilled talent they already have.

Look for Inquisitive Minds
When seeking new talent, New York–based Robert A.M. Stern Architects partner Graham Wyatt, AIA, says firms should look broadly at the candidates’ talents. Architectural ability and design skills are obviously important, but they shouldn’t be the only factors considered. “Look for people who are broadly educated and, beyond that, people who are inquisitive about the world, who are not just one-dimensional,” he says.

Incentive High Performance
Rewarding employees based on the quality of their work will push them to excel and make them feel appreciated. Robert A.M. Stern Architects uses a system as part of a profit-sharing model that, when the firm is in the black, issues an additional bonus to employees based on annual reviews. “The principle of it is important to the culture of our firm, which is to reward people at all levels so they feel that they’re pulling in the same direction,” Wyatt says, “and that’s really essential to our success.”

Respond to Shifts in Supply and Demand
The layoffs during the recession may seem like fresh wounds, but the market has recovered. Demand for architects is high now due to increased work and a limited supply of professionals. “Twenty to 30 percent of the architectural workforce left in the last recession, so the talent pool is much smaller,” says David McFadden, CEO of Consulting for Architects, a staffing agency. Firms need to recognize that it’s a seller’s market. “Architects are just not sitting on a department store shelf anymore.”

Evaluate Routinely
Regular performance reviews are crucial for employers to track progress and for workers to get positive feedback, constructive criticism, and, ideally, a chance to request a raise. Communication is mutually beneficial, but it sometimes doesn’t happen enough. “In some firms, the annual review only happens every two or three years,” says Herbert Cannon, president of consultancy AEC Management Solutions. “That can be demoralizing to employees.”

Be Less Picky, Hire More Quickly
A dearth of architects means employers need to adjust expectations and perhaps lower their hiring standards. The perfect candidate simply might not exist. “There’s still this perception that there’s people available that meet all of your criteria. But in fact there’s not and so you need to make a quick attitude adjustment,” says McFadden. To top it off, the limited supply is in such demand—the candidates you want may be under consideration by other firms. McFadden suggests acting quickly: “Shorten the time from receiving a résumé to scheduling an interview to making an offer. … You have to be quick; otherwise you’re going to lose out to a firm that is.”

Honor Loyalty
Firms need to know how to hold on to what they’ve got. That was easier during the recession when many architects were happy to have any job. But now that things have turned around and opportunities are opening up, employers need to do more to keep their workers from perusing the job boards. McFadden says firms should increase compensation for the people who stuck with them during the recession, and even more so for those who saw years pass by without a raise.

by Nate Berg for*

*This article was not written for The CFA Blog. This article was written for Architect and reposted by CFA for the CFA Blog.

Editors note: Obviously, we contributed to this article, and agree with the points Nate makes. Do you agree that the hiring trend favors the applicants?

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About the author

Nate Berg is a writer and journalist covering cities, architecture and urban planning. Nate's work has been published in a wide variety of publications, including The New York Times, National Public Radio, Wired, The Guardian, Metropolis, Fast Company, Dwell, Architect, 99% Invisible and many others. He is a former staff writer at the website formerly known as The Atlantic Cities and was previously an assistant editor at Planetizen. Nate was a finalist for the 2013 Livingston Awards for Young Journalists for his Next City feature article on HafenCity, the neighborhood being built from scratch in Hamburg, Germany. The site is an online warehouse of summaries and links to articles and other related work. To see some previous work, go to Articles to read features and news articles, Commentaries for opeds and blog posts, or Audio for podcasts and broadcast reports. Email: nate (@) nate-berg (.) com Twitter: This website runs on the open source content management system Drupal. Its theme was designed and built by Ishmael Sanchez. His web design and development services are highly recommended.