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Bespoke Careers

21 February 2018

21 February 2018

"Differentiation in every project" - Nik Karalis, Woods Bagot

What Employers Want - World Architecture Festival, Berlin 2017

Filmed by Bespoke Careers at the World Architecture Festival in Berlin in 2017, Nik Karalis, CEO of Woods Bagot discusses the importance of character and personality at an interview, what questions to ask and the different types of content he looks for when reviewing a portfolio.

What CV advice would you give a candidate?

In terms of a CV I generally dismiss it, oddly enough. What I look for is character and personality - what you’re looking for is attitudes. Will they learn? Because the role of our firm is to teach people a new CV, a new language - a new Woods Bagot language. Fundamentally the qualities of a CV are aptitude and willingness. They are two of the biggest aspects of a CV that we look for; the cultural dimensions of whether they’ll fit into our organisation. 

What questions should people ask? 

Good things to ask are a follow-though on research. So a candidate has to see our work, be able to talk about our aspiration and direction as a firm, and what they can do to contribute or how they will contribute. Knowing what the ethos of the company is and what questions to give back to us convinces me that they want to be part of us. 

What type of portfolio do you prefer to receive?

Give it to us digitally in the first instance. In terms of contents, it’s a mixture of presentation technique, and what your story is leading up to the project; tell me about that journey, so the portfolio we’re looking for is the narrative, the story or journey, rather than the finished product.

How would you recommend people dress for an interview?

Always you’ve got to be yourself. If someone’s uncomfortable in a jacket or a suit, you can tell that they’re being uncomfortable, so the tip is please be yourself. It’s not an aspect or attribute that we make a decision on, I think that era is gone, there’s an expectation that we should discover the real essence of the candidate – so wear what’s comfortable. 

If you could offer one piece of advice what would it be? 

For me now it’ll be technology. Be across all of the new digital technology. My advice back to myself, if I was starting again, would be to be across all the new digital technology, know the tools, understand the new repertoire of the creation of architecture. 

What is your design ethos? 

I specifically do not want our staff to replicate the same style. I’m actively looking for differentiation in every project. I don’t want to see a scene. There is a language but there must be richness and diversity to every project. The second one is narrative, what is the story? What is the link that brings the user to that space? So diversity, narrative and purposefulness – what is the meaning, and the meaning in a building is more important than its manifestation. How do people decode architecture of meaning?  

How would you describe your office culture? 

That one’s really easy. Rigorous curiosity -you’ve got to continually explore options and consider scenarios. The other one is collective intelligence - no one is smarter than all of us. Also tolerance, across genders, cultures, across people who speak quietly and others who speak loudly. What I’m trying to do is extract from all of the staff in the business, to be able to contribute to any project. Architects have this unconscious bias of what they listen to and what they derive from, so we’re trying to break that down. 

Author: Kat Allenby, Global Head of Communications, Bespoke Careers

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