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Bespoke Careers

30 June 2021

30 June 2021

What's trending in the NYC architecture and design hiring market?

Market update summary - New York City

Alastair Wallace, Managing Director of Bespoke Careers’ New York office, reflects on the first half of 2021 and discusses the current state of New York’s Architecture and Design hiring market.  Alastair shares his observations, experiences, and what he is anticipating in the coming months.

What is the overall health of the architecture and design industry in New York?

The market appears well on its way to recovery with firms reporting an increase in inquiries and the number of projects moving forward.  It is a little too early to be bullish about how strong the rebound will be, but we can certainly be optimistic that the recovery is here to stay given the month on month increases in work that most are experiencing.  If we were to evaluate the health of the market based purely off the readily available talent, then the current candidate shortage in New York points towards a very healthy market.  With staffing levels approaching pre-pandemic levels and the number of positions advertised steadily increasing, competition for talent to help make the most of a post-pandemic boom will continue to be intense.

What can hiring managers do to improve their odds of hiring the best talent?

The talent pool appears to be the smallest it’s been for the past 5 years.  With any candidate short market, my top two tips are: be flexible to the available talent and move quickly.  Firms that can process, screen, interview and extend offers to candidates quickly will reduce the chance of someone else snapping that person up.  It is important that you review and streamline your own hiring process and cut out any delays to avoid missing opportunities when they arise.  

As for being flexible, decide what experience and skills are essential to the role straight away and then be flexible on things that can be learned on the job.  In any market we advise our clients to look for the 80% candidate over the ‘perfect person’ that checks every box in the job description.  That has never been more important than right now.  Previously that advice has been aimed at leaving room for your new hire to have opportunity for growth in their new position and therefore longevity with the company.  While this reason remains valid, in a candidate short market it is critical to avoid a search in vain for a perfect person and prolong the time your team is understaffed.  

Clients who are winning the best talent – what are they doing right?

A common complaint from jobseekers is that they leave their interview without a clear understanding of the company or the seriousness of the role.  A poor first impression is particularly true following a virtual interview when you can no longer rely on your physical space to wow someone and set the tone of the company’s professionalism.  Come decision time, a poor first impression has often been the difference when deciding between competing offers.  Make sure interviewers represent the company well and can communicate with enthusiasm, openness and clarity about the firm and the role.  Be prepared to sell both the quality of work that is produced and the positives of the company culture. 

Flexibility around remote working is now being raised less and less as a deciding factor compared with six months ago, although it still comes into the decision-making process for some.  As work-from-home fatigue sets in, a lot of jobseekers are now enthusiastic about returning to the workplace.  Future return to office plans should be communicated clearly along with the precautions that are being taken to ensure the space is safe.

What skills and backgrounds are in the highest demand?

The biggest demand right now remains architects and interior designers with experience in the luxury single-family residential sector.  This sector performed strongest throughout the pandemic with specialist firms reporting that they were busier than ever.  During the second quarter of this year, we saw a dramatic increase in inquiries coming from clients working in other sectors.  Firms with projects in hospitality, workplace, multi-family residential and, most recently, retail and workplace have been looking to add experienced staff to their ranks.  No matter the sector, the commonality is the experience level - candidates with between 6 and 9 years are what everyone is after.

How has the pandemic affected recruiting in your industry?

The challenges of recruiting during the pandemic presented across many levels.  While remote video technology combined with availability at short notice arguably made the interview process easier, confidence in hiring without meeting in person was still a stumbling block.  The real challenge in recruiting during the pandemic came after the hire.  Onboarding of new staff whilst in a remote working environment has been difficult for most, both in terms of training and instilling firm culture.  With the majority of New York firms expecting to return to the workplace in September 2021 this may become an issue of the past.

In the meantime, those still onboarding into a remote working situation should ensure that the onboarding plan is clearly communicated, expectations are made clear, and regular check ins are scheduled.  It is also worth assigning a ‘buddy’ who can advise them on work culture and field any questions they may not want to ask others.

What does the future hold?

If I were to make one prediction it would be that we are likely to see a lot of turnover during the next 12 months.  As confidence in the industry grows and life returns to something approaching normal, employees who held off making a move during 2020 will be more comfortable in reassessing their positions again.  Our most recent job satisfaction survey, conducted during quarter one of 2021, revealed that 49% of respondents intend to move jobs in the next 12-18 months.  If this comes to fruition, there will be a lot of fresh talent available in the market.  Understanding the motives behind those looking to move will help you attract and retain staff.  The full report job satisfaction survey delves deeper into these motives and can be downloaded here - Global Job Satisfaction Survey 2021

Author: Alastair Wallace, Managing Director, Bespoke Careers

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