Each spring, colleges from across the University of Arizona campus host job fairs, a rite of passage for many students as they move into their capstone projects and then on to graduation. The companies gain recognition by providing students with exposure to the range of their work. They also gain perspective on new talent entering the workforce, while students learn about the spectrum of companies and what they’re looking for when they hire.
It’s a tried and true model. But the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture has found a better way: combine the job fair with a series of 25-minute job interviews.
At the CAPLA Job Interview Fair—held this year on February 6, 2020—34 design, planning, construction and engineering firms from across the country met with 103 CAPLA undergraduate and graduate students over an eight-hour period. Ninety percent of the available interview slots were filled by architecture, landscape architecture, sustainable built environments and other students eager (if not nervous) to meet with the firms, many of which were represented by top executives.
For several students, it was the first time they had interviewed in the industry, and that’s the point. “We emphasize to recruiters the importance not only of getting to know our students for available positions,” says Luis Zozaya, CAPLA’s recruitment and outreach coordinator, “but also the value of the interview experience itself for the students.”
In nearly all cases, the firms have openings, and the CAPLA Job Interview Fair fills that need. “We recruit the brightest and best talent to join our team,” says Leigh-Anne Harrison of Chasse Building Team. “We have had a lot of success recruiting talent from the CAPLA Job Interview Fair, and we look forward to many more opportunities to partner with the university.”
For students—who may participate in five interviews during the day, moving from company to company with the ring of a bell in a ‘speed dating’ fashion—the fair provides a unique opportunity. “The fair allowed me to experience job interviews for the first time,” says Bianca Bryant ’20 B. Arch. “It gave me an accessible platform to practice interviewing and understanding the hiring process. I now feel more confident in my work and interviewing skills—and better prepared to apply to firms across the country.”
For Isaac Palomo ’20 MLA, the Job Interview Fair provided the opportunity to focus on firms of particular interest, such as Smithgroup, a multidisciplinary design firm with 14 offices around the country. “I was able to learn more about Smithgroup’s landscape architecture division,” he says. “The interview was an excellent way for me to showcase my work, to present myself as a high-level candidate. I received valuable feedback on how I can promote myself better. Plus I was able to get my name out there.”
With resume and portfolio workshops designed to prepare students for the experience prior to the fair, employers were not disappointed. “We found the students to be well-prepared and excited to be entering the field of architecture,” says Cal Coatsworth, president of Carlile Coastworth Architects in Irvine, California. “We are hopeful that a University of Arizona graduate will soon join our firm and look forward to future job interview fairs.”
This year, CAPLA offered employer sponsorships, enabling firms to take advantage of packages for better placement and larger spaces. Enhanced sponsorships will also be offered next year, and since spaces fill up quickly, firms are encouraged to follow up with Zozaya or Director of Development Angie Smith now. Next year’s fair will be held on February 12, 2021.
Third-year architecture student Anisa Hermosillo ’22 B. Arch may sum up the experience best: “The Job Interview Fair at CAPLA is an incredible experience for students to connect with potential employers and to have the opportunity to receive an internship or job offer. For me personally, the fair provided an opportunity to interview with architecture firms that I otherwise may not be able to connect with. I am grateful that I was able to make connections with several firms that I have the potential of capitalizing on in the future!”