Talent attraction challenges in the U.S. Architecture industry

7 min

It’s no easy ride for architecture businesses looking to hire

The Architecture industry has never had an easy ride when it comes to attracting and retaining highly-skilled talent. The demand for candidates continues to heavily outweigh supply, and architecture firms in the market for new hires are having to compete for the best candidates. There’s no denying the events of 2020 have disrupted the market even more, socially and economically, causing further problems for businesses and resulting in even more mid-senior level vacancies remaining unfilled.

What makes it so difficult to hire top talent in this sector?

There are many factors that contribute to the difficulty in finding good candidates in this market. Firstly, there are simply not enough highly skilled candidates to go around, and those who are in demand are driving the market. They have high expectations, and some employers struggle to measure up. It’s not only difficult to attract good candidates right now, it’s a challenge to retain them, as competition is fierce and opportunities to jump ship to something more tempting are abundant. Fewer graduates are coming through the ranks at the same time as seasoned candidates are reaching retirement age, leaving a much smaller pool of professionals. In order to cope, some companies are relying on interim staff and some are having to compromise on ‘essential skills’ when hiring permanent employees. Another factor that has undeniably had an adverse effect on hiring in this market, is of course, Covid-19.

What is the true effect of the global pandemic?

A global pandemic and worldwide uncertainty was always going to have knock on effects.

The unemployment rate was estimated to hit a staggering 32%, with over 47 million jobs at risk. However, this isn’t the case for highly-skilled industries. Many companies have simply focused on retaining their talent over the last year, offering pay rises and new benefit packages to keep hold of their valued employees. This has led to a lower natural turnover in architecture firms as employees may favor job security and may be less likely to move. Some highly skilled workers are more risk averse and have been happy to sit tight, creating a static environment in the search for executives and middle-level management.

Where’s the fresh talent?

In many industries there’s a constant influx of fresh talent graduating and coming through the ranks, filling gaps where people have moved up into more senior positions, as the people above them have moved into exec roles or retired. This simply isn’t the case in the architecture industry - skilled candidates are rising through the ranks into more senior positions and people are retiring, but the number of graduates entering the market is decreasing. Training, education and state-required licenses are incredibly costly for young people, and can deter potential fresh talent from training in and entering this field.

According to Architecture Magazine, 10% of architects and similar skilled professionals will be retiring in the next decade, creating a pressing need to fill a very large gap. It will be essential for companies to employ and nurture future managers in advance.

One way companies have previously responded to the lack of highly skilled talent is to hire graduates, but this is more difficult in a post-Covid world. Why? Training and development. Companies who have embraced home working or those who are operating a hybrid home-office setup will find it more difficult to train and develop less experienced employees. It is increasingly difficult to nurture new staff and get them up to speed if they’re not immersed in the environment and working alongside a team or with a mentor. Recent architecture graduates are having to start their careers in a virtual environment, which is massively different to how things were pre-Covid.

There are also reports of fewer graduates coming through the ranks as an increasing number of students deferred their studies due to Covid, and with some switching courses and choosing an entirely different career path. Over 6000 architectural degrees have been completed since 2018, which is less than 3% of the degrees awarded in 2013. On LinkedIn there are now 16% fewer active job seekers applying for architecture jobs.


Could we be turning a corner?

After a difficult year, we may just be starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel, however. Since the new year we are starting to see more movement in the market as candidates have had time to reflect and reevaluate what’s important to them. Now we’re entering the post-Covid era, candidates are starting to dip their toes in the water again, and highly skilled people are once again looking for a fresh challenge, or opportunities that will provide them with a better work-life balance.

In addition to candidate movement, businesses are now less fearful and are starting to pick up where they left off with their growth plans. They are actively looking to replace candidates that were laid off during Covid, or are simply increasing headcount in order to deliver on new projects.

With this new flurry of activity, competition for potential candidates is stiff. Offers are  becoming more competitive and companies are having to go to greater lengths to ensure they stand out as an employer of choice.

What does the future look like for Architecture firms wanting to attract the best talent?

The skills companies are looking for are still wide and specialized - they require a blend of project management, technical and specialized skills, as well as requiring the candidate to be a good fit culture wise. Finding someone who has it all is always going to be a challenge.

Candidates are driving the market with their high expectations. They’re taking their time to consider all of their available options, which can be frustrating for recruiters and hiring managers alike. Candidates want variety, they want a challenge, they want work that will be enjoyable and personally fulfilling and they want flexibility.

Companies are going to have to make themselves more attractive than ever, if they want to attract the best people for their business.

How can specialized recruiters like CSG help?

Previous recruitment techniques are no longer enough to successfully recruit top talent. Posting adverts on job sites, scrolling through databases and messaging candidates on LinkedIn simply isn’t going to work. Recruiters need to proactively find a solution, and think of new ways to identify and connect with potential or passive candidates. 

At CSG Talent, we’ve worked hard to become true industry specialists. We’re well connected, and our knowledge runs deep. We know the market inside out - we know who works where and who is potentially looking to move, and we continually make connections with individuals who are not actively on the market. This means we’re building relationships with people who are not available to other recruiters, and we’re ready to connect them with you.

We’re experienced architecture & design headhunters who will focus exclusively on securing the best talent for your business.


Peter Benefer is one of CSG Talent’s Architecture and Design industry experts. He uses his extensive connections and insider knowledge to successfully attract candidates for leading businesses in the sector.

Contact Peter to see how he can help you; peter.benefer@csgtalent.com  |  +44 (0) 113  4166457