Is now the right time to recruit or to change jobs in architecture?

Written by: Helen Castle, Director of Publishing and Learning Content
Published on: 4 Apr 2023

 Rupesh Vara


The current financial climate has left many recruiters and jobseekers perplexed. Should practices be appointing new staff and individuals be considering changing roles with low or no economic growth projected? No one is more in touch with the current jobs market in architecture than RIBA Jobs Sales Manager Rupesh Vara, who talks to practices and jobseekers daily. Here he responds to some pressing questions:

What is the current jobs market like?

There has been a gentle recovery in confidence since October 2022 when there was a sharp downturn after the mini budget. Despite the uncertain economic outlook, the skills shortage means that practices are keen to retain and acquire talent wherever possible. For instance, December 2022’s RIBA Future Trends survey saw a deterioration in the workload index by -8 points, while the permanent staffing index only fell -3. In February 2023, there has been a small recovery in the workload index to +5 and staff index has also remained positive at +2. This makes it very different from previous economic downturns, such as 2008, when there were widespread redundancies.

Where are the greatest challenges for recruiters?

Currently finding the right candidates with the relevant qualifications and experience can be daunting for practices due to the shortage of experienced architects in the UK. In order to differentiate themselves from other employers and ensure success with their prospective hires, practices need to provide a reasonable salary, which meets or exceeds the pressures on incomes introduced by the cost-of-living crisis.

What advice would you give practices recruiting into difficult to fill roles

Be flexible, do you need to have all the primary skills ticked off? Can you get away with the candidate possessing at least 80% of what you’re asking for in terms of skill set? Can you upskill less qualified or experienced candidates? Consider the attractiveness of the overall package. Can you offer benefits for longevity? Don’t forget to fully communicate your studio’s values and strengths. This will make you stand out from the crowd and make you a practice of choice.

For jobseekers, nervous about moving practices, is it a good or a bad time to undertake a job search?

There is no such thing as a good time or a bad time to move jobs, practices are always looking for great talent. Before submitting a job application always think through your reasons for applying for a role. Why do you want to work for a particular practice? How does might it fit in with your future career path? Could it, for instance, give you greater autonomy in your role or provide the opportunity for further collaboration with an expert team? How will it build on your experience to date?

change jobs in architecture

What advice would you give to jobseekers seeking a new job? What should they be looking for in a practice and a role?

Fully research the market and don’t be afraid to contact practices directly. Use your network for contacts. Don’t forget to search job sites – use RIBA Jobs.

When looking at a practice consider whether you want to work with a large practice or a smaller one. Both have different benefits. You should be basing your decision not only on pay, but also where you might gain the right sort of experience. For early career professionals in smaller practices, the opportunity for growth can be a lot quicker as all the architects’ functions sit within a single team or studio. In larger practices, the opportunities will be there, but not so immediate.

When applying for your next role you may want to consider whether it provides room for growth, training, development and support. Don’t apply to the first advert you see. Can you picture yourself working there? Then ask yourself ‘why’ this might be the right employer for you.

How can a jobseeker ensure their application stands out?

Invest time in personalising your covering letter, CV template and portfolio for each job application. That means ensuring you know what is required from the role by reading the job description thoroughly and tailoring the CV accordingly. Compose an engaging and highly readable personal statement. Write the main part of your CV in short sentences with straightforward vocabulary, fitting it into one or two pages maximum. Format your existing skills, competencies and experience in bullet points towards the top of the CV. Make sure someone else checks your CV and statement before submitting it, avoiding any unnecessary spelling or grammatical errors that you may not spot.

When adding your portfolio only include your most recent projects. Include a timeline of your key experiences, telling them your story and your journey as a designer. Feature facts and figures that provide key information about each project: location, client, budget and RIBA stage.

What service does RIBA Jobs provide for recruiters and jobseekers?

RIBA Jobs provides a unique platform to assist chartered practices with their onboarding recruitment requirements. We do this by providing innovative job adverts and targeted campaigns, enabling jobseekers to apply to a practice of their choice.

Jobseekers can benefit from our platform by creating unique online profiles and setting up job alerts. These inform them of any new job adverts that match their search criteria. In addition to this the RIBA Jobs blog, provides useful content on getting to interview, making your first application and putting together a CV with an easy to use template.

How is RIBA Jobs different from other job boards?

As RIBA’s official jobs board, we understand how important it is to find qualified talent in a specialist market, which is why all our candidates will have an architectural background.

A large number of recruiting practices are RIBA chartered practices, benefitting from a 35% discount on any jobs they post. When practices become chartered they commit to delivering the highest quality professional services and ethical and best practices in architecture, including employment and EDI. For jobseekers, it is an important kite mark if you are seeking a new employer.