5 tips for creating a successful architecture CV

Written by: RIBA Jobs team
Published on: 14 Jun 2021

Ensuring your curriculum vitae stands out is essential for getting to interview, and ultimately securing a new job. Too many applicants, who have the right skills and experience, are let down by a poorly worded and formatted CV.

When recruiters are reviewing a folder full of candidates’ CVs, most often now on screen, they have literally seconds to read each application. Their eyes can do little more than skim a document. These 5 tips will help you compose a CV that will pass the 30-second test, making an immediate and positive impression on a future employer. Download this free architectural CV template, as a starting point for formulating your résumé.

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RIBA Jobs CV tips

1.    Tailor your CV to the role

• Though you don’t have to start from scratch, your standard CV does need to be personalised for each application.
• Open with a short personal statement that highlights your level of experience, professional qualifications, key skills and the personality traits required for the specific role you are applying for. 
• The skills and competencies listed towards the top of your CV in your statement and under your most recent role need to match those specified in the advertised job description. This will help the recruiter to identify quickly that you meet the shortlisting criteria.
• Research the practice you are applying for, so you can highlight any relevant experience that you have on projects in the same sector and at a similar contract size.
• In addition to your academic qualifications include relevant professional qualifications with registration numbers, such as those for ARB and RIBA.

2.    How to organise your CV 

• Your CV should be a single A4 page – 2 pages maximum. Anything longer is unlikely to get read.
• The eye naturally goes to the top of the page, so ensure all the most information that qualifies you for a role is included in the first 5-6 lines.
• Organise the information in ascending order, so your most recent, relevant experience is at the top of the CV and the least recent, such as your academic qualifications, are at the bottom.
• Prioritise readability and clarity over making a splash with the graphics. Go for elegance and simplicity rather than creativity with a legible black font on a white background.-
• Make your résumé easy to navigate by including section headings to separate out previous job roles and university courses. Organise key information in bullets under each heading and highlight anything significant in bold.

3.   What to include in your résumé

• Your contact details need to be visible. Ensure phone number, email and home addresses are all correct and up to date.
• Include a personal statement at the top of your CV that is concise – no more than a couple of sentences long – and focused on your concrete experience and skills. Avoid including clichés and buzzwords.
• Tell the story of your career by listing your most experience first, beginning with your most recent positions. Include dates – both months and years. This should be followed by your education and qualifications: the specific course taken and the educational institution.
• Be discerning about what you include. You need to angle the contents towards the purpose of the role you are applying for and the skills, competencies and responsibilities listed in the job description. For instance, if the job that you are applying for has management responsibilities ensure that you mention where you have managed teams in past roles.
• Include core competencies for an architect’s role, such as a working knowledge of contract administration, planning and building regulations

• Provide a full list of soft skills as well as technical and software proficiencies. These can take in leadership, people management, project management, personal organisation, collaboration, winning work and written and visual communication – whether writing design statements, compiling client presentations or undertaking a practice’s social media.
• Be sure to highlight your successes in each role beyond bringing the project in on time and on budget. How might you have saved the practice money, problem solved an issue or used innovative materials? Illustrate how your actions directly benefited the business and use relevant data to back up your points. 

4.    Be selective and think strategically

• Refer back again to the advertised job description and ensure that your CV fully reflects the purpose of the role that you are applying for. Have you highlighted that you have all the skills and competencies and the experience to meet the role and level of responsibilities required?
• Be stringent and edit out anything that is not relevant to the current job application.
• Practices are seeking to recruit staff that will contribute to their practice’s culture, so highlight how you have taken on any additional responsibilities at work, championed an initiative or organised social events. Also include any external volunteering activities, whether it’s for the local community or with an architectural organisation, such as RIBA.
• List any further skills that you might have that may be beneficial in your employment, whether it is speaking a second language or you are a Mental Health First Aider.
• Include any recognition or awards that you have received for your work, since these are likely to enhance your qualifications and the perception of your skills.
• If there are recent gaps in your CV include a simple explanation, such as ‘6 months travelling in Australia’ or ‘carried out voluntary work while seeking employment’. This will anticipate any concerns that employers might have about unexplained gaps.

5.    Finalising your CV 

• If you have prepared the CV in Word, consider converting it into a PDF, which is fixed and user friendly across platforms and devices.
• Make sure the file size does not exceed 5MB. Large documents can get stuck behind email firewalls.
• Label the document with your full name and desired job role for legibility.
• Be careful to spell check and proofread your CV. Typos and errors could negatively influence your application.

Writing a CV is all about turning the tables and thinking about the information that you’re supplying from a potential employer’s perspective. In a single written document, you are effectively demonstrating that you are the perfect match for an advertised role. So often CVs provide the story that an individual wants to tell about themselves rather than delivering the intelligence that the recruiter requires. The best way of road testing your CV is to ask someone else to read it with recruitment experience, whether it is a peer or a mentor. Would it give them the information that they needed to recruit you for that particular job?

Download this free architectural CV template, as a starting point for formulating your résumé.