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How to write your CV

Published on: 10 Dec 2018

Take the utmost care over your CV – this is your main chance to convince the reader to give you an interview and with it, the opportunity to present your portfolio.

Recruiters don’t have the time to read a lengthy CV so keep it concise (one-to-two pages) and easy to navigate. If you have a long employment history, it isn’t necessary to include every job or details of long ago GCSE grades. Nor, for more recent graduates, do practices want to know about irrelevant work experience such as bartending. They do however need to know at a glance if you are Part 1, Part 2 or fully qualified, where and when you studied, your software skills, and your most recent employment.

‘I don’t need to know every job,’ says Ann Lakshmanan, director of Shepheard Epstein Hunter. ‘I really prefer to have an easy digest – just the latest ones and then maybe a summary of other experience at major practices. It’s also useful if applicants summarise particular roles on two or three recent projects giving details of RIBA stages and project value.’

According to Mike Lawless, director of Brighton-based LA Architects, simplicity and brevity are the best approaches so that the reader can easily access the information in the limited time they have for each CV.

‘We normally get about 30-40 CVs a day when we’re recruiting, so we only have about 15 seconds in the first scan to decide if we’ll interview. Normally, we only get halfway down the first page. We want to know who they are, where they’ve been and broadly what experience and skill base they have.’

If your CV has large gaps or a very short-lived most recent job, offer explanations rather than leaving questions unanswered, advises Erika Rudinska, human resources manager and associate of Perkins + Will. She also advises applicants not to overstate their software capabilities.

‘We do test the Revit software knowledge at the interview stage hence it’s important to state the level of proficiency in the CV,’ she says.

As with the covering letter, make sure there are no mistakes. While a sloppily written phrase or the odd spelling mistake might not rule you out altogether, it certainly won’t do you any favours.

Remember that while recruiters will be primarily interested in the content of the CV, they are also judging format and presentation: ‘Make it beautiful,’ advises Mike Lawless.

Practices expect CVs to be accompanied with extracts from portfolios, but make sure that if these are sent electronically, the files are not too large. If they are, there’s the risk the recruiter won’t have time to wait for them to download. And think carefully about what you include - drawings with another person’s name on them, for example, are a definite no-no, unless accompanied by a plausible explanation, according to Simon Cottingham, director of London-based MEPK Architects.

Above all, aim for clarity.

‘I like to see the CV set out chronologically with a sentence or two on each job or experience and with references to the specific work they carried out,’ says Mark Doohan, founder of London and Bedford practice Benchmark Architects. ‘I want to see five-to-ten drawings that give a strong impression of ability and knowledge. Candidates will get an interview opportunity if everything on paper already says ‘you are capable’.’

CV Checklist

-Keep it concise (1-2 sides of A4)
-Make it easy to navigate
-Only include relevant work and qualifications
-Double-check spelling and grammar
-Take care over the presentation
-Include extracts from your portfolio
-Be honest