Writing your first CV for Part 1 year out architecture jobs
You are about to complete your bachelor’s degree at architecture school and the next step is to find a Part 1 Architectural Assistant Job. But everyone on your course is in the same position. How can you stand out from the crowd with your architecture CV?
Don’t assume it's going to be a doddle. It will take time, thought and focus to get it right. You can make it easier for yourself by following some simple guidelines on creating the perfect CV or resume.
A practice is likely to receive its first impression of you from your CV. Bear in mind that it may be scanned in a minute or two by a busy director or HR manager.
There are lots of templates and generic guidance out there, but our free architectural CV template ready to download is specific to the architecture profession and your career stage. You just need to fill it in so it is relevant to you and the role you are applying for.
Mark Kemp, director of Place Architects in Launceston, Cornwall, advises candidates to keep things simple – avoid web-based CVs with complex images and format yours with the recruiter in mind. ‘Compose the CV so that it is easily accessible for the prospective employer to “preview” some basic information at first sight,’ he says. ‘You may discourage someone if they have to download, search or head for another browser to access information about you.’
General guidelines for the perfect CV
Focus on what is relevant to your job search. Why did you chose your university and want to study architecture in the first place? What attracted you to specific design studios or units? You need to highlight your enthusiasm for the subject, but also your particular preoccupations and interests – whether they are technical, design focused or more socially motivated.
You may not have a lot of architecture-related work experience, but what about previous jobs, perhaps in catering or in retail? Highlight any transferable skills this experience may have given you. It might, for example, show that you have a strong work ethic, that you work well with others, interact positively with clients, are reliable and can take direction. Obviously, if you have been lucky enough to work as an intern in a practice or another similar environment, you need to say so.
It’s not just paid work that is relevant. Voluntary work for your local community, for instance, demonstrates initiative. Extracurricular activities, such as membership of sports teams, clubs or university societies, should also be listed. These indicate your ability to interact with others and pursue your interests. They also suggest an ability for planning, patience, teamwork and strategic thinking.
What skills can you confidently say you offer? Do you have experience with design-related software, project management tools, creating presentations or report writing?
It is important to include your qualifications and any academic awards you have gained.
Match your profile to the job role
Highlighting what you have to offer for the specific role you are applying for is vital. Skills and knowledge need to match the scope of your role as a Part 1 student working in an office in your year out. You can get ahead if you familarise yourself with what might be expected of you in practice. ‘Look at the roles listed in the PEDR [Professional Education and Development Record] tables showing what activities you will be likely to undertake,’ says Mark Kemp. ‘Consider your skills in relation to these. Remember as a Part 1 student your contribution to the day-to-day practice will be narrowly focused.’
A good résumé can indicate a positive attitude and soft skills as well as technical know-how. Candidates who demonstrate emotional intelligence are highly sought after says Nicky Watson, director of JDDK Architects in Newcastle upon Tyne. ‘As well as the experience and skills developed during non-academic activities, being able to analyse your personality and explain how all these will bring benefits to the role not only shows maturity but also gives the employer an idea of how you will fit in within their particular company,’ she says.
Know your prospective employer
Some knowledge of the practice you are applying to is key to success, says Watson. ‘A student who has researched our practice, our projects and our ethos, shows genuine interest in us and is able to demonstrate how their experience and interests are relevant to our work will always make a good first impression.’
You can do this by looking at social media or the company’s website, but don’t be shy about using your personal network. Do you know anyone who used to work there or still does? Ask them about their experiences. You can then tailor your application to show relevance and genuine interest in the type of work and projects they carry out, and use your cover letter to expand on this.
While you may prepare a general all-purpose CV, try to personalise it to the practice you are applying to, the actual role, job description and personal specification that is available. For example, consider what sector the practice works in – residential, workplace, healthcare, housing, commercial or cross sector? Are they a small, medium or large practice? Do they communicate a particular ethos or values on their website?
Writing the contents of your CV
The order in which you list information is important. The essential bits need to be at the top of the first page to catch the eye of the reader. For experienced job seekers, this will be current and recent roles; when applying for your first position it should be a concise first statement and your university education.
Presentation of personal information needs to be professional, so provide your name in full and avoid including a jokey email address. A photo is not necessary.
1. Personal statement. This is not strictly necessary. If it is simple and informative, however, it will serve a purpose. Limit it to two or three sentences, highlighting your present situation and what role you are seeking. Convey your individual skills and talents, avoiding generic statements and clichés.
2. Education. This is likely to be the most directly relevant aspect of your application at this point in your career. State your university or academic institution, your subject and any grades you already have, including A levels. State whether you have registered for your PEDR and at which university you will study your Part 2 if you know.
3. Technical skills. Set down your particular skills and proficiency, particularly in software packages, such as Revit, Photoshop, InDesign or Rhino. Be frank about your level of expertise because this may be tested as part of the interview process. You can illustrate this by showing examples of your drawings in the relevant software in your portfolio. Be sure to include other relevant skills such as hand drawing or model-making.
4. Work experience. If you have fulfilled an internship in an architecture practice or other design or construction-related environment, push this higher up the order of your CV. Here again, your portfolio can show any drawings you have produced – not those of others or the practice in general. List the software used and the length of time you worked on the drawing. Otherwise, list any paid and voluntary work and be clear about the skills you have learned.
5. Other skills. Do you speak foreign languages, have you done a first aid course, do you have a driving licence? Such things can add significantly to your application.
6. Extracurricular roles or positions of responsibility. Include any roles at school or university that were not specific to your study, whether you were a member of a society or a sports team at university.
7. Hobbies and interests. Ideally, these should show some relevance to architecture or design – photography or life drawing for example. But note down anything that shows you take an interest in the world around you, different cultures, creativity or the built environment.
8. References. Offer references or list them if you still have space on your CV. If possible, these should cover your most recent employer and should be your immediate manager as opposed to a colleague. If you are not able to provide a work-related reference, then use academic ones – your tutor, for example. If need be, include a personal reference - ideally, this would be someone who has known you for five years or more, perhaps a religious leader or a professional friend of your parents. Be sure to note briefly the context of the reference and warn the individuals that they may be approached.
If there are recent gaps in your résumé, give a simple explanation such as 'six months travelling in Eastern Europe' or 'carried out voluntary work while seeking employment'. Add a brief statement about what you learned during that time. Unexplained gaps may put off the person reading your CV.
Above all, be honest. You are likely to have to elaborate on your CV during an interview, so you will be answerable for any inaccuracies or overstatements of the truth.
Presentation of your CV
Keep the font simple, clean and readable: black text on a white background. Your portfolio will show your creativity. A good architecture CV is one that is easily read. As Mark Kemp points out, any visuals included in it must ‘not be at the expense of the information behind it’.
If you choose to use graphics to demonstrate your creativity, keep the words clear and legible. Explain any symbols used.
Be aware that the employer will read the drawings as opposed to the text so try to show the drawings at an appropriate scale, even if that means breaking up a presentation piece.
Be consistent in formatting, particularly if using capitalisation or italics. Keep it succinct and focused – bullet points should be short. Ideally, your CV should be no longer than two A4 pages.
The final check
Check your grammar and spelling, especially the name of the practice to which you are applying. Spelling mistakes can mean applicants fall at the first hurdle. Ask someone else to read your CV and seek their feedback on its contents as well as any errors or inaccuracies.
If you have prepared the CV in Word, consider converting it to a PDF, which is fixed and user friendly across platforms and devices.
Track different versions of your CV and your applications
Once you have completed your CV for a particular job application, make a note of who you submitted it to and when to help you follow them up. ‘Have a list of the firms you wrote to easily to hand in case they call you,’ says Mark Kemp. ‘Record basic information about each one such as name, location, sector so you can respond professionally.’
Now all you have to do is wait for that call.
Click here to download a free sample CV.
With thanks to Mark Kemp and Nicky Watson for their tips and advice.