Writing your first CV for Part 1 year out architecture jobs
If you are about to complete your undergraduate degree in architecture and find your first job as a Part 1 Architectural Assistant, how can you make your application stand out? You might be feeling the odds are stacked against you. You have little relevant work experience and you’re competing for much sought-after roles against lots of other talented students. It’s all in the CV. This is the first touch point that you have with a practice. Writing a successful résumé is far from a cinch. But with time, thought and focus, you can put together a clear and convincing document. Make it easier for yourself by following these 5 simple guidelines for creating the perfect CV:
1. Get your presentation/CV template right
Your CV provides the crucial first impression. However, it must pass the one-minute test: the approximate amount of time that an HR manager or practice director has available to browse each résumé. This means that it should be formatted for speed reading – to be clear and accessible and for all the important information to be right at the top. CVs with fussy fonts, unnecessary graphics and elaborate formats will prove a distraction for the recruiter, hindering them from locating the key information that they require about you as a candidate. The CV should be concise – ideally a one-pager – and only include text. A classic, elegant font will communicate confidence and competence. There are lots of templates and generic guidance out there, but RIBA Jobs’ free downloadable architectural CV template fulfils these criteria. It is also specific to your career stage and the architecture profession. You just need to fill it in, so it is relevant to you and the role you are applying for.
2. Ensure you know what is required from a Part 1 role
Highlighting what you have to offer for the job you are applying for is vital. This means matching your existing skills and knowledge to the role of a Part 1 student working in an office in your year out. You can get ahead by familiarising yourself with advertisements and job descriptions for architectural assistants on RIBA Jobs. You need to mention relevant technical design skills, such as proficiency in software and design packages, but also manual drafting and physical modelmaking. Practices will also be seeking soft skills, such as verbal and written communication, good organisation, independent working and delivering to agreed deadlines. While you may prepare a general all-purpose CV that can be adapted, try to personalise it to the practice you are applying to, as well as 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?
3. Composing a pithy personal statement
This is your elevator pitch for the role, highlighting why you are right for the job – spelling out your motivations, skills and talent. Your statement should be conspicuously placed at the top of your CV. Limited to two or three sentences, the language should be fresh, engaging and true to you as an individual. Avoid generic statements and clichés.
4. Writing the main part 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 personal statement followed by your university education.
Presentation of key personal information needs to be prominent. Don’t forget to include your name in full, email address and mobile number. A photo is not necessary.
- Education: This is likely to be the most 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.
- 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 appropriate skills such as hand drawing, graphics or model-making.
- 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. List the software used and the length of time you worked on the drawing. Otherwise, detail any paid and voluntary work that you have done and be clear about the skills you have learned.
- Other skills: Do you speak foreign languages, have you done a first aid course, do you have a driving licence? These can all be an asset for your application.
- 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, club or a sports team.
- 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, whether its different cultures, the arts, new technologies or the built environment. • References. Offer references or list them if you still have space on your CV. If possible, these should include your manager at your most recent employer. 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 community leader or a professional friend of your parents. Be sure to briefly note the context of the reference and warn the individuals that they may be approached.
5. The final check
Spelling errors can mark your CV down and discount you from the application process. So avoid falling at the first hurdle by checking your grammar and spelling, especially the name of the practice that you are applying to. Ask someone else to read your CV and seek their feedback on its contents as well as any mistakes 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.
This is a revised and edited version of an article originally written by Kate Marks.
This free downloadable architectural CV template has been especially designed and formatted for Part 1 positions.