Writing your resumé

May 19, 2011 — 162 Comments

It’s that time of year again and the resumes from graduating college seniors are starting to crash our office door. What better time than now to have a little chat about them?

What this post isn’t going to be a list of how to write a resume – according to Google, the search “resume+books” returned 81,500,000 hits so you newbies should start there. What I want to talk about is the “what not to do’s” and the other nuances within resumes – the information you can plant between the lines to tell the reader something extra about you.

These are the categories that seem to show up in most resumes:

  • Contact information
  • Education
  • Objective
  • Professional Experience
  • Skills
  • Honors/ Awards
  • Personal Interests

At first blush, they all seem like reasonable areas of focus for one’s resume. I would, however, like to break down my pet peeves for each category.


Contact information

This is an important area on your resume – you want the job and people need to be able to contact you. Please, please please get a reasonable sounding email address! It might have been cool to have   mega.overlord@hotmail.com or fluffybunny@me.com when you signed up for it when you were 13 years old … but that’s not the image you should be putting out there. Go ahead and pony up for a free email account at Gmail (or almost any other for that matter) that is direct –  firstname.lastname@providor.com.   If you need to add a middle initial or an “01” somewhere in there, go ahead and do it. This will demonstrate to me that you have the most basic level of problem solving skills.



Keep it simple and straight forward but include the dates of attendance please. You don’t have to do this … but if you went back to school as a 40 or 50-something, and you are feeling a little insecure and you think leaving those dates off is going to make the difference between getting a call to come in or not – you don’t want to work there in the first place. Nothing wrong with taking a break and starting over.



Leave this section off if the best thing you can come up with is:

“To find meaningful employment in a design oriented firm”

You might as well say what this really means … “if this is an architectural firm, I would like to work for you” which is pretty much the objective of every person sending in a resume. This is an area where you can spend a few minutes taking advantage of that superior education you received and come up with a better objective that will convey a better image of yourself. Just off the top of my head I came up with this:

“To work in an environment that pushes the current limits of my abilities and allows me the opportunities to gain the respect of my peers.”

See? Isn’t mine a lot better? Both statements convey your desire to find employment but mine lets the reader know that you are willing to work hard, you will look for opportunities for advancement rather than waiting for them to be provided to you, and by earning the respect of your peers, you want to be better than the people around you. All in 15 more words … not bad if I do say so myself. (maybe I should save that one for myself)


Professional Experience

This is a hard section to fill in if you haven’t actually had any professional experience before. So what are you going to do? This is a tricky section because you want to show that you have done something other than breathe air, sponge off your parents, and go to school. Maybe a good place to start is to just call it “Experience” and look back at anything you’ve done that could contribute to your value as an employee. Depending on what that is, this could be a short list – and that’s okay. Please resist the temptation to fill this section out with every random job you might have had. I have packed bags in a grocer’s, cut lawns, worked as a projectionist in a movie theater, and on and on – lots of jobs – and none of them have ever graced my resume.

I should add that you can get away with a lot on an architectural resume – call it creative license – if it’s done consistently and thoroughly. If you fancy yourself as clever and want to convey that side of your personality, feel free to call your lawn mowing job as an urban horticultural maintenance facilitator” but be careful here. If it isn’t funny, that’s worse than leaving this area overly brief.

If you do have some experience you want listed here, please make sure that there aren’t gaps in your dates. Whenever I see a date gap I think – “2 years, hmmmmm, I wonder what they went to prison for?” Pretty sure I don’t want an ex B+E perp working here so let’s just avoid that situation all together and don’t put me in a position to judge you for that – because I will. That’s sort of the point of submitting a resume.



This is the section that almost always gives me the biggest chuckle and slap my forehead moments. Architecturally educated folks generally know a lot of software – feel free to list it out because it is definitely an asset. But please, and I am on my knees begging you, do not list generic software titles on here – whether to pad your list or to achieve some sort of symmetry. Everyone knows ‘Word’, ‘Excel’, and yes, ‘Internet Explorer’ – leave these off your list. If I see them on your resume I am either thinking that you think it’s important that I know you know the most widely known software on the planet, or you think I’m silly and need to tell me that you know the most widely known software on the planet. Either way, you lose. I would rather see “fluent in Klingon” listed as a skill other than “Word”. One makes me go “reaaallllyyyy” while the other one requires an “ughh” as I lower my head onto my keyboard while my hand instinctively reaches for the bottle of Irish Whiskey I keep in the office for such “special occasions”.


Honors and Awards

If you have them, great, if not – not the end of the world. Remove this category and move on. This is not the section to be clever and tell me that you received the award for throwing the ‘bitchin-ist party this side of the Red River” (I really received that one by the way). I’m in my 40’s now and my idea of a bitchin party involves going to bed early and catching up on either sleep or TV.



I, for one, am okay with this section of the resume. It might not be the most professional of sections and depending on where you are sending your resume, you might want to take it off and have two versions of your resume. This is the area where you can put all the baton-twirling, bear-wrestling, cheese-grilling activities that round you out as a human being. If you were to add “model train collector” on a resume that came to my office, one of the partners would be sure to ask you about it. It might not be much, but these days anything short of cat juggling that sets you apart is probably worth adding to your resume.

So there it is – if other people wish to add their two cents, I’m sure people would appreciate the additional input and guidance.

Bob AIA signature


Print Friendly

even better stuff from Life of an Architect

  • Pingback: Architecture Resume Examples No Experience | Great Architecture Fan()

  • Pingback: Dear Future Architects - You need to Hear This | Life of an Architect()

  • Debbie Gillard

    Hi Bob. My son is in the first year of an architecture degree, has put together a resume and is about to start calling contacts and making cold calls with the goal of getting a summer job in an Architecture firm. He is very motivated and determined . The question I am asking him is, “what role do you think you will play in an architecture firm after completing one year of the program?” He doesn’t really know, partly because he is willing to make any contribution, just to be in the environment. I think he should have some ideas in mind to discuss with potential employers. I am biased but he has very creative ideas, he is a good artist, he has some experience with software such as Solidworks, Google Sketchup, Photoshop, he has a year of studio, he has practical building/carpentry/woodworking experience,

  • Trishana Naidu

    Hi Bob,

    I am a recent Masters in Architecture graduate (finished a week ago).
    I was able to put my CV together quite quickly, due to the fact that many architectural firms in South Africa are closing for the holiday season. I have sent through my CV, but not my portfolio just yet, as it has not been completed.
    I am concerned that i should have waited and sent them together…i plan on sending an short portfolio through this coming week, but I’m not sure whether to wait for feedback regarding my CV first..
    Could what I’ve done hinder my chances of getting feedback?

  • Rakshita mathur

    I am a 4th year student and applied in many firms for 6 month internship. but there are very less firms who are intrested in replying on our applications. what should i do to get confermation.

  • Rachel

    Hi Bob,
    I graduated from Interior Design five years ago but had a tough time finding a job in the industry. Three years ago I went back to school to further my education, this time in architecture. While I had a few intern-type opportunities right after I graduated from interior design I had to move on to odd jobs. You said that it’s an issue on resumes to have large gaps between experience. I have design experience that I would like to list but they’re all fairly far apart due to a lack of opportunities. While back at school I’ve always held a job, but not in the design industry. How should I go about listing past experiences when applying for new opportunities with my new education? Thanks.

  • Emily

    Thank you for a very informative article. Do you think it is important for a straight-out-of-university architect to mention a year at an overseas university. The year of architecture at the foreign university was passed but the credits were not transferable. If so should it be in the education section?

    • Sure – why not? I spent a semester studying abroad and I put it on my resume under the education section. It certainly counts as life experience and if I saw it on someone’s resume, I would assume that they must have something going on if they were allowed to study abroad.

  • Alvaro

    Hello Bob,
    thank you very much for your tips but I need some more advise because getting a job is becaming a great challenge and even greater with each passing day.
    My first question is how could I call my degree which I did in Spain and the exactly translation is Technical Arquitect. It is a very common degree in Spain but not in UK. We are not Arquitects because the Spanish law only allow us to sign small projects like one floor houses or any building without residential use. Our duties are done in UK by Building Engineers, Comercial Managers, Project Managers and Quantity Surveyors but I am not.
    And my biggest doubt is how to refill the gaps. I came to England in 2012, few days after I have finished my master degree, without speaking English at all. I have been these three years working very hard in many random jobs and learning English in the meantime but you said I must resist the temptation.



  • Lisa

    Hello Bob,
    I am an architect and drawing teacher who has worked as a writer for an online website focused on architecture but it is the first time that I prepare my CV for offices. Do you think I should add a photograph or does it no matter at all? I have heard controversial opinions about that.
    Thanks for your website!

    • Are you talking about a photograph of yourself? If you are, I would say – don’t do it. I think it sends the wrong message (but maybe I am biased). The only reason to add anything to your resume is because it will help you get the job you want – and if adding a picture of yourself is going to help you get a job, I might question what sort of job it is.

  • Ere Harvey

    I am a first year architecture student in university and I do not have any work experience with architecture. Do you think this will affect my applications for internships in firms? Also, it seems firms hardly have the option for internships as there’s never any options for these applications on their sites. Is it too early to apply for interning? Should I wait till after my part 1 is completed?

    • 1. I don’t think as a 1st year that it’s a problem not having any work experience.
      2. It’s never too early to start looking.
      3. I wouldn’t worry about an intern option on a website – you couldn’t apply for any position at my office if that was a requirement. We don’t do online applications.

      Best of luck.

  • MauManto

    I am a young european architect right out of school and looking for my first job. After the master degree i travelled all over asia for 5 months, and i truly believe that was an experience that, making me a better person, can for sure have made me a better architect to be. Do you think i should mention that in my CV? And how should i put it down?

    • You should put it down – you could always list it in the job section, treat it as a learning experience just as you would a job.

  • Guest

    Bob, what advice do you have for resume or cover letter of someone who is currently employed but is seeking another position? I’m looking for another job right now while working for a company that doesn’t fit me well. Should I explain why I am looking for another firm in the cover letter? Mention what is lacking there that I’m hoping to get elsewhere? Or will this work against me and I should completely ignore it?
    Thanks for all the feedback you provide!

    • You should absolutely explain what you are currently doing and why you are looking for a change.

  • cw_f1

    Hi Bob,

    I an architect with a fair amount of experience. My current CV is quite colourful and graphical, but I think it looks more like a uni presentation than a professional CV. I want my CV to have some creativity in it without going too far like I have with my current one. What is an employer’s view on graphics/colours on a CV?

    • if you want a creative job, your CV should illustrate that.

  • Patricia

    Hello Bob,

    I am a master student in a 3.5 years March program so I did not have a bachelor in architecture. I was wondering if it is proper or totally unnecessary to put a small description of what was each semester studio class about. By the way, I just finished my 1st year.

    Thank you very much,

    • I don’t think that description should be on your resume, your portfolio would cover this sort of thing.

      • Patricia

        Thank you very much

  • P

    Hi Bob, I am an architect with a lot of experience. I took time off to look after my family and now I am having a hard time getting re-hired. What is your advice for my career gap and what would be the best way to describe it in the CV?

    • Well, I am of a mind that telling people exactly what happened is the best way to go. I certainly wouldn’t fault someone for the reason they took time off from work – particularly when it’s for something as admirable as taking care of your family. In my mind, the hurdle is skill set that might have diminished during your absence. Since I don’t know how much time you took off, or if the software people were using when you left versus your current attempt to return has changed, or if the market has reset your value to a level you are uncomfortable with – the challenge to getting rehired might be something else other than your time gap that you might have to deal with. Maybe – and I am guessing here – that if you were to explain how all the things I listed that have nothing to do with the time gap are what you should focus on in your CV.

      Best of luck – I hope you get rehired soon.

  • Pingback: Architects - Getting Your First Job | Life of an Architect()

  • S

    Hi Bob,
    This article is really helpful. Thanks a lot.
    I am having a problem while writing my resume. I really want your suggestion.
    I am working for six years now. And now I am applying for masters. For last one year I am staying in UAE, which is not my home country. Here I got a job but they couldn’t issue me a work permit for last one year. I am still working in a family visa here, which is not legal. So, should I show this experience in my cv while applying in UK Universities? I am really confused regarding this as I don’t know if showing this can be harmful to get a student visa in UK.

    • You are asking very specific question to which I have no experience. The default answer is to tell people what you have been doing and the benefit it has done for you through the process.

  • Ashley A.

    I know this post is several years old but hopefully you happen to check it every now and then. First off, a huge thank you for your help. Words can not express how thankful I am to come across sites like this and people like you who truly care and are tremendously helpful.
    My questions is regarding the ARE, would it be appropriate to list how many test we have passed, or that we can currently in the process of getting our license? It seems like something that firms might be interested in but I am not sure I where is an appropriate place to place this information or even if it is needed for a resume. Again, thank you for all our help!

  • Meghana Manjunath

    Hey Bob
    I’ll be applying for my internship in a few weeks so this was very informative! Thank you.

    I had a question. If you taught yourself a certain design software without attending any classes or certification courses, would you still be allowed to put it on a CV? Do potential employers need a completion certificate of some sort or do they take your word for it?
    I’ve learnt SketchUp, Photoshop and Revit through Youtube tutorials and help from my classmates, so I was wondering if I can include it in my resume.

  • Fernanda

    Hello Bob

    I am an architect with a lot of experience, I have been working for the past 25 years in the uk as freelance architect or with my own clients and I never apply for a job or wrote a CV, all my work came through word of mouth – This has now dried, I am 50 years old and I don’t have a clue of how to structure my CV to try to find employment- I can’t do by date as I repeatedly worked with various companies or for myself in the past 20 years…I am totally lost and if you could give me any advice I would depply appreciate
    By the way, I am from Brazil and have never convalidate my qualifications in the uk which make things even harder, Thanks

    • I would think that you would have a substantial list of project to place on your CV and as a result, I don’t think adding the dates would be an issue. If the work has been consistently created, you could add the time associated with the project rather than list the times you were out on your own or picking up work with other firms.Make it more about the work and less about the firms where you worked.

      Best of luck.

      • fernanda

        Thank you for your prompt response- This is very useful and make a lot of sense – I appreciate it, all the best and congrats for your incredible website

  • Zahid Meh

    Hello bob,
    I’m going for internship soon, but the firm that I’m requesting for require me to submit online portfolio. So where should I put the link to my portfolio, I mean which section or part in CV?
    By the way, thank you so much for the info 🙂

    • I would place the link information up at the top with the rest of your contact information. I would also place it again towards the bottom – somewhere adjacent to where you might put references.

  • Kat

    Is this too honest?

    I know that unpaid interns
    can be more trouble than they’re worth. You probably have all of your
    day-to-day tasks under control. I would honestly be happy to just get you
    coffee and look over your shoulder. I want to know what being an architect
    entails before getting a masters and trying to be one. If I can help you out,
    great! I promise to do my very best at learning whatever skills I can to help
    you out.

    • Kat

      For an unpaid internship

      • no – it is not too honest. I think you could even be a bit more direct about it and leave the first 3 sentences off.

  • Hi Bob,

    I am in a dilemma. I partaken in some extracurricular activities that are related with Architecture and generally the construction industry and I was in a dilemma to either including a separate section under ‘Honors & Awards’ or include them under ‘Education’ since I have partaken in these activities through my university degree.

    Any advise you could give?

    Thank you.

    • How about “Extra-curricular Activities”

  • mahyar mostafavy

    Hi Bob
    this question might be silly but dose font matter in the resume? you know how architect want to show their creativity and sometimes they show it with their different font in the resume. i was wondering if this is a good idea or a bad idea?

    • It matters in so much as it says something about you but there isn’t a “don’t ever use “___”

  • Natalia

    Hello Bob thank you so much for this information. I´m about to write my CV to apply for a job in a real estate development company and i´m really focus in giving them the right information. Beside being an architect, i´m a professional dancer, and i know they wouldn´t really care about that but i have a lot of professional experience in that field and gained a lot of charismatic skills through this years… knowing all of that experience has nothing to do with Architecture… how would you say is the best way to letting them know that without writing “dancer” in my Professional Experience part? Hope you can help me.

    • without making things to complicated (or job specific), I tend to take the approach that you decide to either own something or not. This means you either add the professional dancing to your resume (which in my office would create some conversation) or you leave it off entirely. Sometimes, this could create the gap in your timeline that I mentioned that I wasn’t a big fan of seeing … which is why I would tell you to put it on your resume. It’s part of who you are and as you said in your comment, it has shaped who you have become.

      Good luck.

      • Natalia

        Wow i didnt expect such a fast answer, Ok Bob i´ll do that!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH AGAIN! Huge hug from Costa Rica 😉

  • Pingback: More Resume Tips for Interns from Dallas Architect |HPD Architecture | Dallas Architects, Interior Designers()

  • ISHA

    hey Bob- what should i write in the experience section?as me a fresher. I want to write resume for my internship in an architectural firm.

    • I kind of covered that in the “Professional Experience” section …

      If you literally haven’t done anything, this section is blank. Otherwise, list what you’ve been doing, just try and reference it back to some sort of growth skill, i.e. if you’ve been bagging groceries, you can list that job and describe it “Client Relationship/ Spatial Packaging Quality Control” (at least, that’s something I would have done … you have to be your own person)

  • stacy

    Bob – In the “experience” section, you mentioned that it was kind of a red flag if you have a gap in your dates. After 6 years of professional experience, I was laid off due to the economy. The following year and a half was spent utilizing and expanding my design and construction skillsets to physically gut and renovate a historic house. On my resume, how would you suggest I handle this time period? Your insight would be greatly appreciated!

    • with some humor. List it on your resume and make it a talking point. Architects now that a lot of folks went without work so this is really about filling in the gap. In your case, you did some construction work, manage highly intelligent but woefully incapable physical labor (that would be you) …

      See what I’m saying here?

  • LJ_1986

    Hi Bob,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your witty and informative post. I am currently working on my license and am employed at an architectural firm for almost 3 years. I would like to eventually re-locate to a larger firm (current firm size is 4) and broaden my horizons, so to speak. How do you react to resumes you’ve received that are outside of your city/ state? Do you immediately rule that candidate out or do you at least review his/hers resume? Some job posts request that the position be locally filled, if one is willing to re-locate on one’s own dime, would it be criminal to state a friend/family’s address? I appreciate any input you may bestow upon me. Thank you in advance!

    • I don’t see it as a problem, but considering the amount of local talent available, some firms might think that you are looking for money to relocate or fund your move – an expense they wouldn’t have it they simply hired locally. If you know you want to move to an area but are waiting until you have a job in place before you move, I would add that information to your cover letter.

  • Geoffrey Cavalier

    Hello Bob,

    You said that you personally enjoy having an “Interest” section on the resume. I too enjoy the idea of seeing a more personal side to this person that so far is limited to a sheet of paper that just list labels describing their self, but I looked up some other people’s opinions on this section and a number of people said it was not necessary, and others even said it was a waste of time and no one cares. So is this just an architecture thing? Is it a good idea to include, or should I play it safe and leave it off?

    Thank you very much for your time.

    • the world of architects and architecture is different, we march to the beat of our own drum and an individuals personality figures in to the type of architect they are – it’s important information from where I sit (which is at the head of the table)

  • Olivia

    Hi Bob
    You’re post is awesome and really helped me to understand what to include in my resume. I’m currently in year 10 and will be doing work experience for a week. I was planning on creating my resume and a portfolio of architects/architecture and interior designs, making multiple copies and handing in hard copies whilst also emailing architect and interior design firms in the Brisbane/ Sunshine Coast region. Do you think this is appropriate? And would you have any other suggestions that would help to gain work experience from professional architects with the possibility of getting a job there?

    Thanks so much Bob!

    • it sounds a bit unnecessary – I rarely hire someone off the strength of a resume, more times than not, the person is recommended to us by someone we know or we have met the individual at some function or we’ve worked with them in some public service (AIA) capacity. I think people underestimate the “who you know” angle far too often.

  • Hayley

    Hello! Thank you so much for this informative post. It’s really helpful. I just had a few questions that need clarifying. 1. Under ‘Personal Experience’ what did you mean by “gaps in your dates”? What if I only worked somewhere part-time let’s say in my first year of university and then my third year of university?
    Also, how would you demonstrate that you have technical proficiency without listing all the basic software that we all learn in grade school to your potential employer?

    Thanks for your help!!

    • Gaps in your timeline while you are in school don’t really matter – I was speaking more about gaps that happen in your professional post-educational timeline.

      Listing software isn’t a bad thing, just don’t list the ones that everyone in the world knows. Knowing how to use “Word” isn’t a plus but not knowing it is definitely a minus. The software you want to list would be specific to the practice of architecture (drafting + rendering software)