Writing your resumé

Bob Borson —  May 19, 2011 — 120 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.

.

Education

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.

.

Objective

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.

.

Skills

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.

.

Interests

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

.

  • PJ

    Hi Bob,

    Fabulous information! Thank you. What advice do you have for one who chose to resign for family and is now, 11 1/2 years later, anxious to return to the field? There are several job listings that I would be perfect for if time had not elaspsed, however with reality as it is, I need to update my skills, especially with software. I am formerly a Project Manager in the design and production of high-end apartments and senior living with 15 years post-graduate experience. I would like to pursue similar positions, but after such an absence I am definitely not qualified to dive right in. How do I approach my goal, especially if time is important due to unexpected financial hardships?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      There is only one obvious response from my standpoint – you need to update your skills to the marketplace. If this means that you need to take a Revit class to be competitive then you should do it. As an employer, I would look differently at someone in your position who take charge of their solution rather than expecting me to do it for them. Even if you’re not going to be in the system drafting as a PM, knowing how to get in the program matters and it shows that you have an understanding of the marketplace and your position in that market – that observation skill would translate to other things.

      Best of luck

  • paola

    Hi, I’m an italian architect and I wrote my UK resume…but how I know if it’s ok?!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Have someone else proofread it. It should still represent you but sometimes we don’t see what is obvious to everyone else.

  • aussie

    Hi Bob,
    Fantastic post – informative and entertaining, thanks.
    Question: I’m a M.Arch graduate with a couple years experience and have moved to NYC from Australia. I’m wondering what your opinion is of the unannounced visit to firms to ask to meet the director and drop off a folio instead of/as well as the email delivery? Does the visit demonstrate initiative/courage or is it generally just annoying to the firm and a waste of time?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I find the unannounced visit a pain and generally don’t recommend it. I typically try and fill my days up and rarely do I have a unplanned block of time to make an unannounced visit worth the visitors effort. I would call, get the name of the person who you should address your resume/portfolio to – send it, and then follow up with a phone call. If they don’t have something for you, ask if they have a recommendation on which firms they think you should be talking to.

      Good luck

  • archistudent

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for the post – great stuff!
    Question: I’m a third-year undergrad working on my resume for upcoming job apps. However, I don’t have a lot of previous professional experience or many architecture-related extracurriculars where I was able to develop marketable skills. In fact, most of the work I’ve done is only for class and studio projects. Would it be acceptable to include a “Relevant Work” section listing some of the courses I’ve taken and a description of architectural work done in those classes?

    Thanks!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Of course! Part of the skill and interest that lies within a properly crafted resume is how you present the material you have – it’s not all tailor-made for resume but finding a clever way to tell people who you are, what you do, and your value as a contributing employee are what separate the great resumes from the mediocre resumes.

      Good luck!

  • cpan

    Hi Bob,

    I have a question about experience descriptions.
    I’m seeing a trend where people list the projects that they have worked on in a particular office
    (“Store A, New York, NY – 3000 SF – renovation, under construction
    House B – 5000 SF – new construction, completed 2012″)
    rather than typical descriptions (“i was responsible for this, that, etc.”)

    Do you think this is effective? Part of it makes sense to me, but do you think possible employers want to read more about what you’ve done?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Since I see it done that way so often, I am familiar with it being described that way – a project with the person role and duties explained in context to the project.

      Showing information in this manner will fill out your resume very quickly, help paint a picture as to the responsibility level you’ve attained at previous places of employment, and help the person reviewing your resume align the abilities they need from you with the roles and tasks you have taken on in other offices.

  • Itay Joshua

    Hi Bob, great post!
    I graduated a year ago with a B.Design and recently got my BCIN number. (In Canada its a certification number that allows you to sign off on residential drawings). I was wondering how I include this on my resume. Do I add a new section titled “certification”? or do I add “BCIN” next to my name on the top?
    Any advice would be appreciated, thanks!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I see both – people might write a section that includes professional organizations they are affiliated with and in this are, registrations are shown. I’ve also seen where people would add this data to their name, i.e. Bob Borson AIA, LEEP AP, etc.

      Either and both are fine in my opinion.

  • Kelly Paris

    Bob, I’m trying to update my resume now. I’m in a master’s degree program right now and I’ve had experience working in engineer’s offices, but I have not worked in 4 years (and relied upon my friend to support me, don’t worry he was willing to do, God bless him) and all that time I have not found an architectural position. I’ve had interviews, minimal as they were but I’m sure mostly they come from the recession. You mentioned that time gaps can be an issue. Do you think the 4 year absence of work could be a detriment to me finding work now?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Hi Kelly –
      I don’t think a gap that covers the worst recession our industry has seen in 40 years will be a bad thing. If it were me, I would probably find some clever and amusing way to account for this time (like my job was “Gravitational Couch Subject Engineer” and my employer was “Recession” … but something better than that, I did that just off the top of my head.

      Good luck

      • Kelly Paris

        One more thing…On my last two interviews, they’ve asked for references. These were hard to find, especially since the last four years people have gone to other jobs elsewhere. However, someone told me that nowadays, it’s best to direct possible employers to human resources from previous jobs because they will have a record of employee evaluations and such. Maybe listing 3 different people is outdated? I called one employer to check on the status of the opening I was hoping to be hired for. He said he was having a hard time getting a hold of my references, even though those references said they’d oblige. What is your suggestion?

        • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

          People probably have strong and varied opinions about references. I used to put “References available upon request” when I put together my resumes. Most corporate HR departments will only confirm employment and start/stop dates – they won’t go into past review documentation. At a certain level, references don’t really have any value to them because if those people had something negative to say about you, they probably wouldn’t be on your list.

          I would recommend that rather than references, get a recommendation letter from past employers and simply include it (or provide it) when the time comes.

  • Mojdeh Mobasheri-Puckett

    Dear Bob – thank you for your site and this page in particular.

    There’s a link from Adrem in a comment below “How to: write a design CV that works” in which their 4th bullet point states “Do not add a photo of yourself”. I do have a photo of myself – a face shot, not posed but cropped from a family photo. I started including a photo in 2009 just after the banking crash when the development company I worked for folded. The job market was limited, my name is very difficult to place and decidedly non-English/European. Though no one/firm will admit to or
    even think that they are influenced positively or negatively by the ethnicity of a candidate the reality is that a person’s name does stereotype them. So, though on more than one level I hated to do it, I added a photo to my CV. What is your opinion of this?
    Thank you in advance.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      That is a great question! Normally, I would have told you to leave the photo off your CV. If you think your name is a hurdle that you are having to contend with, do you think the person that wouldn’t hire you based on your name would change their minds after seeing your picture? I’m not sure if they were prejudiced that a picture would change anything.

      • Mojdeh Mobasheri-Puckett

        Thank you for your response. Firstly, I should say that on the whole architects/designers/artists seem to be much less prejudiced than the world at large. I agree with you, I don’t for one second think that a prejudiced person would hire me if they saw my picture. That being said, there are many that are not prejudiced but are, nevertheless, subconsciously influenced in a negative way by an applicant’s unusual name. It is for this reason I feel a photo would serve as, say, just a nudge in the right direction … and then hopefully my experience and portfolio will do the rest.

  • D. Scott

    Thank you Bob for your views. They are helpful for even a laid-off senior level Architect such as me. I’m curious if you could comment on the length and content of a resume for someone with extensive experience on large complex projects. I’ve worked my way up from a Project Architect on challenging projects to a Project Manager to a lesser degree and eventually was the Principal of my own firm for nine years before the economy kicked my butt. I then became a Project Architect at a firm again before the economy kicked that firm’s butt too.
    I’ve got than 25 years experience in the very difficult Detroit area market. I’m concerned that firms are looking for younger people that they can pay less. I was told by a non-architectural resume adviser to lengthen my resume to three pages, then later I was advised by an Architect who reviews resumes regularly to make it shorter, and lastly I was told at my most recent interview that I was “over qualified”.
    It seems like I need to find an exact “sweet spot” demonstrating my qualifications yet appear as if I am merely a worker bee. Uugh….please help. Thanks in advance.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Yikes – of all the emails and comments I get, hearing from older architects who have been caught up in the recession is the most difficult to process. Finding the sweet spot is hard – the description is appropriate because it’s hard to find out exactly what to do.

      My 2 cents might not make you feel any better, but with your experience level, I would think that your next job would come from who you know, not your actual resume. If you are sending your resume out into other parts of the market or different cities, I would still recommend that you keep your resume short and have a secondary packet available should you get an interview or they ask for elaboration on the shorter version you sent out. A short resume is harder to prepare because it forces you to focus only on the absolutely necessary – which actually makes it a good process to work through. Instead of telling anybody everything, the short resume forces you to focus on someone specific and highlight specific skills and abilities.

      Best of luck.

  • b_kraken

    You suggested removing generic software such as browsers, Word, and OS in “Skills” section and I agree. But these days most students leaving school have learned and used multiple design software [ ie. Revit, AutoCad, Rhino, Sketchup, Creative Suite] standards for our industry. Seeing these listed over and over again, are you compelled to reach for the bottle?

    Would you much rather see a list of add-ons or plugins, such as Grasshopper for Rhino? I feel this would spark more interest in someone. As I would want to know more about why someone took the time and initiative to learn and use it on a project and how they see adding this to their Arc-belt may help their career.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      You ask a fair question but I might not be the best one to answer it for you. I think listing software titles that are germane and specific to the job you actually want to perform are great. If I saw a resume with Grasshopper and Rhino on them, I wouldn’t really know what that means in a specific manner. I know “what” they are, but my small office of 11 doesn’t have a need for them specifically. I would worry that if you craft your resume in such a manner that you look like a boss when it coms to rendering, you are going to get a job as a renderer. If that’s what you want, then fantastic … if not, make your point without being excessive.

  • arc

    How do you feel about links to online portfolios?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I think they are great – just don’t mix your media. If I am reading your resume and you have a link that would require me to go to my computer and type in your address, I can almost guarantee you that this will never happen. Keep everything intrinsic and allow the link to be the support to your resume should I want to see more. If you don’t provide me with options, I will probably take the path of least resistance.

  • Guest

    This is helpful. One other thing I would advise

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      and what would that be?

  • architechnophilia

    damn I guess it is time to change my email address

  • Ray

    Hello Bob,

    Thank you for the great Tips! I have a question that has been bothering me, Where would someone include positions such as AIAS President/Secretary, or any other type of Student Chapter/Group. In my case I am the Vice President of the USGBC Student Group at my school, and I have always found it difficult to find the appropriate category for this type of “Experience”. Also, about the Experience Time Gap, would being in school be a sufficient reason for have a 4 year gap?

    Thank you in Advance!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Hopefully the person reviewing your resume could piece together that gaps in work experience with the years you were in school.

      Many students or young people have an “Activities” section in their resume that is sort of a catch-all. It’s the area that fleshes out your resume when you were in school and can’t populate the experience category in a meaningful manner.

  • Lulu

    Hi Bob,it’s good to see some specific tips for architectural students, I always feel helpless and want to yell “is there anyone who can tell me how to do it!”, now you r here. Do you have any advices about how to write a covering letter?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Hi Lulu,

      The short version is to keep it short. There are a million examples on line that you can use as a guide to getting started. My experience is that if I don’t know you, you had better get to the point quick, most of the time I tend to skim them for anything interesting (like they know me or someone I know) and if I don’t find anything in that first pass, I move on to the resume.

      • Lulu

        Hi Bob,you r quite honest! and sleep late!thanks,hope everything is all right in your new firm

      • Lulu

        I’m wrong! I thought you are in UK too,it’s 8am here

  • anthony

    hi arch.Bob, im anthony im an architect here in the philippines i like ur tag in writing a resume for an architect.

  • MilkandBread

    Thank you!

    You are hilarious. What about the “personal attributes” bit? Should this one be left out? As a generic example: “Good attention to detail, good listening skills” etc.. ?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I am not a big fan of those sorts of lists because I would expect you to either a) be good at those things or b) lie about it if you weren’t

  • Safa

    This was very interesting.. made me rethink how i am writing my resume…
    but I was wondering.. I will be sending my resumes around soon via emails to different firms.. but being a student still hoping to get a job.. What should I write in the email that would make them consider looking at my CV?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      It should be specific to the person or firm where you are sending it and It should also be short – like 5 to 7 sentences short.

  • OLI

    Bob I am currently an architecture student and my main concern is that I do not have any architecture related experience. What should I list in that category? I’ve worked as a cashier, customer service rep, Photo technician, etc. Please help, any feed back will be appreciated. Thank You.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      My thoughts are expressed in the “Professional Experience” section of this post. Either leave them of since they don’t contribute to your architectural skill set or list them and describe how they make you a better service provider in some capacity.

  • Murceh

    I am a foreign educated architect with a 5 yr gap in employment because of my status in US plus a kid, how should I present my résumé, should I leave out the dates or explain my situation in the cover letter, I can’t figure out , what do you recommend, your article is very helpful. Thank you for all this help, but my situation is unique and I can’t find answers to my questions. Plus do u think an email like architect_mt is not ok, should I make another one ?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I like people to use their names in their email. As far as the 5 year gap, it’s really a personal call but I would account for it somewhere, you actual resume or the cover letter – just not both.

  • milly

    Bob, do you think the more experience you have in the field, the less creative the resume should look? Should it be more proffesional/ business like? Or if I’m going for a design position can it stand out by adding thumb prints/images. Thanks!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I think the resume should reflect the position you are seeking. The skill in designing it is determining where to draw the proverbial line. If you want a design position, I think your resume should reflect that.

  • alistair

    Where do you stand with images and samples of work? I like to see a few but do not send me a protfolio via email

    and if sending elecrtronically, make it a PDF that prints properly to paper, not a word doc, not an indesign file, not square, not upside down.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I agree with everything you’ve stated. I like see some examples of the work – particularly if you haven’t “designed” your resume.

  • Lynn

    Great post–made me laugh. I am a co-op coordinator at Northeastern University for architecture students. I teach a class in freshmen year on professional development and we go over how to write a resume in architecture. I agree with everything you state here, as I use most of these tips in my class. I actually received a resume from a student a few years back with an e-mail of roachclip69@hotmail.com. Needless to say, I cover the importance of a professional e-mail on a resume.
    As far as skills, I do have my students list manual and digital, and sometimes even categorizing skills into Architectural & Modeling vs. Documeniation and Presentation. Obviously I think it is important for architects to highlight this section, but I agree Internet Explorer can be left off!
    You also didn’t discuss here the presentation of the actual resume. I tell students to get away from Word, and instead use a design oriented program to create their resume in. Hopefully an architecture student resume won’t look like a business student one. I do think the resume should be approached like a design problem. Text, white space, and graphic ability does matter here!
    Anyway, all good stuff.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Lynn,
      Great stuff – designing your resume is something that supports the sort of job you might be seeking – particularly if you fancy yourself a designer.

      Thanks for contributing!

  • Pingback: So, writing a CV for the design world…..what’s the world got to say about it? | Sam's Sketchbook()

  • ArchS23

    Hi bob! I am a 3rd year arch student in the process of creating my resume and I have been trying to get as much advise as possible. I dont have professional experience in the field since I have done studies abroad
    I have experience not arch related specially with Costumer Service and in the dance field. would it be a good idea to add those kinds of jobs to my resume?
    Thanks!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      yes – but remove them as you gain more relevant experience to the sort of job you are seeking

  • Andrea

    I can understand this.  DOn’t think I have ever had the most impressive resume but I was told once and have always kept on my resume that I worked for Special ‘I’ as a transciber in the Canadian RCMP… always gets raised eyebrows and questions.  THAT and if you hand draw, seems to be a lost art.

    • Andrea

      OH and that the project I worked on was called Project ‘Destroy’… he he he

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Myungjin-Lee/1339407032 Myungjin Lee

    thank you bob! we’re sending out our resumes in october here in korea–my knees are trembling already. preparing resume and portfolio is pain and i am grateful to get tips from professional working in the field!
    @4ce4e1ec84e9268c2eef21fb30fd6639:disqus 

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      glad to help (at least I hope it helps)

      Best of luck

  • thin747

    “A word of warning though … you draw attention to your model making skills -or your 3d modeling/ rendering skills – and you will get a job where you are that person. You know, the one that makes the models or creates the rendering? – and nobody really wants to be that person.”

    in this economy i would be happy to be “that person” however, i would never work for someone who says something like this, bob. the snobbery and egotism in this business are out of hand. but hey thats what were taught!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Initially I ignore this comment because I just thought it was a difference of opinion. The more I think about, the more I think I’m right. If you graduate from college with a degree in architecture, do you want to be a model builder or do nothing but digital renderings? Seems like a waste of your degree.

      Please note that I didn’t say that these are bad skills to present, in fact – they are very desirable skills but I would hope that whoever I was interviewing for an architectural position wanted to present themselves as capable of doing all the things an architect needs to do. I have known too many of my friends that became specialists in certain areas (like laying out site adapt parking lots) and the only way they were able to move off that responsibility was to quit and find another job. 

      Part of this has to do with the culture of the firm where you are interviewing – but part of it has to do with how you present yourself.

      You may now commence dog-piling me with how wrong I am.

      • Maggie

        Totally agree with you! I have friends in architecture who have spent years in the model shop… it’s partially an intern proving ground, but it’s also: if you’re really good at making models, then we need you in the model shop. Job stability, but not a lot of opportunity for growth.

      • http://twitter.com/MurphyJ MurphyJ

        As an highly specialized architect, I will take exception to the comment that it seems like a waste of a degree. I know quite a few people that have graduated with an architectural degree and have chosen careers in alternate or related fields. Some have chosen to be CAD specialist others have gone into set design or art. But the key word is chosen. 
        I agree that if you are a good model builder but don’t want to do that the rest of you life, don’t put the focus on it.

        Architecture isn’t just about designing buildings, it’s also models and pretty pictures, endless spreadsheets, mountains of code books and specifications that would cure an insomniac monk, programming, sales and marketing, IT and janitorial services. There’s room for folks that don’t want to be capital A architects.

        • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

          the caveat to this is you are presumably doing what you want to do. The premise I am discussing is when someone wants to do something other than what they present as their main or most desirable skill.

          There are all sorts of specialists that have wonderful and extremely fulfilling careers – those are not the people that I am talking about. If you hate spec writing but interview and tell someone you are the worlds greatest spec writer – don’t be surprised when you find out that your job is writing the specs.

          Maybe that clarifies my comment

    • Yolandi

      I agree, Im an Architecture graduate who doesnt like making concept models but I take great pride in my final models both virtual and physical. Having said that I take great pride because they are my designs, my opportunity to show people how the spaces i design will come to reality. Would i still have this same level of attention to detail for another architects designs, I doubt it! Hence my preference to be a design architect not a model architect

  • Yeibe

    I recently came across with your great article…and felt confident to ask you a question.

    It has been very confused for many fellows architect that are coming from other countries to highlight their appropriate tittle in their resumes. Since in USA unless you are a registered architect you cannot use the term in your resume..

    So what would be the right title to display in the resumes when looking for a Job.

    Thank you and I Appreciate any input.

    • Flyinseamnky

      I think you would be fine with Architectural Designer.

  • Jessica

    Thanks for the tips. I’m actually going to be graduating in June and found this extremely entertaining :) I can laugh because I am a non-traditional student and already have years of work under my belt in both architectural and non-architectural fields (I used to be a Molecular Biologist).

    I would add that the “personal interests” portion might be helpful if it’s relevant to the type of firm you are applying to. For example, most of the firms I’m applying to specialize in sports, recreation and fitness. Expressing my fitness hobbies like martial arts, dance and others, I convey an understanding (obsession almost) in the field beyond just aesthetics.

  • Pingback: More Resume Tips for Interns from Dallas Architect | Dallas Architect()

  • Ted

    If you’ve worked construction, especially as a framer, that would get our attention as an employer.

  • http://twitter.com/DMS_StructEng David Sharpe

    Bob,

    I thought you might like to know that I see the same problems with CVs / Resumés in the UK and for structural engineers.

    My own pet-hate is over-use of adjectives. I have seen too many applicants write about their ‘excellent leadership skills’ and ‘superb analytical abilities’ that it is now beginning to make me ill. Hang on, make me ‘uncontrollably and extensively unwell’.

    Remember – don’t try and bullshit. In the world of engineering and architecture, you are writing to someone who was once exactly like you. They already know what you should have covered in your course, and will not mind if you have come fresh out of college and have not amassed a decade’s worth of relevant professional experience.

    Instead, have a good long hard think – and express what is a bit different about you, and what you have actually done that demonstrates this special skill.

    Can I stop now? It is hard for me to think of so many adjectives all at once…

    David

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      David,

      This is a great observation to contribute. I hadn’t thought to include the use of adjectives on my list of peeves but now it’s all I can think about!

      Cheers!

  • http://twitter.com/HawkinsArch Hawkins+Architecture

    The first item is a HUGE peeve for me. My office is located in a college town and I receive plenty of resumes from students or recent graduates with TERRIBLE email addresses. I automatically dump those. If you cannot realize that you need a professional email address, well then I do not think you have the capacity to be a professional in my firm.

    I also agree with the skills section comments. Please don’t tell me you can surf the internet or work in excel. If you can write html code or something along those lines, that is useful. My 3rd grade daughter can use Word. Let’s hope you mastered that in college!

    And I am just glad to see that my review of resumes is not that off from another Architect. Sometimes I worry that I may be too critical or quick to toss them. Apparently, I am not!

    BTW I know about Myers Briggs and Keirsey!! (from previous comments)

    And a Designers Resume should be designed. 100% ! Period!! After all you are not an accountant! (from previous comments)

  • Jyotsna Sivaguru

    Thanks for the article. What do you think about including some samples of work in a few pages with the resume, in an application ? How much is too much ?

    P.S. I made a visiting card (hand-printed) like a mini resume. The designation line said “Seeking employment …” , with skills printed at the back. Some people thought it was a neat idea !

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Jyotsna,

      I don’t have a problem with people including a “leave behind” if they want but that isn’t part of your resume.

      Thanks for posting the idea of a visiting card – a little extra attention to detail, and it shows effort and desire – great thinking.

  • Colleyja

     What do you think about including manual skills on a resume?  A lot of other students and I have split our skills section of our resumes into digital and manual, but I’m still not sure if I like it or not.  Is it redundant to state that architecture co-ops/graduates have skills in drafting, freehand drawing, model making, wood working, etc.?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I would expect to see evidence of those skills represented in your portfolio – thereby making the exercise of telling people you can do them moot.

      A word of warning though … you draw attention to your model making skills -or your 3d modeling/ rendering skills – and you will get a job where you are that person. You know, the one that makes the models or creates the rendering? – and nobody really wants to be that person.

      • Colleyja

        Good point.  I think I’ll edit my resume accordingly for my next job search…

  • http://funandfit.org AlexandraFunFit

     Sooooo. Bob, do you think maybe it’s time you updated YOUR resume to include your Award/Honor on the menwHOTweet calendar? That’s way better than your Red River party award. Here’s what I look for when I read resumes – spelling and grammar. If you aren’t detailed enough to do spellcheck, how detailed would you be about your archi-designs or whatever it is you people do, eh?

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Spelling and grammar are very important but I have decided to stop proselytizing (fancy word huh?) about those two things just because you shouldn’t have to be told those two things.

      It’s like my friend the Detective Joel tells me when looking in on bad parents – the perp’s always say “I take care of mine kids” and he always wonders – ‘what do you want, a medal?!? Your supposed to take care of your kids!’

      • Spelling & Grammar Police

        “I take care of MY* kids”.

  • Andrew

    Great list Bob -and with the humor and wit that makes it a pleasure to read through. Around BUILD we can do without the “interests” category, that stuff comes up later, during the interview or when we go check out a candidates online portfolio.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      I generally don’t see interests very well represented in portfolio’s – they seem to be full of mostly school and project related info. I want to know how many cat’s you can juggle! 

  • http://www.burningphotography.com BBurns31

    Thanks, I’ll be sending you mine tomorrow!   :P

  • http://twitter.com/mondo_tiki_man Jonathan Brown

    I thought this came off very well.  I definitely agree on the interests section.   I included my Myers-Briggs INTJ profile, so when I came in all weird and shifty-eyed they’d understand.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Hilarious!

      except how many architectural firms know about the Myers-Briggs profile? I only know about it because of my wife. 

  • Damara

     As someone who graduated one year ago from graduate school and spent the past 8 months (I have been hired full time since March), I need to say that that was hysterical.  It should be sent to every graduating senior.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks Damara – you can be the chair of the distribution committee!

      Cheers 

  • Sabjimata

    Bob, you know I love your posts! I just updated my resume for a career change and sent it off last week. Did my resume as a Word doc and included hyperlinks. Just wondering how you think all the updates in technology affect the finished product of today’s resume… 

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      It is so easy for people to put together an online portfolio and resume that you can really start to tailor your message to the medium. Technology changes everything except the ability to communicate face to face. That is one dynamic skill that technology can only support but never replace.

      thanks for the question – it’s a good one that really deserves it’s own post

  • jbushkey

    As far as gaps go what do you recommend for for the large amount of people that went through a layoff?  I am so glad to be in school now and hopeful the economy improves in a few years.

    I sometimes see Word listed as a requirement in job ads.  It should be a a no brainer that someone who can run BIM and rendering software will have no trouble with word processing.  I guess you should only include it if applying to an ad that lists it.

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      We all know that gaps exist for a reason – if it was because you were downsized due to the economy, then tell us what you were doing during that time. The people who sent out resumes yet sat on the couch playing Xbox would obviously be at a disadvantage from the people who volunteered at the local AIA chapter office, or got involved in a tutoring program – whatever. 

      I know that there are tons of very talented and competent people out there that lost their job. How you dealt with that unfortunate situation is also an opportunity to tell me something about your character.

      • Johninseattle

        oh really, Bob? I’ve dealt with that by having to take a minimum wage job delivering pizza for the last 9 months as I have not been able to find a steady architecture job since I lost mine in June of ’09. I’m currently being forced to upgrade my computer so I can play with the current Revit program to try and get my drafting skills on a par to where they were with AutoCAD. What other advice do you have for someone with minimal project manager experience?

        • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

          JohninSeattle – the problem with writing instead of talking is that I’m not sure the tone of your question. I do hope you don’t think that I am making light of anyone’s situation if they have been unable to find work. My point was that instead of leaving a 2+ year gap, tell me that you were delivering pizzas, but you could also tell me about the continued Revit training you’ve been doing. These things speak to your character and I think working a job – any job – to cover your responsibilities is an admirable trait.

          I wish you the best

  • http://www.architangent.com Brinn Miracle

     I can only imagine how fun it must be to read over all the resumes that come in. I’ve looked over a few friends’ resumes and there were two things that really stuck out to me: first, they always listed education at the top even when they had work experience and second, their cover letters were short, bland and apologetic for things they didn’t know. I would stress the importance of “establishing yourself as a professional” once you graduate, not continuing to identify yourself as a student (especially if you graduated a year or two ago). Listing education at the top and focusing on student projects and experiences doesn’t help to solidify that you are a respected professional (or more capable than the next graduate). Finally, I’d stress that a good cover letter is essential to success; it describes you in a way a bullet point never will: in your own words and tone. If the tone is meek and apologetic, it doesn’t exactly get the interviewer excited to meet you. For example, if you say “I don’t know Revit very well and I don’t have much experience with project management” in the cover letter, its going to be a turn-off. I find it is much better to list what you ARE good at instead of what you are not good at. Emphasize strengths, don’t offer up every weakness – especially in the first piece of paper the employer will read (save it for a question in the interview). Avoid words that are indecisive like “might” and “could” and stick with words that are strong like “am”, and “will”. It really sets a tone that you are excited, motivated and confident. Spend some time making that cover letter shine! :) One last hint that might put you a step above the rest is to include a separate sheet with excerpts of recommendations. I copied and pasted recommendations from peers and colleagues on LinkedIn and made a “Recommendations” sheet I give out with my resume and cover letter. It saves them from having to ask for references and gives an extra boost to showing I work well with a team and that I’ve established myself as a “respected professional”. Good luck to everyone out there, and great post, Bob! 

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thanks for commenting Brinn. 

      Many of the items you bring up I covered in a post I wrote over a year ago titled Winning Interview Techniques for Architects -you find it at this link  http://bit.ly/9CW2uU Positive tone is a writing style and should be used when writing any cover letter … and use declarative sentences. Almost everything you write is something that is your opinion, we get that. Tell someone you are good (fill in the blank) not that you think you are good at it.Cheers

  • ARCHcowboy

    All great tips and we share some of the same pet peeves…  Something I was taught in Arch school and always took as the standard, but after visiting a few career fairs have learned otherwise… is to deisgn the resume and maybe include some thumbnail images of projects.  A plain jane ‘business’ style resume, does not grab my attention over a resume that obviously was created with thought and purpose 

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      You couldn’t be more correct. I still remember the looks my Dad gave me when I was preparing my first resume before I graduated from college. I know I said this wasn’t going to be a post about how to write a resume but one thing that everyone should consider is that you need to tailor your resume towards the job you want to perform. If you consider yourself a designer or a person with design skills) your resume should reflect that.

      Thanks for taking time to add to the conversation.

  • ARCHcowboy

    All great tips and we share some of the same pet peeves…  Something I was taught in Arch school and always took as the standard, but after visiting a few career fairs have learned otherwise… is to deisgn the resume and maybe include some thumbnail images of projects.  A plain jane ‘business’ style resume, does not grab my attention over a resume that obviously was created with thought and purpose.

  • architectrunnerguy

    Another great article Bob. I think you and I touched on the “Interests” section back when you wrote your interview piece. I like just having a one word description of the activity and then if it piques the interest from the person on the other side of the table, the topic can be taken from there. But be careful in the interview. For me, I would note “Running” but if it’s discussed it doesn’t mean I’m going to place my foot on the table, whip off my shoe and sock and discuss my black toenail.

    And somehow, when I was interviewing people, I liked most of all short and to the point resumes. If I had two people that had similiar experience, and one had a 1 or maybe 2 page resume and the other had 6, right off the bat, I’m more impressed with the former. Don’t get too wordy, after all anything can be expanded on in the interview.

    Doug
     

  • Bernardo Estêvão

    I’ll be sure to re-read this post in a few years from now

  • http://twitter.com/GinaAlex Gina

    Personally, I’m glad the “references available upon request” line is now so out of style and wasn’t even mentioned. I agree that the “objective” section just seems redundant, and keeping a few versions of my resume alive is a great tip.
    Always great to find resources like this article, especially when written by professionals like yourself. Thanks, Bob!

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Gina,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, I appreciate it. I don’t see the “references available on request” too often anymore, they are typically included as a separate sheet as part of the resume package (along with a cover letter).

      Cheers

  • Architectltu

    Thanks alot sir, i really fixed handfull of thinks in my resume based on your advise, thank you

    • http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com Bob Borson

      Thank you! I’m sure you’ll have to beat the job offers away