How to Create a Target List of Architecture Firms

The first step in looking for a new architecture job is to figure out where you actually want to work. So with the thousands of architecture firms out there, how do you know where to apply? 

I am sure you can come up with a few companies off the top of your head or perhaps you have a specific firm in mind. Regardless if you are targeting one employer or are simply looking for a “new job” these strategies will help you create your ideal architecture firm list.

Even if you are only considering one office, take the time to perform this exercise, the act of doing so may reveal opportunities you many not have considered.

To help you with your architecture job search, I've created a mega-pack of free resources that includes architecture resumes, cover letters, and an extensive collection of application documents. Click for a free download:

To how many employers should I apply?

I typically recommend applying to 30-40 potential employers. This may sound like a lot but stay with me. This should not be a long exercise, don’t spend more than an hour or two on this.

What city?

Obviously if you are not planning on moving then this is less relevant. However, even if you are set on staying in town it does not hurt to research what is out there. This will help with your later negotiations and give you an idea of what other employers are looking for in the marketplace.

For example let’s say a large number of firms are requiring Revit experience (which is actually true). If you are a Revit expert, you can leverage this knowledge in the application and later in the interview.

Dream positions: You probably already have the name of a handful of dream offices where you want to work. That is a great start. Write them down. This should probably consist of five or so offices.

Spreadsheet

I have found that the best method of keeping track of the applications is a spreadsheet. While we are in the creative field and generally despise spreadsheets, it is worthwhile to keep organized.

The last thing you want to do is become confused and apply to the sample place twice or leave out a great opportunity. With 30+ potential employers it is quite easy to become disorganized. Include a column for the company name, location, the date of your application, if you have received a response and any contact information.

See example format below:

Network

One of the most valuable tools for creating your target list of firms is your network. This can either be existing contacts or people you reach out to that may not know you directly.

LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools for research. Not only can you see the company information but also the past and current employees. You can dig a little deeper and see of the past employees work history, look at how long they stayed. Obviously a large number of short tenures might be cause for concern. 

Depending on the size of the architecture firm you can also search Facebook groups to see if there is a community for your targeted office. 

Reach out to your university alumni, find them on LinkedIn if you don’t have their contact information. This will also let you see their current and past employers. Check with your alumni office to see if there is a database you can use to contact a potential connection or employer. 

They may be able to let you know if either one is hiring and / or can put you in touch with the hiring manager. I have been on the end of overly persistent candidates many times. While I am always willing to help someone out, like everyone I don’t want to be bothered with dozens of messages across multiple platforms.

Keep your message short and to the point, only ask for one or two things. Don’t create a request checklist that overwhelms the recipient. If they can’t fulfill one of the many tasks they will often not respond. While it is an extremely valuable weapon in your job search arsenal be careful. Do not be too aggressive with your requests.

Research

When you have your target list complied now you can dig a little deeper with your research. Again, LinkedIn is a great resource for this, the company website is great for data, and GlassDoor can be helpful with inside information.

Disclaimer: GlassDoor has the problem of ratings bias, meaning that if you really hated the company you previously worked you are more likely to write a review. With that in mind, don't take the negative reviews as the only source of insight - try to speak with former employees to get their take on the office culture. 

However, be careful with over-researching, you don’t want to spend too much time. Before you know it you can burn three hours reading through every architecture website. For this part of the process you only want to create a list that you can use for your applications. 

What is a good fit?

Remember that you are simply wasting your time by applying to EVERY job posting out there. This may feel like you are being productive but by not focusing on the appropriate positions you are not being effective. The time you invest now will benefit your job search later when you are deciding between firms that you have already established are a good fit. 

Keep in mind the importance of finding a good fit for the architecture firms you are researching and ultimately applying. If an office isn't a good fit, it may meet your financial obligations in the short term but it can damage your long term career possibilities.

For example if you are employed for a short time because it is a poor fit, this can reflect negativity on your work history. Obviously it is impossible to know exactly what it is going to be like working there but by doing your due diligence ahead of time should reduce the potential downsides. 

Finding Architecture Jobs

There a lot of different sources to find architecture job postings. For more information on this topic, check out my previous post, Where To Apply For Architecture Jobs Online.

Thanks for reading, I hope this will help you put together a target list of architecture firms for your next round of job applications. 

To help you with your architecture job search, I've created a mega-pack of free resources that includes architecture resumes, cover letters, and an extensive collection of application documents. Click for a free download:

For further reading on architecture job applications, portfolios, interviews and more see The Complete Package.

Thanks for reading, see also my posts on:

How To Stay Motivated With The Architecture Job Search

The Top 5 Architecture Interview Questions

Where To Apply For Architecture Jobs Online

Good luck!

Brandon Hubbard, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C