7 Mistakes That Will Destroy A Successful Architecture Resume (CV)

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According to a new study released by TheLadders, on average job recruiters spend only six seconds looking at your resume. This proves the importance of having a concise, well formatted resume that emphasizes your greatest skills and experience.

I have the, um, "benefit" of reading hundreds, if not thousands, of architecture resumes throughout the year. This gives me a unique opportunity to see a range of good and bad examples. Often the weaker samples come from younger candidates who haven't been in the job market very long. If you are just starting out in your career the task of creating a resume can be daunting.

In a previous article, How To Write The Perfect Architecture Resume (CV), I covered all the things you should do when preparing a successful resume. However, it is just as important to know the things you should avoid.

I put this list together to help out not only the job rookies but also the veterans that can make these same mistakes. So here are my top seven mistakes that will destroy a successful architecture resume (CV).

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:

Remember, you only get one chance at a good first impression. If your resume (CV) doesn’t look good, you don’t look good. Even if you’re qualified for the position, an innocent, simple mistake on your architecture resume can really kill your chances of getting an interview.

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Mistake #1: Poor Grammar

This is very basic advice and I wouldn't be listing it here if it wasn't a problem. Despite the obvious importance of proper grammar, I still see many applications with typos and poor sentence structure. While applying for an architecture job may not be an extensive literary exercise, your application documents should be error free.

Don't just rely on spell check. Common mistakes like "they're" versus "their" will not be picked up.

How to avoid this mistake:

I recommend using Grammarly, other programs fix spelling errors but Grammarly does much more by checking contextual spelling and vocabulary. Since it is a Chrome plugin it works anywhere you are writing online - Gmail, LinkedIn, etc. This a great tool for perfecting your architecture resume (CV) and it even will pick up on those "they're" kind of errors. And it's FREE! Check it out here: Grammarly.com

In addition to using Grammarly, have a friend proofread everything before you send it out. This includes your portfolio, often it is overlooked because of the graphic emphasis.

If you can't find someone to check it for you just read it to yourself out loud. This can help find mistakes you may have otherwise missed.

Mistake #2: Too Long

I once saw a job candidate with one year of experience submit a five page resume. That is insane. Even if you have 50 years of experience your resume should be no longer than one page (maybe two pages under very special circumstances). 

Question: "But I have so much experience and won so many awards, how is it possible it can be so short?"

Answer: A resume is not a list of every single thing you have ever accomplished in your life. It is a concise checklist of the skills and experience you have acquired that are relevant to the position you are applying.

How to avoid this mistake:

A successful architecture resume should just give a taste of your experience, so that an employer will want to learn more in the form of an in-person interview. 

Leave out irrelevant or minute details that won’t lift you up as a candidate. Describe your job duties in enough detail to give the employer a good idea of your general responsibilities.

I am a big fan of bullet-points (see the example architecture resume download here) to help the hiring manager focus in on your accomplishments.

Mistake #3: Including Irrelevant Information

Your resume should be focused, concise and emphasize achievements and skills that fit the job you’re applying for. Often this is a problem because candidates are trying to create a generic resume that can be sent to 300 architecture firms without having to create different versions. Unfortunately the easy route is often the route to continued unemployment. 

There also seems to be some confusion on what work experience to include on a professional resume. Especially if you are just coming out of architecture school you feel obligated to put any job down on the page. However, the fact that you worked at a fast food restaurant is unlikely to help your job prospects. 

How to avoid this mistake:

Do your best to customize your resume for each position. If you are applying based on a job posting, use the process I outline here to create a targeted resume for the role you are applying.

The problem of unrelated previous jobs can be solved by being more creative with your past experience. Are there volunteer activities you took part in? Helped build something? Finished a project on time? Took part in a design competition?

These types of "jobs" are much more likely to be relevant to an architecture firm than flipping burgers. 

Mistake #4: Using Too Many Graphics

The topic of graphic resumes seems to be a particularly heated debate. Some candidates swear by them and claim they are the future. While graphic resumes may be the future, they are definitely not working in the present. 

Don't get me wrong, I think graphic resumes look cool but they often send the wrong message. Take this snippet below. 

First of all, what does 80% of knowing Sketchup mean? Or 78% Photography?

Who determined these ratings?

A. Yourself?
B. Your boss? 
C. Just made up on the spot?

Answer: C

I have yet to see an example of a graphic that doesn't just make the applicant look incompetent. The graphs simply highlight all your weak areas, the complete opposite of what you want to accomplish.

How to avoid this mistake:

If you insist on using graphics in your resume use them sparingly, and never include a skills graphic like above. The successful examples often just use a single color to separate particular portions of the resume to make it easier to read and grab the readers attention. Like this example:

GRAPHIC SAMPLE.jpg

And please, please do me a favor and do not create a logo out of your name. Promise me.

Mistake #5: Using Cheesy and/or Empty Phrases

An old school feature of a resume was to place your "Objective" at the top of the page. This has mostly been eliminated but I still see it pop up occasionally. Let be clear: do not include an objective.

Often the gist of the phrase is something meaningless:

“My objective is to obtain a challenging positions with a high growth company where I can grow my skills and career.

“Talented, self-motivated leader with a track record of success."

These sentences not only make you look like you don't know what you are talking about but you are also wasting valuable eyeball time of the hiring manager. 

Be sure to avoid flowery "archispeak" when discussing projects or your roles. The industry has its own jargon, but be careful not to confuse terms as it can make you look uninformed.

For example, construction documents and construction drawings are not the same and should not be used interchangeably.

**Bonus points for anyone who wants to point out the difference in the comments. 

How to avoid this mistake:

If you insist on making some kind of declaration of how verbose you are, do it in your cover letter. Leave your resume for short, bullet responses highlighting your relevant skills for the position.

Make sure you are being specific. For example taking the statement above:

“Talented, self-motivated leader with a track record of success."

Instead in your resume it should read something like:

  • Led a five person team through the construction document phase on a mixed-use project.

See how specific it is? That is what you want to accomplish. 

Mistake #6: Not Explaining What YOU Have Done

One of the biggest and most common mistakes I see with architecture resumes is the candidate does not clearly explain his or her experience. Often this comes in the form of a detailed job description instead of emphasizing individual contributions.

For example, explaining a particular building feature without actually mentioning if you had anything to do with it. Often we become so involved with our projects that we forget that outsiders have no idea what we have worked on.

While it may be obvious to you that you didn't create the cladding wall detail, the hiring manger may think so. Then without even giving you a chance, dismiss your application for being irrelevant. 

Remember you are not trying to teach the hiring manager about a project you are trying to teach them about YOU.

How to avoid this mistake:

Use use action verbs for each of your resume bullets, that clearly show how you got things done. Examples such as: Led, Created, Delivered, Managed, Implemented, Increased, Achieved, Organized, etc.

I have included a list of 99 Architecture Action Words in the free mega-pack. Click for a free download.

Since obviously a building can't create or lead, these words will be a constant reminder to focus on your accomplishments and skills. 

Mistake #7: Not Highlighting Your Skills Relevant For The Job

As I describe in greater detail in How To Write The Perfect Architecture Resume (CV), it is vital that you highlight your relevant job skills. You must clearly explain why your qualifications are a good fit for the job.

There are many genres within the architecture profession so just because you came from a large scale commercial project does not necessarily mean you have the skills for small scale residential. The skills do not always transfer and if they do it is not always clear to the person reviewing your application. 

How to avoid this mistake:

The best resource for dealing with this issue is having the job description for the role you want. Since this is available in almost all cases I am going to assume you will be able to use it. Without a doubt this description will state the skills needed for the position.

It is now your job to go though this document line by line looking for the skills needed and how your past experience can be applied. Often you will have to be creative on how you can make the connection between your past and this future position.

Taking the example from above of moving from large commercial to small scale residential you might emphasize your coordination and management skills which transfer regardless of the project typology.

By tailoring your resume to fit the requirements of the role you will greatly improve your chances of landing an interview invite. 

I hope you found this tips helpful for preparing next architecture resume. 

Want to find your dream architecture job?
Check out The Architect's Guide Resources.

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:

Thanks for reading, see also my posts on:

How To Write The Perfect Architecture Resume (CV)

The Top 5 Architecture Interview Questions

Where To Apply For Architecture Jobs Online

Good luck!

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

Have a suggestion for a future blog post? Please let me know in the comments below.