A common question I receive from potential applicants is something along the lines of "why is my architecture job application being ignored?" While there are an infinite number of reasons why you may be rejected, for this post I will address a few of the common issues.
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While some of these points are out of your control, you need to be aware of the potential pitfalls.
1. The firm is not hiring
I will start with the most obvious reason. If the architecture firm is not in a position to hire someone you will not get an offer, regardless of how fantastic you are.
Not only are you wasting your time by applying to a firm that does not need staff but also you are taking time away from somewhere that will hire you.
So how can you avoid this?
The easiest way is to simply check their website career page, many of the larger offices have a careers page that list open positions.
SOM for example: https://www.som.com/about/careers.
Depending on the number and type of openings shown it will give you a good idea of their current needs. I would encourage you to apply even if you don't see a perfect fit for your work history. The job description is usually just a starting point for finding new staff.
Keep in mind, depending on the office they may rarely update their career page, so it could be irrelevant or outdated.
For smaller offices without a career section on their website, just call the office and ask for the hiring manager. See if they are looking for anyone now or will be looking to hire in the future. Be ready with a short description of yourself just in case they ask. Depending on their response it will give you an idea if it is worth your time applying.
If either of the above options aren't available, feel free to apply to a firm that doesn't appear to be hiring. Just don't get discouraged if you never get a response.
When preparing your applications try to strike a balance between offices that are clearly hiring and others that may be unclear or more of a "long shot".
2. Your application is weak
This is perhaps the number one reason most applications are rejected. An awful application encompasses a wide range of possible problems.
The three main “ingredients” of your application your cover letter, resume and sample portfolio. Review the posts below to get a sense of your deficient areas.
Regarding architecture portfolios for potential employment there isn't a one-size-fits-all answer but generally you should have at least two portfolios.
The first is just a sample portfolio that you send along with your resume and cover letter to give them a taste of your experience and skills. Once you are invited to interview you can then bring your full portfolio. In both portfolios it is important to show your most relevant work to the position you are applying.
For more information on portfolios check out The Complete Package.
3. Your experience is vague or irrelevant
You have to be extremely clear on what your experience is and how it relates to a potential role.
If you have a lot of experience making pottery and what to share your talents that is great, but don't make it the primary focus of your architecture portfolio and/or application.
There is a belief out there that you have to emphasize your unique skills and abilities. While it is true that standing out is important it should not be at the expense of your core abilities.
Clearly point out your relevant architecture work experience BEFORE you describe what makes you a unique and interesting snowflake.
4. Your experience is not a good "fit"
A good fit within an office environment is extremely important.
So what do I mean when I say "fit"? Well it can refer to a variety of characteristics depending on the firm and the application.
However, generally it boils down to a simple question from the perspective of the hiring manager: "How can this person help the firm?" In other words, how does your education, work experience, skills and qualifications align with not only the position they are looking to fill but also the company culture.
For example, if you are applying to a three person residential office coming from a large firm specializing in massive commercial projects. You need to make it clear why you are applying and how can your previous experience translate to the new role.
While the reasons may be obvious to you they might not be so clear to the person reviewing your application.
If you are making a change in architecture firm size, typology, location, etc. outline the reasons why in your cover letter.
The first question in almost every architecture interview is, "why do you want to work here." Make sure you convey your answer to this in your application documents.
5. You don't live nearby
Obviously if you are applying from a different city, state or country there are more hurdles to jump. This is especially true for international applicants.
I advise you to spend some time in the form of a vacation in the city you want to work. Let all of the firms you are applying to know that you are in town to interview and would like to meet with them.
Offices are less likely to offer interviews if you are applying from abroad, they wouldn't want you to travel and not receive an offer. So take the pressure off of them by removing the distance barrier.
6. You can't work without a visa
This for candidates applying outside of their country of citizenship. One of the biggest challenges for international candidates is the work visa.
The sad truth is many firms just don't want to go through the hassle, expense and time it takes to process a visa. From their perceptive it is simply easier to hire a citizen. While this certainly isn't always the case, it is a common problem for international applicants.
If you haven't checked it out already, I wrote an article on this subject: Visa Overview For International Architecture Job Applicants.
7. Your grammar is terrible
I can't emphasize enough how important it is to pay careful attention to grammar in all of your application documents. Poor grammar can reveal a lot about a potential candidate.
Architecture is a very detail oriented profession, so your resume is the first test of your ability to convey information clearly. If you can't articulate your own experience what are the odds you will be able to explain the design process!?
I am not just talking about spelling — sentence structure and correct use of architectural terminology is essential. This is another area of difficulty for applicants who are applying for a position that is not in their native language.
Don't think everyone will just give you a pass because it is not your first language!
Carefully craft all of your written documents, don't just rely on spell check. Have as many people as possible proofread all of your work. Preferably get someone in the architecture profession who is a native speaker.
Small mistakes when referring to design phases, details or other architecture related jargon can look very unprofessional. This is especially true for recent graduates who may not be as experienced with certain "real world" subjects.
Since it is a Chrome plugin it works anywhere you are writing online - Gmail, LinkedIn, etc. It is a great tool for perfecting your architecture resume and cover letter. And it's FREE! (The Premium version is even better).
Check it out here: Grammarly.com
Remember, don't just blindly apply! Do you best to get feedback during the process, call to find out if and why you are not getting an interview! There could be one aspect of your application holding you back, best to find out now instead of plowing ahead oblivious to a problem.
I hope this has been helpful to avoid the common reasons your architecture job application may be ignored. Now go get that interview!
Want to find your dream architecture job?
Check out The Architect's Guide Resources.
Thanks for reading, see also my posts on:
Brandon Hubbard, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C
Have a suggestion for a future blog post? Please let me know in the comments below.