How To Write a CV or Resume For Architects

In the past few months, I’ve spent an enormous amount of time writing, rewriting, and tweaking my curiculum vitae (CV) and resume for different job situations. I must admit that creating a resume that effectively communicates your stellar qualifications to hiring managers is difficult. While I am still working and discovering a winning formula, I have learnt a couple of things that would help architects, designers and fresh graduates prepare the foundation information required to build and continuously update resumes to meet a variety of job requirements. 

Resumes and CVs are simply written documents that outlines our educational and work history in an attractive and accurate way to hiring managers. Even though, I know there is a difference between resume and CV, I may use the words interchangly.

I will not be dwelling on how to design a resume or CV as I am more concerned with how to create and put together the content and information that will be contained in the body of the resume. Generally, I would go for a simple resume layout that clearly captures you best information for the job.

Hiring managers mostly spend about 7 seconds scanning resumes they are interested in. Study shows that they do this by scanning in an ‘F’ pattern over the resume. That is, they skim through the top of the resume horizontally (2 secs), then vertically through the left (3 secs) and horizontally through the middle (2 secs). After that, whatever information they could garner determines your fate.  

In skimming through the top horizontal information, what they are looking for is the name and those letters that are after the name (BSc, MSc, PhD, AIA, RIBA, MNIA etc). On the left vertical axis, they are looking out for the school, employers names and the catchy words in the highlights of your qualifications, and on the middle horizontal axis they are looking out for previous or present job titles.  Every other information contained in the resume will become important when they are attracted by what they have seen in that initial 7 seconds glance. 

I will recommend a book called “SWITCHERS – How smart professionals change careers and Seize success” by Dawn Graham. Even though the book contains a lot of information on how to change career it also has huge knowledge that would guide you in creating an effective resume.

To start off, except you have a really long work and educational history it is advisable to restrict the number of pages for your resume to one or a maximum of two. One page particularly keeps your resume concise and readily displays all your vital information without having to flip pages. Similarly, a resume with a lot of white spaces in between lines are more effective at delivering your information than a crammed resume. Therefore, it shouldn’t just be about a lot of information but about relevant information.  For example, if as an architect you have a PhD and MArch degree and you are applying to work in a professional environment let’s say an architectural firm, its advisable to leave out your PhD degree as that is relevant in an academic/research environment and emphasize your MArch degree as it is a more applicable professional degree.

To commence, there are five items you will need to know about your work history, which Dawn calls in her book the Who I am Map

  1. Key titles
  2. Key accomplishments
  3. Key expertise
  4. Personalities and values
  5. Unique selling points

These are the information that will fill your resume and define who you are to the hiring manager. I recommend that you fill out these five items about your self as we go along. You can add to the comment section below points about architects I have missed out.

Resume Key Titles

This list should include all your titles from all the roles you have undertaken both in the past and present. Whether the roles were paid for or not, also include volunteer roles or personal duties. So long as these rules describe a job/responsibility you undertook at some point, list it. This list gives you an idea of the types of roles you are likely to apply to.

For architects, designers, technologists and graduates your list may include the following;

  • Architectural Designer
  • Interior Designer
  • 3D visualizer
  • Architectural Technologist
  • Draftsman
  • Architecture Intern
  • Project Architect
  • Job Captain
  • Junior Architect
  • BIM manager
  • Lecturer
  • Part-time Instructor
  • Model Maker
  • Writer/Blogger
  • Volunteer
  • Office Manager
  • Project manager
  • Project Coordinator
  • Foreman/Site Supervisor
  • Graphics designer
  • Board Member
  • Entrepreneur
  • Senior Design Consultant
  • Team Lead
  • Architect
  • Career Coach

Resume Key Accomplishments

This list should include all key accomplishments you attained (not duties you undertook) at all your previous and present roles. The better the accomplishments you can remember the more attractive your resume will be to hiring managers. Also a quantified accomplishment is better measured (that is, accomplishments with figures and numbers). Examples of accomplishments you may list are;

  • Built and managed an in-house 3D rendering division that reduced drawing production cost by 20%
  • Designed a 4-floor 2000sqm LEED Gold Certified residential apartment
  • Led a team to bid and win the design of a 9000sq feet International conventional centre, the first of its kind in XXX
  • Published 4 scientific research on architecture
  • Design and supervised innovative retail projects with budgets ranging from $1m – $10m
  • Wrote and edited over 60 articles in an architectural blog
  • Facilitated tens of architecture seminar with an average attendance of 100 people
  • Was recognized by XYZ for unique approach to sustainable architectural designs

Resume Key Expertise

This list will include all the credentials, certifications, awards and degrees you have received. It will also include key areas you have developed yourself in and you know will be off interest to your new target audience. An example of what may be contained in your key expertise are;

  • Panelist/keynote speaker at industry conference
  • Master in Architecture
  • PhD is Environmental Design
  • Registered Architect in (any country/state/province)
  • Deep industry knowledge in design an contract documentation
  • Research skills
  • Solid working and technical drawing experience in CAD and BIM
  • Highly proficient in 2D and 3D graphics software including Revit, AutoCAD, Lumion and Adobe Creative Suite
  • Worked in diverse global conditions
  • Extensive training in project management and coordination
  • Expert in LEED building certification
  • Deep assessment skills
  • Built and implemented national framework for (e.g. building code, architecture curriculum, bylaws, architecture competitions, architectural practice e.t.c.)
  • Deep industry expertise in arbitration

Resume Personalities and Values

Here, you want to list all your personality traits and values. This usually help you become self-aware. Example of personality traits and values to include;

  • Conscientious
  • Dependable
  • Analytical
  • Driven
  • Productive
  • Organized
  • Curious
  • Creative
  • Open to feedback
  • Planner
  • Introvert
  • Independent
  • Proactive
  • Loves to learn

Resume Unique Selling point

Lastly, you want to know and list the points that make you stand out from other candidates; that unique selling point. It may be mundane but it may just be what the hiring manager is looking for. An example of these are;

  • Bilingual/multilingual
  • Architect and B.Eng or MBA
  • Nobel prize, Grammy or Olympic prize winner
  • Have an extensive network or connection that broadens your ability to contribute
  • Have an extensive global or national experience
  • Completed an expert or specialized assignment
  • Recognized published Author in architecture
  • Rare combination of industry skills (e.g. LEED Accredited Professional, Project Management Professional, Facility Management, Construction Management and Space Planning skills)

Creating a Resume

Now that you have created a pool of information about yourself, let’s build your resume. If your work experience is less than 10 years, a single page resume is perfect to convey all the information you have. Remember that the idea is not to populate your resume with information but relevant/attractive information. Every job application is different, thus every resume is different. It’s best to tailor each resume to the specific job.

A lot of work right? Yes, sometimes.

To get started, I will be using a fake character called Mr. John Dow. John is an Architect with two plus years work experience, two University degrees and a handful of certifications. John resides in Nigeria where he schooled, works and volunteers. Ordinarily, John’s educational and work history isn’t different from most architects’ history, however, what will set his resume apart is the quality and relevance of information he puts in the resume.

To make it more real and relatable, I have created a job posting that John intends to apply to with his resume.


Job posting

Archccess studio, lagos is seeking a junior Architect with 2-3 years’ experience to carry out the following responsibilities;

  • Develops architecturally-significant designs consistent with our commitment to Design Excellence.
  • Develops and prepares design documents including preliminary designs, contract documents, and presentation materials.
  • Understands and responds to the technical implications of design decisions.
  • Performs tasks according to our standards and Project Delivery Manual.
  • Have highly developed communication, interpersonal, verbal and written skills are mandatory.
  • Works with the team to integrate the design and technical aspects of the project.

To join us, you should have:

  • A professional degree in Architecture
  • 2 – 4 years’ experience
  • Registered Intern or Registered Architect
  • Proficient in 3D and 2D graphics software (Revit)
  • Proficiency in hand-drawn design and illustration
  • Working drawing experience
  • LEED Green Associate
  • A positive attitude and commitment to being an active and positive participant of our culture
  • Strong communication, interpersonal skills, time management, and project management skills are essential

Qualified candidates should send a resume and portfolio by email. Job Ref no. XY12345


Resume

The following are ways to fill the various sections in a resume, starting from the top of the sheet to the bottom. Often, whether to place Experience before Education or vice verse is determined by which is most likely to impress the hiring manager. Let’s start!

  • Write your name together with all relevant letters that reflects your best training/Certification for the Job posting.

John Dow, Architect ARCON, M.Arch, LEED AP, PMP

  • Write your address, phone number, functional email and LinkedIn profile address.

Flat 3, 101 Idowu Tailor, Lekki, Lagos. 08012345678. Johndow@archccess.com. www.linkedin.com/john123

  • Write the position, company, location and job Ref no. you are applying for.

Job Applied For: Junior Architect, Archccess Studio, Lagos. Job Ref no. XY1234

  • Write out the “highlights of your qualifications”. These is a combination of your key accomplishments, expertise, unique selling point that are suitable to the job requirements on the advert. In the advert above, you will find those requirements under the title; “To join us, you should have”. Phrase your words to imitate the job postings keywords and respond to all job requirements listed as much as possible. Try not to include you personality traits and values here because mostly candidates would. Distinguish your self by starting each point with eye catching words for example Proficient, highly skilled, Solid experience, etc.

HIGHLIGHTS OF QUALIFICATIONS

  • Professional Master degree in Architecture (M.Arch)
  • 2 + years’ experience
  • Registered Architect, ARCON
  • Highly proficient in 2D and 3D graphics software including Revit, AutoCAD, Lumion and Adobe Creative Suite
  • Recognized proficiency in hand-drawn sketches and illustrations.
  • Solid working and technical drawing experience in CAD and BIM
  • Rare combination of industry skills including LEED Accredited Professional, Project Management Professional, Facility Management, Construction Management and Space Planning skills.
  • Write out your educational history; University attended, degree acquired, and date.

EDUCATION

University of Abuja, Nigeria – B.Sc (Arch.) -Second Class upper division. Oct 2011 – Jul 2015.

University of Benin, Nigeria – M.Arch – distinction. Oct 2015 – July 2017.

  • List all relevant certifications you have acquired

CERTIFICATIONS

USGBC – LEED Accredited Professional (Reg. No.) Oct 2019.

PMI – Project Management Professional (Reg. No.) Jan 2020.

  • List and write out your experience, few key accomplishments, personality trait and values in this section. Try to match the job duties in the job posting with the duties at your current or past role and change your words to imitate the keywords in the job advert. Also, try to match the job titles. Check your resourvior of key titles for any that closely match that on the job posting, the duties and skills you intend to list out. The idea is too prepare a truthful resume but by using similar words, title, roles and duties as listed in the job posting the hiring manager is familiar with.

EXPERIENCE

Bridgeland Studio, Lagos – Junior Architect. 2018-2020

  • Developed various architecturally-significant design solutions consistent with my employers philosophy and delivery manual
  • Prepared complete and accurate design documents including preliminary designs, technical detailing and contract documents in AutoCAD and Revit
  • Worked collaboratively with design team to integrate the design and technical aspects of a variety of projects
  • Set up and managed an in-house 3D rendering division that reduced drawing production cost by 20%
  • Designed a 4-floor 2000sqm LEED Gold Certified residential apartment
  • Led a team to bid and win the design of a 9000sq feet International conventional centre, the first of its kind in Lagos
  • Design and supervised innovative retail projects with budgets ranging from $1m – $10m

VOLUNTEERING

Homes, Lagos – Volunteer. 2018-2020

  • List your roles and accomplishments here. They could compliment your experience if they are in a similar field as your profession.

Above all, a perfect resume is no guarantee that you will nail that desired job of yours at first try. Consistent networking is still required to get in touch with principals and hiring managers of companies you are interested him.

Have you been writing and sending resumes without favourable responses? Let me know what you have decided to do differently by dropping a comment.