7 Mistakes That Will Destroy A Successful Architecture Resume/CV


Alex Rodríguez Santibáñez <a href='https://unsplash.com/@alexrds?utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=photographer-credit&utm_content=creditBadge'>Via Unsplash</a>

Alex Rodríguez Santibáñez <a href='https://unsplash.com/@alexrds?utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=photographer-credit&utm_content=creditBadge'>Via Unsplash</a>

This article was originally published on Brandon Hubbard’s blog, The Architect’s Guide.

According to a new study released by TheLadders, recruiters spend only six seconds on average 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 “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 for 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 of the things you should do when preparing a successful resume. However, it is just as important to know the things you should avoid.

Remember, you only get one chance at a good first impression. 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.

I put this list together to help 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).

Mistake #1: 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 project description instead of emphasizing individual contributions.

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

While it may be obvious to you that you designed a particular cladding detail, the hiring manager may not understand. 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 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.

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

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 can it possibly 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 experiences 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 to help the hiring manager focus 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. 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.

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 knowing 80% of Sketchup mean? Or 78% of Photography?

How were these ratings determined?

A. By yourself
B. By your boss
C. Made up on the spot

Answer: A & C

I have yet to see an example of an infographic that doesn’t just make the applicant look incompetent. Instead, it simply highlights all of 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 avoid skills infographics 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 reader’s attention. Like this example:





And 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. 

Most of the time these sentences only waste the hiring manager’s valuable eyeball time. The gist of the phrase is typically something meaningless:

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

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

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 can 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 from 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 design development phase on a mixed-use project.

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

Mistake #6: Poor Grammar

This is standard advice but 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.

How to avoid this mistake:

Don’t just rely on spell check. Common mistakes like “they’re” versus “their” will not be picked up. Try using a free tool like Grammarly, which checks for contextual spelling and vocabulary.

In addition, 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 #7: Not Highlighting Your Skills Relevant For The Job

As I describe in greater detail in, 7 Reasons Why Your Architecture Job Application Is Being Ignored, 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. 

It is your job to go through 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 these tips helpful for preparing your next architecture resume. Good luck!

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:

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