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How to write your Architecture CV so it stands out!

Posted 19th May, 2017

Key Points that will change the way you think about writing your CV

  • Stop including generic or self qualified information such as "I am a hard worker".
  • Order your CV correctly for the maximum impact in the first 10 seconds of reading.
  • Layout that CV so that the best / most important information is most prominent.

Aims of a good Curriculum Vitae

  • To gain professional interest from employers over and above the competition.
  • Make a good first impression in the first 10 seconds. We need that employer to carry on reading and not get bored.
  • Fill the CV with ONLY relevant hard hitting, provable information that is useful to your potential employer.

CV formatting:

I would suggest you design a creative CV if you are an Architect (and I can't tell you how to do that) or involved in Concept or design, it may even be beneficial if you are purely technical. However make sure you include the following format in the order suggested to maximise that first impression which will get you over the line 95% of the time:

1.      Picture & contact details.

2.      Profile: Keep it brief and include mainly technical information. We don’t want too many of the following interpersonal kind of statements:

Very hard working individual who can push myself to go the extra mile

Or

I enjoy working as part of a team but can equally work well alone.

Firstly everybody puts this kind of generic information in their CV, and whether it is true or not it's just filler. Do you think your potential new employer will really judge whether you are a hard worker or not because you say so on your CV? This information is literally wasting valuable page space and valuable seconds of reading time and does not make you stand out in anyway.

OK, what SHOULD I write in my profile then?

Let's give them relevant information about you, the kind of stuff they want to see straight away. Keep it short; ideally one paragraph that should look something like this:

First sentence - Strong sentence that sums up you. Example:

Technically orientated Architect, with a leaning towards technical delivery in a BIM environment.

Second and third sentence – What level are you at in your career? What can you REALLY do (It may be worth tailoring this part for each job). Example:

I have 10 years of experience working on a variety of project types including Healthcare and Retail projects as both a BIM modeller and a package manager on projects up to £10m construction value. I also have strong multiple disciplinary experience putting me in a strong position when working on complex building types with multiple consultants.

Fourth Sentence (optional), possible paragraph break – What else can you do for your employer? Example:

My experience reaches from the basic function of Architecture into the business of Architecture where I assist in winning Bids through assisting at presentations to clients, planning committees and contractors.

Consider tailoring your responses by looking into organisations and the job specification you are applying to. Never lie, but of course point the profile in the direction the company / job implies.

3.      Skills / Software: Rather than make your potential employer read through 500 words to discover you do or do not have experience of a vital piece of software or with certain building regulations, why not make the most recent, and most relevant parts stand out as soon as they look at your CV? Make the best 2 or 3 pieces of software (that you are most experienced at) stand out and list them!

I like the bar chart or the pie chart for this, possibly with an accompanying list. Do not devalue important parts of your experience by watering it down with 10 years of peripheral experience on an arcane piece of software or codes and standards you haven't used for over 5 years. Make your best (or your most relevant or useful experience to that company) features shine overtly. You just want a system to show your level of expertise in each piece of software or skill set. There are lots of creative ways to do this.

Skills should not include having a positive attitude or excellent communication. Let’s relate it to something technical and useful. You should consider including between 5 and 10 skills which are essential to you day to day and these could include:

  • CAD or BIM software that you are most experienced with.
  • Building Codes and regulations you use most in your sectors.
  • Sector experience that is most prevalent (both to you and to the job you are applying for).
  • Visualisation and 3D Software if applicable.
  • Relationships with key public bodies, suppliers or contractors if applicable.
  • Experience on site or coordinating with other disciplines.
  • Special knowledge otherwise not contained above that you think could be important to any employer.

4.      Career history: DO NOT do a reverse career history! Why would you do that when your most important and relevant experience is always within the last 2 - 5 years and at your last employment that lasted more than 6 months! You want them to see what you can do now, not what you did more than 5 years ago!

DO NOT be afraid of making your last 5 years quite long! As long as the info you are providing is vital and relevant, use up to half a page to explain your time at your last employer if you have to! Maybe a quarter of a page for the employer before and the other quarter page for the rest of your stuff. Anything over 5 years ago (if you have had very few employers then consider expanding a bit more than you otherwise would) is less relevant to your employer. Even if you think it is, unfortunately people who look at CV's generally aren't interested. You can get more information into an interview if you feel it is important.

Be sure to include the month and year you started each period of employment along with the company name. In the body of each period of employment include:

  • Big hitting technical information with detail (last 5 years only). For example:

"Produced Production information and reacted to site throughout a project for a highly technical Extra Care project"

Or

"Helped shape company BIM standards and improved Coordination through the production of knowledge sheets for the project..."

Or even

"Assisted in many successful bids by presenting to stake holders…"

You should present your career history in old fashioned sentences using paragraph breaks, but be sure to mix in some bullet points to highlight important or landmark projects or tasks. This will break the monotony for the reader. You do not want a long, continuous half page essay. Stick to writing a paragraph or two AT MOST before breaking it up with more bullet pointed or tabled information or even something visual.

5.      Project list: (Optional) Feel free to tie this in with Career history as suggested above in a creative way. I would stick to the last 5 years unless it is something special like a project where you were involved with cutting edge (for the time) technology, or it was particularly big and bold in some way.

6.      Education: Keep it brief, don’t bother with GCSE’s if you have some actual career history to discuss, just higher education. (I know! You thought they were so important at the time!)

7.      Interests: Keep it brief but this is important. It could well be what your employer uses to break the ice with you when you arrive for an interview. If you want to be really clever you want to relate this back to what you can do for your potential employer. For example:

"I am passionate about supporting local charities and raised the profile of my last employer by helping to organise events and marketing for charities the company supported"

8.      References – Just say upon request if at all. Don't list your current employers contact details unless you want to risk a call out of the blue.

Further Tips:

  • If including a picture think of how you are portraying yourself. Semi Casual is fine in Architecture. It should go without saying, but smile!
  • Seriously keep away from those generic statements! It's just filler! Your aim is to gain their attention so they carry on reading, fill those personal statements with attractive facts.
  • Look at the way your Linkedin profile is laid out. It isn't exactly what I have described above, but not far off if you're looking for inspiration.
  • Tailoring your CV should not be a chore and if you apply to truly suitable jobs, you should only have to do it to really drill down. When doing so look at the phrases and terms used in the job specification or on the company website, look at the sectors involved and try and find any other information you think is relevant; DO NOT LIE (because if you get a job you will be caught out!), but certainly highlight what you think the key experience required is if that information is a little more peripheral on your current CV.
  • Include any impressive and attractive visuals on your CV. Technical detail should be saved for your portfolio, purely for aesthetic purposes, especially if you are a design professional.
  • Don't have a digital portfolio? GET ONE! Include a variety of levels of detail and scale from technical work, include renders and visuals and make them more prominent if you are design lead or a Part II and try and stick to no more than 7 or 8 key projects!

If you need support, if you have been looking for a role without luck for a while, or if you just want to bounce your ideas or CV off someone, then of course I am a Recruiter, so get in touch and we can work on it together. Genuine feedback provided.

Get in touch with your Architecture Job search on 0161 672 1060 or email Matt.Kirk@ardentcareers.co.uk for a list of current opportunities, advice and discussion about you and your career.

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