You’re a brilliant architect, and any company would be lucky to have you. But how do you let them know that? Your resume is the representative that goes on ahead of you, convincing potential employers of your worth.
Get your resume right, and the battle is half-won; get it wrong, and you go straight into the recycling bin with 90% of the other applicants.
This article will show you how to create the perfect architecture resume. It’ll tell you what to include and what to leave out, as well as offering tips on design and layout.
It’ll explain what’s expected and frowned upon in the industry; how to write different kinds of resume appropriate to the stage of your career; and where to find examples and templates for inspiration.
What’s the difference between a resume and a CV?
For some, ‘resume’ is associated with the American word for a CV – but technically, there’s a difference between the two documents.
A resume consists of one or two pages that summarize your experience, skills and achievements. Job applicants often tailor their resumes to the specific positions they’re applying for. A CV is a longer document that provides details of everything you’ve done, and is more commonly required for academic or research positions.
In this article, we will focus on how to write a resume rather than a CV.
How to write an architecture resume, what should be included?
There is no ideal formula for a good architecture resume, but it will always include four things: a summary statement, your educational background, your work experience, and a breakdown of your skills.
Writing a summary statement
The summary statement usually appears first on a resume and is designed to get the recruiter’s attention. It summarizes what you have to offer, focusing on your achievements and strengths.
It is generally three or four lines long and written without saying ‘I’, so that each sentence begins with a noun, verb or adjective, for example:
Architect with 18 months’ experience, specialising in social housing. Won first place in the Westford Student Competition for Sustainable Housing Design. Proficient in SketchUp, AutoCAD and Adobe Photoshop.
Your summary statement should be slightly different each time you apply for a job. Research the company you are applying to and, if possible, include directly relevant information in your summary.
This shows the reader that you are keen to work for them specifically, and not just sending out a generic resume to lots of companies.
Writing about your education
If you are a recent graduate with limited experience, play up this section of your resume by mentioning any awards you received or extracurricular activities you took part in.
If you graduated some time ago, it isn’t necessary to include these additional details unless they are especially impressive. Your work experience is likely to be more relevant to a potential employer.
No matter how long ago you graduated, always write your qualifications in reverse chronological order so the reader sees the higher-level ones first. You don’t need to write about education that isn’t relevant to the job you’re applying for, for example high school qualifications, unless you are specifically asked about it.
Writing about your work experience
As with your education, write about your most recent work experience first. It’s not enough just to write the name of the employer and the dates you worked there; say a little about what you did, so the reader understands how your past experience relates to the job you’re applying for now.
If you don’t have much experience yet, or your work history is patchy, you might prefer to use what’s called a functional resume which focuses on your skills, rather than on a timeline.
(There’s more information on this in the section below called ‘Choosing the best format’.) Use words on your resume that show you are familiar with the architectural field in practice such as render and renovate, conceptualize and consult.
If you have many years of experience, you don’t need to list jobs you had a long time ago unless they gave you a particularly relevant set of skills, or were so prestigious they would still impress an employer now!
Writing about your skills
If you are applying for an advertised position, the company will have likely specified the skills they are seeking. Make sure your resume shows you have these, or that you are taking steps to learn them.
Many people make the mistake of only writing about their ‘hard’ skills on their resume, which is to say tangible, job-specific skills like drafting and model-making. Employers also value ‘soft’ skills such as critical thinking and interpersonal skills, so tell them what else you’re good at and give examples where possible.
How long should a resume be?
The ideal resume fits on one page but this can be difficult to achieve, especially when you’ve worked in the industry for some time.
Two pages are fine, especially if you’re a senior architect, but if you slip onto a third it’s a sign that some editing needs to be done. And remember, you don’t need to talk about things you did years ago, or that aren’t directly relevant to the job you’re applying for.
Some people find that a double-column layout helps them to get more information onto the page without it becoming cluttered.
Choosing the best format
There are three main types of resume: chronological, functional and hybrid.
A chronological resume lists the things you have done with the most recent at the top. A functional resume focuses on your skills, which may be described out of date order.
And a hybrid resume combines these two, perhaps focusing on a specific skill required for a position in the first part of the document, but later listing some work experience in reverse date order.
Chronological resumes are best suited to career architects, i.e. those whose studied architecture at university and whose career has since progressed in a logical and linear fashion.
Functional and hybrid resumes help those who are not career architects to show how they have gained useful knowledge, experience and skills elsewhere, and that they still meet the requirements of the job.
Functional resumes are also suitable for people who have had limited variety in their work experience, as they eliminate the need to list similar jobs over and over again.
You can find plenty of examples of these types of architecture resume online, as well as sites that offer free customizable templates for each (see the section ‘Where to find templates and examples’ below).
Choosing the best design and layout
You’re an architect. Visual thinking should be one of your strengths, so demonstrate this clearly in your resume. Never use a gimmicky format or font to get attention; a good, clean design will speak much more effectively on your behalf.
Use font size 11 or 12 for the main body of your resume, with larger text for titles and smaller text for less important information. Keep the number of fonts to a minimum, and use them consistently throughout. Make sure there is enough white space between blocks of text and use color judiciously, or not at all.
Although you’ll most likely submit your resume electronically, don’t assume it won’t be printed out at the other end. Before you hit send, print your own copy to make sure that nothing is being cut off.
If it is, go back and adjust your margins (as a rule of thumb: leave 1.5 to two centimetres at each side, 1.5 centimetres at the bottom, and two at the top).
What should the header look like?
The header should include your name, in a larger font than your body text, and contact details such as your phone number, email address and Skype ID.
It’s no longer common practice to write your home address, though you can write the town or city that you’re based in. You might optionally include a job title (not just ‘architect’ – make your specialism clear) and a link to your portfolio/website.
Adding certificates and licences
Include these in the education section of your resume. Even if it seems obvious that you have a particular certificate, write it down because it’s an industry requirement and quickly communicates to an employer that your work meets certain standards.
Adding a cover letter
Applicants often think that a cover letter is a formality and that their resume will do the talking, but this is rarely the case! Cover letters are typically read first, so get your first impression right.
The letter should highlight your main skills and experience, show that you have spent time researching the company you’re applying to, and communicate more of your personality than is possible in a resume.
Try to use the active rather than passive voice (i.e. say what you actually did, using the word ‘I’).
Your cover letter is most likely to be the body text of an application email. But if you are asked to submit a cover letter as an attachment on a website, don’t write more than a page, and use fonts and layout consistent with your resume.
For more information on this we have a full guide here: How to write the perfect architecture cover letter
Should you include references?
There is some disagreement on this issue, with the consensus tending towards not including references. The exception may be if someone of particularly high status is prepared to recommend you; however, you should never include someone else’s contact details on your resume.
It’s a good idea to stay in control of who is contacting your referees and when. Also, there is no need to write ‘References available on request’ – the fact that you have provided details of your previous education/employment already makes this obvious to an HR manager.
Should you include a photo?
In the UK and US, you should never include a photo unless one is requested (and if it is, ask yourself why!). However, in continental Europe, Asia and the Middle East it is more common to include one. If you are thinking of applying for a job overseas, you can find more detailed information on norms around the world here.
Different types of resume
Resumes for architectural internships
Writing a resume for an internship can be tricky, as it is likely to be your first real experience of working in architecture. Mention any volunteering you’ve done, projects you’ve worked on, prizes you’ve won, and articles you’ve written.
If you’ve ever had a part-time job, think about the transferable soft skills you developed there (e.g. collaboration, communication) and mention these, too.
Resumes for graduate architects
By now, you will have your internship(s) behind you so writing your resume becomes slightly easier. List your placement(s) as you would regular jobs, specifying the tasks you did and how your contribution added value.
As a recent graduate, though, this part of your resume is always going to be thin – so make sure your portfolio really shows what you’re capable of. At this stage of your career, you will mostly be judged on your potential.
Resumes for senior architects
Once you have a few years of experience under your belt, recruiters are interested in the specifics of what you did, for whom, and for how long. However, your portfolio still says more about you as an architect than a page of text ever could, so make sure it’s as good as it can possibly be.
Top 10 tips for your architecture resume
1. KISS – Keep it short and simple
Remember two as your maximum number. Don’t go over two pages, two fonts, or two colours. Some recruiters insist resumes should only have black text on a white background, but people working in the creative industries tend to be given more flexibility.
Simple infographics can show complex information at a glance, but don’t resort to gimmicks.
2. Tailor it each time
Don’t send out the same resume every time you apply for a job. Show the recruiter that you’ve spent time researching their company, and thinking about the requirements of the job they have advertised (if indeed they have).
Make it clear how your particular set of skills and experience will benefit them.
3. Spend time on your summary statement
It is said that we form an impression of other people within seven seconds of meeting them. The first thing a recruiter will notice about your resume is its design, but the first thing they will read is your summary statement.
Make sure it captures all of your strengths and achievements, and really sells you as a candidate.
4. Say what you did
Recruiters don’t want to know what your organisation or your project team did, because that isn’t who they’re hiring. Describe the work that you personally did, and why it was helpful.
Did you save the company money, attract a new client, design a new way of doing things, or win particular praise from a colleague? Think about what makes you stand out from all the other applicants.
5. Quantify your achievements
Be as specific as you can when talking about your work. Saying that you attracted new clients is good; saying that you attracted clients X, Y and Z, leading to a 10% increase in income over a two-year period, is better.
6. Indicate your proficiency level in skills and software
A quick way for potential employers to understand your strengths is to list common skills and software packages on your resume and give yourself a proficiency rating (e.g. from one to ten) in each.
This is a bit of a balancing act, however. Never say you’re more competent than you are, in case your skills are put to the test during the recruitment process – but equally, don’t include anything that paints you in an unfavorable light.
If you’re not so great at something, leave it off your resume.
7. Explain gaps in a positive way
Always account for any gaps in your employment history; glossing over them looks like you have something to hide. It’s fine to (briefly) mention travel, volunteering and unrelated paid work, especially if you can say what you learnt from those experiences.
8. Check spelling, grammar and punctuation
No, you’re not applying for a job as a writer – but attention to detail is a skill no architect can do without. A single spelling mistake can make your resume look unprofessional.
There are computer programs that help you check your work, but they won’t pick up everything. It’s a good idea to proofread your resume at least twice and on different days, so you see it with fresh eyes, and better still…
9. Get feedback from someone you trust
Don’t send off your resume without having had another pair of eyes on it. Obviously, it won’t be possible to have someone look at every version you tweak during an applications marathon, but when you’ve created a basic version that you’re happy with, ask a trusted mentor or colleague for their opinion.
10. Submit your portfolio separately
Combined resumes and portfolios can feel arduous to get through. Submit the two separately, and be mindful of the size of your portfolio. Don’t send an attachment larger than 5MB, and aim for five to ten pages in total.
For more information on how to start crafting the perfect portfolio, we have a free guide here: The Architecture portfolio guide and a full and comprehensive portfolio kit below:
Four common resume mistakes and how to avoid them
This goes for both the design and the content of your resume. Recruiters have to read hundreds, so don’t put them off with a document that is hard to make sense of. Make sure you can justify the inclusion of everything that’s on your resume, and say what you have to say as succinctly as possible.
An ‘it’ll do’ attitude can show up in all sorts of ways on a resume, from missing commas to badly-aligned text. In the worst case scenario, an architect with this kind of attitude puts the users of their buildings in physical danger – but even in an everyday setting, nobody wants a colleague who isn’t conscientious.
Your resume represents you in your absence, so make sure it’s a quality product.
Check that the information on your resume is relevant to the intended reader. Ten years into your career, you don’t need to talk about your internship or that temporary job that didn’t teach you much.
Talk about the most recent and most impressive work you have done, and tailor your resume to show how you fit the description of the person this company is looking for.
‘I’m a hardworking team player who thinks outside the box!’ Guess what? – so are 20 other people who applied for the job. Resumes are full of stock phrases that don’t really mean anything, so avoid them as much as you can.
Give the reader concrete information about yourself and your work; if you follow Top Tips 4 and 5 above, vagueness shouldn’t be a problem.
Where to find templates and examples
A search on Google or Pinterest will return hundreds of results, but the following sites also have examples of architecture resumes and (mainly free) customizable templates:
You may also be interested in the results of this competition run by ArchDaily to find the most creative architecture resumes from around the world – though some of them pay little heed to the advice in this article!
Crafting the perfect architecture resume can be time-consuming, but if it gets your foot in the door then it’s time well spent.
Remember that the best resumes are short and simple, focusing on your strongest skills, and on qualifications and experience that are recent, relevant and impressive.
Show in your choice of words and design that you are both professional and creative, and always double-check your resume before you send it off.
Now there’s nothing stopping you landing your dream job in architecture – good luck!