some simple advice for potential employees

I get a fair number of resumes here.  Nothing like the volume that SOM or their ilk must deal with, but enough over the years to have a sense of what works and what does not.  By far, most resumes are email affairs with attached PDFs or links to websites.  Some are a disaster, others are great.  So let’s keep it simple and be clear about what is effective and what is just plain stupid.

First, keep it short.  A resume should be about one page for each 5 years of working experience.  Give me the name and locale of the place you worked and maybe the names and descriptions of the most significant projects you worked on.  Not the fanciest projects in the office, but the ones you actually spent time on, a lot of time.  If we are hiring and I call you, I will certainly ask you about specific projects – their design, challenges, budget, scale, etc.  But for goodness sake, please do not list every single project you were vaguely associated with or long, exhaustive descriptions of each little task that you executed.  I know what it takes to design and put a building together and I can tell in a couple of minutes if you really were deeply involved or not and what that meant in terms of the work you did.

Second, save it as a PDF.  I am not going to open some odd or unusual file type from someone I don’t know.  Easy.

Third, don’t spend a lot of space on your profile.  This is a resume, not a dating profile.  I don’t really care to read that you are “highly creative” and “professional” or have an “extensive background” in various things.  That all should be clear from the experience you list on the resume.  And since you are certainly sending me some samples of your work, see Portfolio below, then I don’t really need to be told that you are creative.  At least I hope not.

Fourth,  if you went to architecture school and are not yet licensed, you are a “designer” or an architecture “intern”.  You are not nothing nor are you an “architect” even though that may have been the role you played on a given project.  And if you are the lead architect on a project then you are the “project architect”.  You may even have been the “job captain”, if such a term is still used, if you were in charge of a number of people who did the drawings for the project.

Fifth, please include the place you went to school(s).  I care about that stuff.  I would never hire anyone based on that nor exclude anyone.  Your portfolio will do that.  But I am curious and as I went to two very different schools, it is interesting to me.  (I think only once did someone not include this and it makes me unduly suspicious, “San Quentin University” maybe?)

And last, please no graphic excellence please.  Keep it visually simple with limited or no color, simple fonts, etc.  I am not interested in hiring a graphic designer – I wouldn’t know what to even look for.  I want the info on education, experience, skills, etc. with as little interference as possible. I am hopefully old school about this, and unapologetic.

Include a cover letter.  This can be part of the email text or a separate PDF but it should include some specifics of your most recent work, what kind of job you think you can do, and why our work and your experience are a good match.

Finally, please, PLEASE, include some kind of work samples or a portfolio.  I don’t care if this is a separate series of PDFs or a link to a website, but electronic communication has made this part of the job search so simple that to not include this info is infuriating.  I do not have time to personally interview every person who sends me info.  So I will filter out based largely on the experience level I am looking for and the quality of work in the portfolio.  I know that not everything in there represents your finest design efforts.  Work done for other offices is usually designed by some senior architect and the design may suck.  But if you have spent years executing the design you should include it.  If that is also accompanied by some really excellent design work, maybe school projects or speculative work, then I can read between the lines and figure this out. On the other hand if the project is really and truly awful, if you can’t even point to a detail that is thoughtfully designed and executed, then don’t include it as I am going to think that you are ineffectual in getting good designs built.

This is all so easy:  short, simple resume; clear cover letter; quality portfolio stuff.  Easy.  And you can simply name the files with what they contain, no “CHY2009r234_01”  – just “Jane Doe resume” will do.

Please do not send me stuff that makes my stomach turn:

Magazine articles with your work included.  Very nice, send that to your parents, not to me.

Unsolicited references.  Not ready for that yet, let’s talk a bit.

Personal logos.  I am too old to think this is a good idea.  As are most people who are going to hire you.

Information about non-architecture jobs unless absolutely necessary.  I don’t care so much about your job working at food service, or as a “host”, or a Best Buy salesperson.  If you have worked construction, okay.  Almost everything else: leave it alone, I am sure you have some great stories about those jobs, but this is not the place.  Have I told you about the summer I worked in a paint factory…

Photos of yourself.  Really.  Don’t.

Paper.  Don’t send me anything on paper.  Besides being better for the environment, emails get read.  Letters and envelopes mostly represent either invoices that I have to pay (bad things) or stuff someone wants me to use on a project (often very bad things).  If you send me info electronically I will probably keep it on file and most likely respond back to you.  If you send me anything in an envelope it will sit in a pile of  to-be-opened-unsolicited-stuff for a very long time.

Good luck, it’s still tough going out there.  You have my sympathy, but not if you include your photo, I really hate that one.

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