Welcome to Part 2 of the Architecture CV series. If you haven’t read Part 1 already I recommend you check that out first – click here.
This part of the series will continue to focus on the general content of the CV and a few more dos and don’ts. These tips are crucial. The layout, format, spelling and vocabulary of a CV is just as important as the content itself. If a recruiter is going through hundreds of CVs a week, from people all with similar qualifications and experience, you can be sure that some poor spelling and incorrect use of language or punctuation can be enough to put your CV in the bin!
So, lets just pause for a second. Imagine you are putting together a sales brochure for the launch of a new sportscar. You would probably employ copywriters and designers to help you make the car look as good as you can, and persuade people to buy it. If you ever go into car dealerships and look at their literature, the brochures are glossy, great pictures and persuasive descriptions that make you WANT that car!
You are doing a very similar thing when putting together your CV and portfolio. You are putting together your sales brochure. The text needs to be right, the images need to be carefully chosen, the formatting needs thought, and the spelling and grammar is equally important. This is why it is worth spending a good amount of time on your CV. If you don’t, recruiters and employers will be able to tell and someone who has taken more care with their CV will get the interview over you.
How to write the CV
Firstly, lets look at how you write the CV. Many people ask whether they should write their CV in first or third person. You have to be careful when writing in the first person not to sound too ‘me, me, me’!
For example, “I possess good communication skills, I am a very resourceful member of a design team. I am motivated to work on projects on my own initiative and I work well under pressure giving me the ability to meet tight deadlines.” You can see it doesn’t sound great, or read very well.
Writing in the third person is better and often recommended, but it can sound a bit pompous and self important. Usually the best answer is to try and strip out the use of pronouns. Lets look at the above example but reduce the use of pronouns:
Possess good communication skills, a very resourceful member of a design team. Motivated to work on projects on my own initiative and work well under pressure giving the ability to meet tight deadlines.”
You can see this sounds much better. Although not a perfect paragraph, it requires work, but this gives you an idea of why writing without the me, me, me, and the I, I, I gives a more professional impression.
It is really important to try and avoid repetition. By this I mean try to avoid using the same adjective or adverb more than once in any one paragraph. Likewise, in any bullet point list, you should try to start each bullet with a different word. This can be quite hard to do, its time to consult the thesaurus! I also include a list of useful verbs and adjectives at the bottom of this post to help you get started.
Spelling and typos
Did you know that 60% of CVs and cover letters contain at least one linguistic mistake. Now this can be used to your advantage! If you make sure your CV is perfect – you will already be one step ahead.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to check and double check your CV. Even more so, get someone else to check it too. You spend so long writing your CV, and staring at, sometimes you can miss a mistake right in front of you. That is why fresh eyes can often spot an error straight away, and you don’t want a recruiter or potential employer to spot that mistake.
If you are an international applicant it is even more important. I’m afraid to say that poor English is a real turn off for potential employers. I receive many emails from people who are trying to find work in other countries and they tell me how hard it is, and how much they are struggling. This only goes to confirm how important it is to make sure the CV is perfect for international applicants. If at all possible, get someone who is native speaking to check the CV.
It goes without saying that you should spell check your CV. Make sure your spell check is set to the correct version of your language, for example; English USA or English UK.
Order and Length
As an architect (technologist, technician, graduate etc) or someone in the creative field generally – your CV is going to differ from the standard more ordinary CVs. You may feel you want to express your creativity and design flair using your CV and as a result may not follow the standard order of a CV. However, I will go through the general basics, and you can assess what you feel is right for you.
Type of CV – Functional or Chronological?
There are generally two types of traditional CV – functional and chronological. Chronological CVs list your employment and academic history in reverse chronological order, making it easy for your potential employer to see what you have done and what you have achieved. These CVs are therefore more popular, and have proven to be more successful in gaining interviews.
The functional CV lists skills based on different areas and focuses less on career and academic history. This can sometimes be a useful type of CV but isn’t as popular.
The combination CV
There is then the CV that is a mixture of the two and to a certain extent this is what I feel is appropriate for the architectural CV. This gives a chronological history, but allows you to list out your relevant skills, software experience etc so that a recruiter or potential employer can not only see your experience but quickly grasp the skills that you would bring to their practice. I think this works really well.
Also, using this combination works well for people with a limited work history, as you can make it more skills focused.
So to figure out what you should put first – it is fairly simple. What is your greatest selling point? If you have just graduated and you have minimal work experience it would make sense to put your education first. If however, you have years of work experience and your education is a distant memory – put your work experience first. The most important information should be in the top half of your one page CV, or on the first page of your two page CV. When discussing your career history and education, you must write it in reverse chronological order. This means that the most relevant and important information will be viewed first.
One page or two?
A note on CV length. It is recommended that your CV should be one page. This for some people is not easy and you can use two pages – but definitely no more! If you do spread to a second page, make sure you fill that second page, or use appropriate spacing, as a half second page can give an incomplete appearance. A one page CV can have a great impact, get straight to the point and give the employer all the information they need.
Should I write down everything?
No. It is most definitely not necessary to include everything on your CV. Depending on your experience, you can summarise more historical work or education and be more detailed with your most recent endeavours. I would say if you have completed a degree it is not entirely necessary to include your GCSE information, unless your grades are outstanding. You can also cut out months from your career history, and just write the years, if you have had numerous jobs for long periods at a time.
For every statement and piece of information you provide, ask yourself, is this relevant and does it support my case?
Finally, I would not recommend you lie on your CV. If you have lied and you get found out, you can be fired for gross misconduct right there and then! It is not worth the risk, and no, not everyone does it!
Should you get an interview, and there were a few little lies on your CV, your pre interview nerves will be even worse as you wonder whether you’ll get found out! Don’t say you can use a software if you can’t. I have been to a couple of interviews where they have sprung a CAD test on me! The same might happen to you. I have also been to interviews where I have had general knowledge tests, and spelling tests! Yes, these were for architectural roles!
So this concludes Part 2 of the Architecture CV series. With the basics covered, Part 3 will delve deeper into your CV and go through section by section, helping you to put together your CV.
- First In Architecture is looking to develop its links with potential employers. If this is something that is of interest, and you would like me to keep you informed with any developments please sign up to the employment newsletter.
- We are looking to connect excellent candidates with inspiring and exciting practices. Watch this space.
- If you have any suggestions, or ideas please drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment below, I would love to hear from you.
- I read every comment, and every email I receive – so get in touch! How can I help you get a job?!