October 28, 2013

Applying for Architecture Internships

I am very honoured to announce our first guest post here at The Underdog Architecture Student's blog. Today's post is courtesy of Ryan Hansanuwat, an Architect and Vice President for an architecture firm in Texas and writer for Architecture Career Guide where he dispenses advice on how to become an Architect and what being an Architect is like.

Applying for an internship can be a nerve-wracking ordeal. There are so many things to be concerned with, am I a good fit for the firm, is the firm a good fit for me, do I know everything I need to perform, how can I make an impression? With so many things going through your mind, from your resume to your portfolio design, don't let a simple mistake make all of your hard work worthless. I see a lot of applications and sometimes even the best candidates get marked down for making these simple mistakes:

1. Typos and grammar mistakes 
I'm sure you have heard it a million times, but double, triple, and quadruple check your resume, portfolio and cover letter/email for typos and grammar mistakes. I see this so often it still amazes me. I understand there may be the occasional typo here or there, but I shouldn't have to look past a mistake to consider you. Not everything can be perfect, but there is no excuse for this not to be. Even better than double checking it yourself, send it to a friend to read, sometimes having another set of eyes can find things you overlooked. Also, don't just rely on the computer to catch everything, because it won't.
2. Obvious Copy/Paste 
I understand that you are probably applying to multiple firms, and it can get tedious typing the same thing over and over, but don't make me feel like my firm is not important to you. First, try to write every cover letter/email specifically to the firm you are applying to. Write a quick note about a project you saw on their website to let them know it is specific to them. Each application should be customized for the firm you are applying to because there shouldn't be that many. Using a shotgun approach may increase the odds of finding just one firm to hire you, but in the long run, it might not be a quality firm. The biggest mistake I see with this is when I get an email in three or four different font faces and sizes, meaning you obviously copied and pasted from other applications. Don't do this.
3. Not reading the job description 
Architecture job titles can be confusing. What's the difference between a job captain, drafter, intern, and project architect anyways? It depends on the firm, and that is why you must read the description first. If you are just out of school, don't apply for the Senior Project Architect positions. Look for indicators such as years of experience, responsibilities and other requirements like degrees or licenses. In the end, titles don't really matter, it is about the work you will be performing, and you should take the time to make sure you can perform those tasks.
4. Poorly designed resumes 
You spent a lot of time in architecture school designing buildings. You have put together numerous presentation boards, you obsessed over the layout of your portfolio, and your first impression to an employer is going to be a Microsoft Word resume template? Resumes are a one-page list of words, so you need to spice it up a bit. Take it as a difficult design challenge to make a boring resume exciting. I'm not saying to add a black background or full-page rendering (don't do that, it wastes my ink and I won't print it), but throw in some graphic design. Create a logo, have a consistent theme, add a highlight color. Do a Google or Pinterest search for graphic designer resumes and see how they do theirs, and you should be the same.  
5. Too much/not enough follow up 
This one can vary depending on the firm you are applying to, but in general you need to walk a fine line between how much contact you have with a firm. If they are advertising for a position and say no phone calls, don't call them. If you are cold calling, one initial contact and a quick follow up a while later will suffice. You don't want to pester them, because that will only make them remember you in a negative light. On the same note, if the firm contacts you back and asks for more information or to schedule an interview, don't wait 5 days to respond to them. You don't want to make them wait, because if they have gotten to the point of talking to you, they will want to move quickly. Lastly, always, always, always, follow up any interview or correspondence with a thank you note. An email will usually suffice, but you have to immediately let them know you appreciate their time.

Take this list and keep it in mind when you are getting ready to apply to a firm. Do take your time to make sure your portfolio is of quality, and make sure you dress appropriately, but take care of these basic steps to ensure all your hard work isn't thrown away because of something simple. To learn more about how to be the best employee, also check out my post on the Architecture Employee Trifecta, and find more information on the Architecture Career Guide.

- Ryan

Reflections from the Post-Grad Job Hunt
Move Forward: Tips on the (Architecture) Job Hunt
Kisses of Death when applying to an Entry-Level Architecture Job (coming soon)


  1. wow..! this is entirely worth my time.. i am currently processing my resume and cover letters for the companies i am planning to work for... its a good start... i'll let you guys know how it went for me.. <3

  2. very helpful and worth reading post.... thank you :)

  3. Thanx. totally gave me a head start