December 09, 2013

Kisses of Death: The Recent Grad's Architecture Job Application


When applying and hustling for work for a year after graduating, and working for just about half a year, I got to see a bit of what goes wrong upon the receipt of a recent architecture graduate’s application. Here are the “kisses of death” many recent design have done to their applications. I’m more compassionate to design students because you probably did not consider career counselling advice when you were just too busy finishing your studio project. I hope these tips improve your chances Architecture Students:

KISS (Keep it simple, stupid)
Some firms may like the crazy graphic design packages – however, find a way to communicate your work efficiently with a package that is easy to navigate/use. In other words, know your audience. Architecture Firm principals are very busy with administrative responsibilities and why you want to catch their eye in the shortest amount of time possible.  
TIP: If you are doing a graphic design package – make sure it is easy for the employer to go through. Some examples include: issuu portfolios that can freeze up the browser and if you are printing a package...don’t make it a giant sheet folded down to a 8.5x11 sheet to be opened up. Do some test prints, get a friend to test it out. 

Showing detail drawings that does not make sense 
A professor and even my boss has told me this: If you don’t know how to detail, you are better off just not showing your attempted details if it does not work. This can make or break an application because it tells the applicant that you do not understand building construction. 
TIP: It is better to ensure you provide a proper detail drawing that makes sense. However, there will be some reprieve from some hiring managers because they do understand that Architecture Students are recent grads and have not bulked up enough experience or knowledge (believe me, you learn more things OUTSIDE Architecture School). 

·         Not showing work that relates to the firm’s work...at all
Our previous guest post from Ryan, who operates Architecture Career Guide, shows that looking specifically for the right firm as opposed is a better strategy for getting employed in the long run. The generic en masse applications is  more of a short term solution. You want to ensure that your portfolio shows pieces related to the work of the firm. Example: If you want to apply to a firm focused on urban design and you then show nothing but product design and houses in your portfolio means a likely rejection. 
TIP: For a recent graduate, you may not have covered all the building types required to get into a specific firm. If anything, you need to try and show some work that shows that you are interested in the work the firm does, but are also capable of handling the type of work that they do. 

·         Not showing a breadth of work.
The ideal candidate of a firm should show a broad skill set as much as possible if they want a design position. There is a danger to just showing renderings or just showing drawings in your work. You do not want to pigeonhole yourself. 
TIP: Each project should be presenting design ability, and different technical abilities. If you do plan to apply to firms with a massive blast of applications to all the firms you know, at least show a variety of project types and scales.

·         Long Resumes/Cover letters
A good architect friend took a look at my resume and told me to just reduce it to one page and be succinct. A recent graduate should not attempt to make it long.

Realize there is a recipe for resume sentences that you can find online – but it should convey an action and result in a effective and succinctly. Telling others on your resume that you eagerly did the job with great enthusiasm and enjoyed it means nothing.  Saying that you came into a middle of a project, completed a BIM model or did drawings along with showing how it helped the firm is more effective.  
TIP: Lots of resume writing and cover letter tips can be found on college and university websites across the world. Just google it. The same rules apply for other fields when composing a cover  letter and resume: keep it short and effective. 

There you have it, I hope this helps for the recent grad looking and for the architecture student who should be looking for summer work (and yes, it begins in December if your summer break begins in May!)

RELATED POSTS:
Applying for Architecture Internships
Kiss of Death: The Recent Grad's Architecture Job Interview
Reflections from the Post-Grad Job Hunt!

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