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Some resume and portfolio advice from someone who reviews them

Nov 20 '11 62 Last Comment
SeaArch
Nov 20, 11 4:42 pm

I am a Partner in a 20 person firm in Seattle and I have reviewed between 500 - 600 resumes and portfolios in the last two months.  Please let me give you all some advice.  Your submittal should be limited to four pages... a cover letter, a single page resume and one or two pages of work examples.  I regulary get submittals from applicants that are 20-30 pages long...it is mind numbing.  I am always impressed by someone who has a graphically clear and easy to read submittal and a few well chosen examples of work.  These candiates often have a website with more examples of their work I can go to if I'm interested.  It makes an impression that they know how to edit...less is more.

Also, what is it with all the type faces and different color text??????  You may think your good a graphic design...but the majority of you are not.  Please keep it simple and at least 10 point font.  Most of us reviewing your resumes have been working on computers for 25 years and our eyesite is shot...no 8 point text please.

Out of State applicants...its a long shot.  It is hard to make someone get on a plane for just an interview when there are so many good candiates already in our city out of work.  Just being honest.... 

If we list the position is for five to ten years of experience...we mean it.  So, if you have fifthteen to twenty years of experience please don't bother submitting.....I just throw out your resume.  I have been asked why we won't hire someone that is over qualified for a position if they are willing to do the job?  Two reasons...it feels like we are exploiting the current economic situtaion for our own gain...and that would not be ethical.  Second reason...it throws the team off balance.  We can't have a person with ten years of experience supervising someone with twenty plus years.  Also, leaving off graduating dates and years worked at companies does not hide how much experience you have...we can tell.

 

 

 

 

batman
Nov 20, 11 6:18 pm

i thought this was for grad school. lame

Erin WilliamsErin Williams
Nov 20, 11 6:30 pm

To add to the original:

If the job ad requests work samples, don't bother submitting just a resume, you're wasting your time.

Do NOT make me download 10 different jpegs of your work samples. Not going to do it.

If you are applying for an internship, advertising your "15 years of experience in the field" is not helping your case, it makes me wonder why you're so desperate that you're applying for internships.

Token AE
Nov 20, 11 6:31 pm

Good news, folks!

It looks like your writing can still resemble that of a text message from a seventh grade girl, but as long as you keep it to under four pages you're golden.

E.T. BaldosserE.T. Baldosser
Nov 20, 11 10:47 pm

Thanks for the advice, SeaArch.  I have to admit I'm quite surprised by the preference for just 1-2 pages of works. What, then, helps a candidate stand out among 600 applicants?  And for this one or two page sample, is it better to show a bunch of eye-candy, or take one project and go in depth?  I realize anything is correct, as long as it is assembled creatively and professionally, but I'm curious to your preference. 

Now that we know what not to do, what did the eventual hire do right in your instance?

 

Orhan AyyüceOrhan Ayyüce
Nov 20, 11 11:24 pm

"left side of the drafting room hired after 3 pages of portfolio and right side is hired after 4. front half of both sides have been laid off as of now, security personnel will escort you outside of the building, please remain seated and put your hands on the desk and don't touch the computer equipment."

citizen
Nov 20, 11 11:32 pm

Helpful advice from someone who actually reads resumes for the purpose of hiring. 

Thank you for posting.

SeaArch
Nov 21, 11 12:51 am

E.T

We have had two rounds of hiring and received between 200-300 resumes each time.  The preference for just one to two pages of work samples is because the shear volume of material we receive is impossible to review completely.  If we are interested we will definitely view your website or contact you for more information.  I prefer a few examples of work.  I also appreciate it when people list what they contributed to a project...design, presentation materials, construction documents, detailing etc.  We are a small generalist firm so we are looking for well-rounded adaptable Architects.  Someone who has worked on a variety of project types and a variety of tasks. We are not looking for specialists.

Also, if you have gotten an interview...we have already decided you are capable of performing the job.  What we want to get out of the interview is a sense is who you are.  In a small firm personality is a huge factor.  We want positive, reliable, can do people with a sense of humor and personality.  One person we hired had us really laughing over absurd stories about their CA experiences in Mexico.  It showed that had a real sense of humor and were capable of handling themselves on a jobsite in another language in a foregin country.  So, they definitely could handle a job in Seattle.

Quentin
Nov 21, 11 8:31 am

Semi unrelated - I have beef with firms who wan't hire people with a lack of experience, yet no firm wants to give a college grad experience. Ugh, such a catch 22. And don't say take a unpaid internship, we all got bills to pay. end rant/vent

elinor
Nov 21, 11 1:18 pm

SeeArch--there are many listings for jobs out there that require 5-10 pages of work, or 5-10 projects, or even complete portfolios.  Although 30 pages is too much in any case, don't you think employers should give a little leeway to applicants to best present their work using their own judgment?  it's an employer's market out there, and every post i see from someone in your position basically says, 'if you don't give me EXACTLY what i ask for, don't expect my consideration.' 

honestly, if an applicant is submitting 50 applications a week, expecting each to be precisely worked and tailored to each specific ad seems a bit unreasonable to me.  applicants' time is valuable too, and i'd like to think their intellectual input would be, as well.


4 pages is WAY LESS than most design firms expect these days, so your advice only really works for your particular firm.

elinor
Nov 21, 11 1:29 pm

'Also, what is it with all the type faces and different color text??????  You may think your good a graphic design...but the majority of you are not.'

newsflash:  this is just mean, especially coming from someone whose posts are riddled with misspellings and basic grammatical errors.

Barry LehrmanBarry Lehrman
Nov 21, 11 2:30 pm

honestly, if an applicant is submitting 50 applications a week, expecting each to be precisely worked and tailored to each specific ad seems a bit unreasonable to me.  applicants' time is valuable too, and i'd like to think their intellectual input would be, as well.

Umm, yes you DO need to tailor to each specific ad. 50 resumes a week is too many - be more strategic and focused to improve the odds of landing a gig.

If you want a job, you gotta take at least an hour customizing each application. (Job hunting is a full time job, so 20 resumes times 2 hours each equals 40 hours). It is essential to tweak your cover letter and portfolio each time.

The cover letter needs to demonstrate a familiarity with the firm and how you would fit their culture/projects. Don't just look on the firms website, but look up  articles about their projects and try to read any publications that folks in that firm have written.

In the portfolio, try to match your projects to the sectors that the firm serves. Don't just show sports facilities to a firm doing multi-family housing, or casinos to a healthcare firm.

 

elinor
Nov 21, 11 2:44 pm

um--if you run a small local firm and someone sends you a customized cover letter that's a page long and all about how much they want to work FOR YOU ESPECIALLY--guess what?  they're full of it. what they want is to WORK.  and this doesn't mean they're not going to do a good job for your firm, but no, they are not going to make your work their life's work.  and if you're an employer and you think they are because they filled the letter with a bunch of stuff about you from internet articles, then you're more than a bit delusional.  this profession needs to ditch the pervasive ego-stroking culture of bullshit and start appreciating people who work efficiently and intelligently.  an efficient and intelligent person will put together a work sample that best presents their work, that is not too long, and that can be used for more than one application.  and if it happens to be 3.5mb instead of the 2.5mb you ABSOLUTELY require, or 8 pages instead of the 4 you prefer, well, just get over it.  it's not a big deal and you're showing just how much of a control freak you really are.  let's aim for some MUTUAL respect, people.

 

Purpurina
Nov 21, 11 3:11 pm

Out of State applicants...its a long shot.  It is hard to make someone get on a plane for just an interview when there are so many good candiates already in our city out of work.  Just being honest.... 

For that, please include:

Local applicants only.


 

elinor
Nov 21, 11 3:12 pm

^skype is also really easy to use. if someone's willing to move to work for you, that person sounds pretty motivated.

Token AE
Nov 21, 11 3:26 pm

Elinor,

I don't think that looking for someone that is interested in your firm specifically is that absurd or arrogant of a request.

Like it or not, cultural and interest matches are critical for determining how we hire a new employee. Chances are that a new employee will require several years of training before they are fully productive. They will likely cost the firm more money than they generate in direct billing.

Why would we hire someone that we are pretty damn certain is going to jump ship and leave us hanging with a loss of investment when they get bored with the main building typologies we deal with, lose interest, and lose production value? Or when the economy picks back up in a year and they think that they can get into a firm more in line with their interests?

Don't underestimate the cultural fit aspect either. If you were working in a design house, would you want to hire someone that was pointing out every potential detailing headache? Would you want someone that could only deal in theory in a production firm? How about someone that isn't really strong in either area?

An applicant's portfolio may not change drastically from one application to another, but it should change. The same goes for a resume. "Looking for an entry level position in architecture" has a lot less meaning to me than "Looking for an entry level position in an architecture firm with a focus on healing spaces." The second isn't even that great, but it gives me an idea of what they are looking for.

A cover letter should be unique to every firm that you apply to. There is absolutely no reason why it shouldn't. This is where you elaborate on how your interests are in line with the firm and why we should hire you.

If someone is looking to work for the sake of working and doesn't care what are doing, why even bother with a full-time job search? Freelancing may be a better option. Or a different career.

 

 

elinor
Nov 21, 11 3:44 pm

i'd bet that very few people, if any, are looking for 'an entry-level position in an an architecture firm with a focus on healing spaces'...that's just what they say to you if you happen to design healing spaces. yesterday, they sent a letter to someone else claiming they've always dreamed of designing high-end yachts.

that's the thing- it's not at all weird to look for people who fit in at your firm, but employers should be realistic about it---if 'fitting in' means expecting people to bow, scrape, gush to relieve your insecurities, or follow your every order, you just aren't going to get the best or most intelligent people.  you're going to get a bunch of bs-artists, or people who don't know their own mind.

i recently became aware of who at my old workplace is aggressively looking to jump ship.  unsurprisingly, they are the most superficially exuberant and enthusiastic employees...people who are willing to say whatever or write whatever generally aren't the most honest or ethical, and they are likely to be the ones you're going to lose first. 

i'd like to hear employers say that they look for a level of precision and discipline in their applicants' WORK.  this will be way more indicative of the quality of performance you're going to get out of them than whether they can play up to you in the letter, or whether their student work happens to be healthcare related.  it's the qualities in the work that are going to tell you who the person really is.

Tim DoTim Do
Nov 21, 11 3:44 pm

Certainly it's the employer's prerogative to establish the requirements for an application, but the reality is 90% of applicants don't follow it to the letter so there should be some flexibility on their part. However,  there is a common range of what is appropriate. To me it's a cover letter, resume, and work samples of 2-3 projects, but these projects can be communicated on more than 1 page for each so long as the whole thing isn't more than say 10 pages. Also, package it all into one .pdf file under 5MB, no question. Anything bigger, you run the risk of the employer not receiving the application at all bc their email server can't handle it.

It's a negotiation. Applicants shouldn't have to spend hours catering their application to your specific requirements, and applicants should put themselves into the shoes of the employer and have a package ready for speed review, and only apply if you meet the minimum requirements.

archie
Nov 21, 11 4:23 pm

elinor,

Barry did not say you have to gush about his work. He said you have to customize the letter.  I totally agree with him.  I have received cover letters that actually have another firm's name in them, because the applicant was not careful enough to change the name to that of my firm.  And this is for a position where the job description stresses that you must be detail oriented. 

Job applicants can make themselves stand out from the crowd, and show their intelligence in their cover letter.  If the job says that you must be independent and responsible, explain how you have those skills (through examples, not just saying you have them) in the cover letter.  If the firm does not say what kind of work they do, but you find out in your investigation, then explain why your skill set would be particularly good for that type of work.  Let's say the firm does restaurant work, but you have never done that type of project.  You might explain how all of your work in high end residential taught you all about lighting, and detailing casework, and mention that you worked as a bartender for two years and you understand how the back-of-the-house works. 

And if there is a personal connection to the firm (you have a school mate who works there, you cousin is married to the book keeper, etc.) mention that!

 

won and done williams
Nov 21, 11 4:29 pm

I find it amusing that people here are telling SeaArch how he should read an application. He is explaining how he does read an application. Rather than trying to correct him, I think people would be wise to learn from what he is saying. While not universally applicable, I think he accurately tells how many employers review applications.
 

Token AE
Nov 21, 11 4:34 pm

elinor-

I may not have explicitly said it, but I think it is fairly obvious that we are only going to hire the candidates with the top-notch discipline and precision that you mentioned.  Craftsmanship and attention to detail are the first things that we look for. Who in their right mind would hire someone that is clearly incompetent?*

Similarly, I will never hire someone that I think is a kiss-ass or a BS artist.  I know that people are going to put on their best face, but at the same time it's pretty evident when people are putting on a show. Candidates are generally a lot less clever and a lot more transparent than they think they are, and we have a very low tolerance for BS. After getting interviewed by 12-15 principals/ senior staff in a mixture of one-on-one and group interviews, they are going to slip up somewhere. Two no-votes is a no-hire.

Between two candidates that are of equal quality and experience, the job goes to the person that wants to be there. Despite what you may think, it is incredibly easy to engage someone in a conversation and decide what they are truly interested in pursuing professionally- whether they say it explicitly or not. If they dance around direct questions and cannot give a succinct response without two minutes of archibabble, they probably aren't for us.

*You may have a valid case for nepotistic firms and the "old boys club" firms that hire unqualified employees for other reasons- but that is an entirely different discussion for another day. We don't BS, we do actual work, and there isn't an inner circle of greedy principals sitting on their ass- all profits are shared and voted on for how we reinvest.

elinor
Nov 21, 11 4:56 pm

token, i don't mean to imply that you don't.  i have no reason to doubt your intentions or your effectiveness.  however, i don't know a single firm principal who would think otherwise about themselves, and i have seen many principals who don't, and very few who actually do--what they say they do.  (again--no reflection on anyone here personally--)

it's normal that any employer or firm owner thinks he/she is completely fair and above-board to their employees--we are all human after all.  and it's normal that most principals feel they are making effective decisions.  yet the extremely high number of dissatisfied architects out there would not really bear this out.  and most of us who have worked at firms in recent years will tell you some horror story or another.  ask most employed architects, even in good times, whether they find their work rewarding, and many would say they don't.  ask if they feel well-compensated or treated fairly, and you'd maybe get half who answer in the affirmative.  and we all know this is the case.  and architects seem more likely than most to believe in their own myth.

i'll be honest--seaarch's post offends me.  i think he has the right to expect whatever he wants at his (or her) own firm, but i don't see a receptive or respectful reviewer in his assessments, or one who is remotely aware what someone outside his own firm would expect. frankly, i wouldn't want to work for someone who is in a position of relative power and complains about his/her eyes getting tired looking at work that undoubtedly took a lot of time to produce ON A SCREEN, who isn't willing to consider applicants that aren't immediately convenient, and is then just blatantly dismissive of people's basic skills.

i just want employers to remember, for the better times, that there's another side to the story.  if you don't respect your employees, it's highly unlikely that your employees will respect you back, and will probably not be giving you their best work.

SeaArch
Nov 21, 11 5:30 pm

Elinor,

 First off...I'm a woman.  I did not mean to be offensive.  I'm just giving my perspective and I might be exasperated after reviewing that many submittals.  I am not disrespectful of our candidates.   I just wish that people would simplify and pair down their submittals.  

elinor
Nov 21, 11 5:38 pm

well, that's understandable.  and i'm sure applicants are exasperated for always somehow getting it wrong, and employees are exasperated...so we're all exasperated.  (and i had a feeling you were a woman, but decided to stop jumping to those conclusions after i pegged archie as a 50 yr old man......)

archie
Nov 21, 11 5:43 pm

Elinor, no offense, but it sounds like you have a bit of a "chip on your shoulder".   Give SeaArch a break.  Believe me, when you are in your 50's, your eyes hurt no matter what you look at, and she is right, who wants to struggle with text that is difficult to read?  I think her points are useful to some one looking for a job.  I will add another annoyance; someone who send their resume with white text on some color background.  Sometimes we old folks print stuff out so we can write on it when we call a person for  a phone interview.   Not only can you not jot notes on it, it uses all the ink in your printer.

elinor
Nov 21, 11 5:55 pm

you bet i do!  a big one, for some very good reasons. the way people are treated in this profession is an absolute disaster. architects have fewer worker protections than laborers these days, are losing benefits, and  pay is a race to the bottom.  for a start...

i get involved in these discussions because i think they are important, not to pick on sea arch or any other individual. 

'when you are in your 50's, your eyes hurt no matter what you look at, and she is right, who wants to struggle with text that is difficult to read?'  come on!!  your screen can adjust color, brightness, size...anything.  and if it's still too hard, how about promoting some younger people to positions of leadership?? 

 

 

citizen
Nov 21, 11 6:23 pm

Yikes.

Brian HenryBrian Henry
Nov 22, 11 1:34 am

I have to say I find SeaArch's advice rather surprising except for the bit about poor graphic design (I assume most people are just trying to stand out in whatever way they think they can). I don't really have a problem with her advice, but it does make me wonder if most people reviewing applicants are of a similar mindset.

As someone who is applying for work I'll send out a tailored cover letter (1 page), a resume (also 1 page) that doesn't change much between applications, and a portfolio that is roughly 30 pages long. From most of the advice here, I'm going about it all wrong.

I don't expect someone to read every word or look at every rendering and graphic in my portfolio; if they spend more than a minute looking at it I'd expect to be ahead of the curve. I don't expect someone to read my cover letter word for word; that's why I've edited it over and over and over again so that it is concise, to the point, and can be skimmed easily. I don't expect someone to read my resume word for word the first time through; I hope that by my careful selection of experience, awards and achievements, skills and more that they'd be willing to give it a second read if at face value I appear to be qualified for the position.

I can't speak for all applicants but I'd hope that most of us are intelligent enough to expect that sometimes our application materials get overlooked (isn't that why as an applicant should always follow up?).

Are there any other people who review applications that would care to elaborate on their approach to thinning the herd? At any rate, I appreciate the advice SeaArch. Any hint as to what firm you're a partner at so when I start to apply on the 'west side' I know who to send my newly-minted four-page application packet to? I still am an in-state applicant residing over here in Pullman right?

Brian HenryBrian Henry
Nov 22, 11 1:52 am

I'll also add a comment to any potential employers out there ... don't expect us to read your minds. If you want application materials in a certain way (hard-copy, digital less than 'X MB', 4 pages, 30 pages, etc.) let us know. Either spell it out in the job posting or at least have something on your website that gives basic guidelines on what you like to see in an applicant. You can probably expect to see a wide variety of stuff either way, but at least if someone wonders why they didn't get an interview you can point to the application expectations and smile.

jmanganelli
Nov 22, 11 1:58 am

i have a question about the 2-3 pages worth of sample work.  The projects I've worked on that are most worth showing are worth it because of scope, complexity, and technical rigor, but I cannot present them or offer much detail because of NDA's I signed while working with the clients.  How should this be handled?

What I can show are examples of work from older competition entries I've produced, from school projects, and from when I was doing K-12, higher ed, and municipal work.  But they are not as exciting or interesting as the work I cannot show.

Stephanie
Nov 22, 11 3:51 am

As a full time job seeker, I am finding this post very interesting.

Token AE said: 

Chances are that a new employee will require several years of training before they are fully productive. They will likely cost the firm more money than they generate in direct billing.

> I have heard this kind of statement in a typical context of "blame-the-employee" covering for bad management.

I have worked on projects with great team leaders who instantly make the team--new employees and old--feel confident and comfortable in sharing their ideas.

Similarly, I've worked on projects that have terrible management, where the team is constantly questioning their own ability to solve simple problems. Where no one feels able to contribute fully because they're always getting stopped in their tracks by poor decision making on the part of the leader.

I'm not saying you are one of those people, TokenAE. I am just saying that if people are taking more than a few weeks to become 'productive', it's time to start looking at who is leading the team.

If someone is looking to work for the sake of working and doesn't care what are doing, why even bother with a full-time job search? Freelancing may be a better option. Or a different career.

> Does that statement work for firms who are taking projects based in locations with questionable working conditions and ethics… just to pay the bills?

It's not fair for anyone to make statements about who should be doing what in their job search. No one knows the situation of each individual applicant. In my own case, at some point I will have exhausted my extensive list of 'firms that I have dreamt of working for' or even 'firms that I would really like to work for', and then 'firms that I could probably learn a lot from' and have to move on to the 'firms I will apply to because at this point I really need a job in the field and these ones aren't too bad'. That doesn't mean I lack enthusiasm or passion for my field, it means that there aren't enough jobs to go round right now.

Elinor:

i'd like to hear employers say that they look for a level of precision and discipline in their applicants' WORK.  this will be way more indicative of the quality of performance you're going to get out of them than whether they can play up to you in the letter, or whether their student work happens to be healthcare related.  it's the qualities in the work that are going to tell you who the person really is.

> Exactly.

Archie:

I have received cover letters that actually have another firm's name in them, because the applicant was not careful enough to change the name to that of my firm.  And this is for a position where the job description stresses that you must be detail oriented.

> This is a way different issue from 'tailoring' a cover letter. This is a case of simple ineptitude. What is being discussed is whether applicants should detail their entire application towards the purposes of a specific firm. It is sad that people make such basic mistakes, but on the other hand, it should make separating the wheat from the chaff much easier, hm?

Token AE:

After getting interviewed by 12-15 principals/ senior staff in a mixture of one-on-one and group interviews, they are going to slip up somewhere. Two no-votes is a no-hire.

> That sounds like hell. It sounds like a situation where there is no trust in the office, where "leaders" are not enabled to make decisions, and have to be overseen by someone above them (who in turn, are not trusted by their superiors… etc…). Why on earth are these interviews conducted like interrogations?

Archie:

Elinor, no offense, but it sounds like you have a bit of a "chip on your shoulder".

> Why is it that whenever someone becomes passionate about something, they are dismissed as being bitter, angry, or having 'an axe to grind'? It seems that people confuse criticism for negativity & misdirected anger. When someone takes the time to coherently and carefully express criticism about something it is important to take it seriously. They are very likely seeing a bigger issue that you are missing.

Elinor:

i get involved in these discussions because i think they are important, not to pick on sea arch or any other individual. 

> It's really nice to see this, because it's exactly how I feel. Things don't get better by smiling and saying 'take your lumps' and pretending everything is just fine. They get better by identifying exactly what the issue is and taking steps to change.

Brian Henry:

As someone who is applying for work I'll send out a tailored cover letter (1 page), a resume (also 1 page) that doesn't change much between applications, and a portfolio that is roughly 30 pages long. From most of the advice here, I'm going about it all wrong.

> Well, you're in the same boat as me then. But I can't be doing it ALL wrong, since I've netted 5 interviews in 3 weeks with my approach. Maybe if SeaArch's firm is having a hard time finding people, it's because the person reviewing the applications lacks creativity and open-mindedness. 

SeaArch
Nov 22, 11 9:41 am

Stepanie,

We are not having a hard time finding people.  We have hired five wonderful architects and we are interviewing now to hire four more.  The level of candiates out there is amazing...very qualified and talented.  I'm just commenting that the sheer volume of resumes that firms are getting for each position makes it difficult to review when they are not graphically clear or they are overly long submittals. 

 I must have some creativity because we are in the wonderful position of having a lot of work....a rare thing these days.

Token AE
Nov 22, 11 9:51 am

Stephanie, 

What most inexperienced people don't understand is that staying busy with tasks and contributing to day-to-day work and discussions does not equate to operating without incurring a loss. 

These numbers are completely made up, but reasonably accurate. Lets say:

  • We bill you to the client at $100 per hour worked. Billable hours are the only source of income that have.
  • We pay you $32 per hour worked
  • We reserve $8/hr for your year end bonus
  • $40/hr goes to cover the firm's overhead related expenses- office rent, bills, plotting costs, software licenses, reimbursing travel/ equipment expenses, computer costs, corporate taxes, competitive support staff salary (IT, admins, accounting, marketing, and so forth), business development, proposal development, and wages for employees on lost design competitions.
  • Your healthcare costs approximately $10/hr
  • We will match up to $10/hr towards your retirement plan contribution
  • $5/hr is built in to your rate to account for professional development. IDP registration, conference attendance, study materials (when you need them), licensing fees, etc.
  • We pay for you (and expect you) to pursue advanced education. $3/hr in your rate accounts for your tuition assistance.
  • The economy is in constant flux. We decided that it would be prudent to have an emergency savings for each employee that costs approximately $7/hr so that we can keep them on board as long as we can if jobs dry up.
  • We have 7% profit built in to all of our rates. On a $100/hr rate, that equates to $7/hr.

So you generate $100/hr from the client. You have hard costs of $115/hr. We are also missing out on 7% profit, but won't count that against you. Egad! You cost the firm more per hour than you generate- but we don't mind because eventually your billable rate will increase as you develop.

What do most firms do? Knock down your salary to a point that they get their profits back, which in turn go to the senior management at a typical firm. I am lucky in that ours do not.

Inexperienced employees cost more than they are capable of generating. It doesn't mean that they are bad employees, that we don't like them, that they aren't contributing great ideas, or that they aren't being helpful to us as a firm- it just means that they are still developing their skills and cannot be billed to the client at a higher rate just yet. Most people don't want to pay for what amounts to a highly educated draftsman.

There is no way in hell that I am sending someone fresh out of school to meet one-on-one with a client 'after a few weeks' to pitch a design. Similarly, there is little chance that someone fresh out of school is capable of managing the production of a legally sound set of construction documents. I probably wouldn't want to kill their optimism and send them to a team of contractors to explain address an issue in the field regarding their latest creation.

FWIW, I am a mid-level employee- certainly not a principal. But our accounting is open to all employees, and seeing how everything actually operates is an eye-opening experience and something that most firms would hide from you.

And no offense, but you are in no position to infer the quality of leadership, teamwork, or level of trust in my firm based on what I wrote. Don't project your own bad experiences or inadequacies onto others. That's about as fair as me saying that you read as someone that has no valuable industry experience with an inherent distrust for anyone at a higher level than you.

Token AE
Nov 22, 11 10:00 am

copy/ paste fail on my part with explain_address. Don't hold it against me.

will gallowaywill galloway
Nov 22, 11 10:22 am

nicely written TokenAE.  

  i run a small firm and still learning myself, but if i can throw in a few cents i would love it if job seekers would stop applying for a job with us when their portfolio and cover letter and experience all point to a career nothing remotely like what we do. 

i don't think a portfolio NEEDS to be small myself but i would def request that people really just not use ZIP files to send really big portfolio.  also don't want to look at online portfolios (sorry), those both have become an automatic no view for us.  if the first impression is the most important thing then i would say short and sweet and to the point is most desirable.  our mailboxes runneth over so if you want our attention you have about 2 lines to do it.  it is not nice i know, but it's how we survive the work day and have something to show for it at the end of it.

 

 

Erin WilliamsErin Williams
Nov 22, 11 11:02 am

Brian and Stephanie, I'd definitely say that 30 pages of work samples is too much. I'm certainly not as strict as SeaArch, but wouldn't somewhere around 10 pages be sufficient? After all, this is supposed to be work samples. 

I always get annoyed when I've seen a candidate's sample pdf or website, invite them for an interview, and they have nothing else to show me—no other projects, no other images/details of the projects I've seen. They're just a carbon copy of their website.

elinor
Nov 22, 11 11:05 am

token, sounds like you work at a great and generous firm.  but i would challenge your numbers on two counts--

1) everybody knows that architectural billing is not a hard science, but more an exercise in reverse engineering.  you really have to work from the fee backwards, and not from the hourly rate upwards.  your numbers are in no way factoring in the usual book-cooking that takes place--for instance, how many hours is the principal billing for this project  (at her way higher billing rate) compared to the hours she actually worked, and how does that skew the profit margin?

and 2) $8/hr bonus?  IDP allowance? education allowance?  huh?  NOBODY i know gets these benefits, or benefits remotely similar to these.  and my old firm paid only 70% of our health costs.  so if your firm really does this, congrats!  but you should understand that it is far from typical.

with the possible exception of some bad years, you better believe your firm makes money on you somehow, inexperienced or not.  otherwise, you wouldn't be there.

citizen
Nov 22, 11 11:09 am

Hear, hear, Token!

 

Xenakis
Nov 22, 11 12:11 pm

What if someone has a 1 year unemployment gap due to the recession - I am working now, but was freelancing and working for free in 2009 after being laid off from a firm - 

Stephanie
Nov 22, 11 1:13 pm

Fair enough Token, I was interpreting productivity in a completely different way. You're right that I don't have years of architecture experience to inform me, and I'm sure once I do I will have a completely different perspective on things. I did work for 4 years in engineering and construction offices, and from what you describe the valuation of employees is not much different between E&C and architecture. 

I don't think anyone is arguing against making well-prepared, carefully composed applications to firms. What gets irritating is juggling all the vastly different formatting and submission expectations that firms impose on applicants. The preferences are as different as the people reviewing the applications.

Searching for a job is a lot of work as it is, and most people do it while working on other projects or working part time positions alongside. Any intelligent person is going to do cursory research about the firms they apply to and target their cover letter and projects as appropriate. But I'm with Elinor on this: 

i'd like to hear employers say that they look for a level of precision and discipline in their applicants' WORK.  this will be way more indicative of the quality of performance you're going to get out of them than whether they can play up to you in the letter, or whether their student work happens to be healthcare related.  it's the qualities in the work that are going to tell you who the person really is.

I've spent hours upon hours rewording, refocusing, and rearranging projects in my applications. I totally understand that this is necessary to some degree. What really kills it for me though, is that I've now had several interviews where it was clear the person hadn't read even the basics of my CV / cover letter. In each interview, the majority of the time was spent establishing basic personal data like education and experience. I could have said I enjoyed bathing in cream cheese icing on my CV and no one would have noticed.

I'm thinking about putting that in just for fun, actually. 

JonathanLivingston
Nov 22, 11 1:49 pm

We just had a portfolio arrive, unsolicited, in a small wooden box with handmade dovetail joints. Everyone in the office stood up to look at this thing. I should mention that I work at a small 7 person firm and we all sit in one large open studio. I think from the sound of things around here they may get an interview.  Though I'm not sure if its actually a result of the craft, work in the portfolio, or pity.  Basically the reaction was shear curiosity. There were even a few minutes while we contemplated how to open it. Turns out the top slid off fairly easily after you cut these nice little (open) stickers. I will keep you guys posted, we have to meet this person! 

J. James R.J. James R.
Nov 22, 11 2:27 pm

This thread is way too personal, specific and depressing.

So, I am linking to some skanky but otherwise wonderful, upbeat Korean pop.

Xenakis
Nov 22, 11 4:20 pm

Simple - as the number off candidates increases/position, then so do the qualifications - meaning that we the applicants, must do whatever it takes to make it into the top 2% that will "get the call"

redchairs
Nov 22, 11 6:58 pm

And, if English is not your first language, it is always a good idea to have someone well-spoken in English proofread your cover letter, resume and work. I recently received a cover letter sporting this sentence:

"I feel I’m linguistic in speech and have a fine command of the English language both in reading, comprehension and writing."

 

 

citizen
Nov 22, 11 8:20 pm

JonathanLivingston:

Was it ticking?

threadkilla
Nov 22, 11 11:42 pm

@ Erin Williams, will galloway

What's wrong with online portfolios / websites, why do you not look at those?

Myself and many of my fellow employment-seeking grads have invested a lot of time and effort to make our online portfolio as unique and representative of us as we would a Cover Letter. I have put way more work up on my website than I will ever bring to an interview in a printed format, or include in work sample .pdf's. The main reason is that no matter how much research one does on any office, there is no way for us to know EXACTLY what the person responsible for screening job applicants is looking for - we can only approximate and guess. So in making my website a fairly comprehensive portfolio I'm hoping that if if the samples got someone interested in hiring me, they can visit the website to see what else I'm capable of. And if they invite me to an interview they get to see how the drawings look printed to scale and with good resolution, and get the benefit of questioning me about the work. 

Why do you think this is the wrong approach? So many application forms on company and recruiters' websites do not allow any attachments, others let you attach text files, but not pdf's, and even when someone is reasonable enough to permit applicants to include properly formatted files, we can't have them be more than 3-5 Mb. I understand that my work will not be plotted for review like it was when I was in school, and so I compress and lower the image quality, hoping that if anyone decides to actually print it they won't be bothered by the lower image quality. But when there are so many FREE file-sharing services out there like dropbox, and yousendit, which are tailored for the exchange of large files, and when I spent some time making my resume and cover letter look good, it's extremely frustrating that I can't even represent my work and my proxy paper self in the best light anyways when I go to send the stuff in.

Is it really that hard to open a Google email account for the purpose of receiving online job applications? They are free, have a nearly unlimited storage capacity, filter your mail for spam, have built-in antivirus for attachments which you can view without having to download the files, and nearly everyone with internet access already has one.

threadkilla
Nov 23, 11 12:29 am

Also, this discussion is actually fairly helpful, as it makes one more aware of what to avoid when applying to places, but a number of people asked really specific and good questions about the amount and type of work to include in the samples, which no one of our wise employed counterparts has answered yet.

10 pages seems to be the least it takes to show all the work I was showing at final reviews for most projects, so if I were only to show 1/2 or 1/3 of each project I can get  2 or 3 project teasers into those 10 pages. Or I can show one project in it's entirety, and then hope that I guessed the right one to win someone over and that they will spend a minute looking at my website to know that I can do other things. Making 3 sampler pages for job applications is the same as playing a lottery - you just hope the stars line up and those reviewing your package don't assume you can't do the work if you don't show it.

So is there some 'golden rule' for what one might consider including in a 3 / 5 / 10 page sampler that we can establish?

something like this maybe?

for 3 pages - 1 project: legible plan, section, a detail that shows you know about drip edges and what side of the wall to stick the insulation to, and a sweet sexy render (2 sheets) + 1 sheet with a different project, say site plan and some diagrams.

5 pages: add a drawing or two to the second project + 1 sheet with 1 image per each of 2-3 more projects

10 pages: still 2 projects, you just doubled your real estate (4 pages each) + 2 sheets with assorted pixel sex

any thoughts?

 

quizzical
Nov 23, 11 9:25 am

Keep this in mind: your objective with an initial submittal is not to get hired -- your objective is to get an interview. While, as an employer, it would be nice if I had the luxury to lavish lots of time and attention on every resume and portfolio I receive, the reality is that I -- and most of my counterparts -- scan a stack of resumes with triage in mind. There's always about a third that clearly do not represent a fit; there's another third that contain information and images that intrigue me; and there's the middle third about which I have fairly neutral feelings.

Submittals in the bottom third rarely, if ever, receive a second look. I tend to spend a fair amount of time giving the top third a second review, meaning I look at each package with fairly close scrutiny. Usually, I'll do a quick second scan of the middle third if I'm not comfortable I can find what I need in the top third.

So, what does this mean for the eager, but confused, candidate?

I acknowledge that every firm has its own ideas about what they want to see. And, every candidate wants to put his/her best foot forward -- so, many will tend to include everything that might support his/her case. Personally, I think that's a mistake.

As part of an initial submittal, I want to come away with a solid feel for the candidate's work experience and approach to design. At this particular stage of the process, I don't need to see tons of project examples, nor do I need to see an extensive treatment of any specific project. I want just enough graphic material -- demonstrating both the breadth and depth of the candidate's experience -- to draw reasonable conclusions about whether this person warrants an interview or not. If so, during the interview I will conduct an in-depth review of the entire portfolio.

Every candidate has a unique background and portfolio. For that reason, I don't think it possible to be entirely prescriptive about what a submittal should contain. What's right for a 15-year person will not be right for a recent graduate. It's up to each candidate to exercise judgment about what their own package should contain, while simultaneously trying to comply with specific requirements that may be contained in a specific firm's job ad.

Absent specific published requirements, I recommend a 1-page cover letter, a 1-page resume and 2-3 pages of materials that demonstrate the candidate's project background. If you have a web portfolio, include the link so I can go there if I feel the need. That information usually gives me what I need to make an informed decision about whether to continue with a candiate or not.

Hope this helps.

will gallowaywill galloway
Nov 23, 11 9:30 am

@ molotok, digital online portfolios are great for places like here but we are less enthusiastic when it comes to job applications somehow.  anything that adds effort to the process of seeing what you have to offer is a step towards losing our interest - so i think it is best to keep the online version as supplement not main medium.  others may disagree but that is how it is for us so far.

Brian HenryBrian Henry
Nov 23, 11 12:44 pm

I tend to agree with Will. Online portfolios are nice but generally they should be supplemental to the work in the reviewer's hand. I feel that adding any steps (going to the computer and typing in a website) to see someone's work is just asking for that work not to be seen. 

Also for reducing file size on your pdf's ... print to PDF, do not 'save as PDF' or 'export to PDF.' This may already be common knowledge, but I was surprised at how many people I saw trying to print boards for their projects with 100+ MB files.

harveyspecter
Apr 2, 12 10:26 pm

@ SeaArch,

enlighten us, could you share a sample of a CV/ Folio work that impresses you?

that would definitely help ...thanks

 

 

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