It’s official, as of last week the BUILD World Headquarters has received more resumes in 2009 than from the previous 10 years combined. Maybe it’s our international popularity (doubtful), maybe everyone wants to take advantage of our mild climate in Seattle (although this spirit-crushing heat wave may change that) or maybe it’s the terrible economy and escalating layoffs in the design and construction industry. Whatever the case, we’ve become well versed in the protocols of resumes and employment inquiries over the last 7 months. We’ve seen everything from well-composed beautiful presentations to dismal, mind numbing attempts that crash our email -and everything in between.  So we thought we’d put our minds to the task and come up with a series of do’s and don’ts for resume composition. You know the dealio – this is just our take on resumes, and if you ask 10 architects about it, you’ll get 10 completely different (and sometimes contradictory) answers.

With that said, here goes; The BUILDblog guide to resume composition and employment inquiry:

1. COVER LETTER
Do your homework: Go to the websites of the firms of which you intend to apply and track down the name of the person who receives and reviews resumes. When we get a resume addressed “To whom it may concern” not only does it tell us that the applicant hasn’t been to our website, but it suggests that every firm in town is getting the exact same inquiry.

Show personality:
The cover letter is a good place to communicate a bit about your character. If you have something in your experience that relates directly to the firm in question make sure it’s mentioned here. Some of our personal hooks are individuals that have put in some elbow grease for the design-build Studio 804 at the University of Kansas and individuals who have participated in the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS). Every firm has their own – scratch around and figure out what you’ve got in common.

Nobody’s perfect: Don’t ever state that you’re the perfect fit for the firm – you’re not the one determining that. Hell, we’re not even a perfect match around here.

Be humorous: people like working with fun people.

2. RESUME
Keep it brief: We prefer resumes that are contained on a single page (maybe two if you’ve got tons of experience). We don’t necessarily want to hear about all your hobbies or every project you’ve ever worked on (yet). We want the facts on education and work experience. Five page resumes become laborious to get through and we find ourselves sleeping on our desks.

Know your audience: If you’re applying to firms doing hot, modern work don’t submit a resume using ye olde font. Nothing makes us cringe more than serifs. Century Gothic is always a safe bet as is Helvetica.

Consistency: When the resume and the cover letter share a common design composition it just looks sharper. Whether it’s a common header or a simple graphic the similarity shows design intent.

Line things up: Organize your resume so that it’s easy to skim. The examples we like best tend to group information into columns across the page or bands down the page. Using text in two or three different grayscales also helps distinguish primary information from secondary.

Keep it uncluttered: Don’t be afraid of white space – you don’t need to fill the entire page up. A resume should contain everything necessary and nothing more.

3. SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL
Include concise, inspiring work: we love seeing what you’ve been up to lately. Add in a couple of hot images of your recent academic or professional experience.  Again, keep it brief – 3 or 4 images is plenty.  When we get 8MB files via email containing 30 pages of PDFs we rarely get to page 3- this is a solid way to have us lose interest. It clogs up our inboxes and it’s too much to print out. A great way to show a potential employer that you value their time is to keep your application package tight and efficient.

4. DELIVERY
Physical vs Digital: There’s something nice about getting a physical resume in the mail.  It’s not necessarily better than email – just different. Maybe it shows a little more effort, maybe it’s a bit more deliberate, maybe we’re just getting old.  At the same time email is fast and effective.

Resume distribution centers: Don’t use ‘em. They take your resume and spam it all over the place; employers can see it coming from a mile away. We have a special folder for resumes submitted via distribution centers, it’s cylindrical and is usually located under our desks.

5. EXPERIMENT
Keep trying new tactics: The above guidelines simply relate to the approaches we’ve seen lately. These guidelines by no means define the boundaries of resumes and application. Keep at it and stick your neck out there. You’re in a creative field that requires problem solving and innovation – use those same tools on your resume and job hunting.

We like to put our money where our mouth is, so… you can find our own resumes here and here. Throw some tomatoes at us if you like. We’ve also experimented in the past with some matrix composition resumes here and here that you might find entertaining.

Cheers from your friends at the BUILDblog