WE ARE INTERESTED IN WHAT PEOPLE DO OUTSIDE OF ARCHITECTURE, AS WELL AS WITHIN
So, you have done your research and decided to which practices you are going to send your CV. Both the CV and the material you send with it have to impress a practice sufficiently for them to call you for an interview. As Paul Davis says: 'We can't interview everybody, so a CV is quite important.'
And since architecture is a visual business it has to be well presented. ADP's Roger Fitzgerald says: 'If your CV is poorly presented and the accompanying letter is just a standard one, you are fighting a losing battle. What we want is a flavour of a person rather than all the precise detail, but good-quality presentation and good images are the key.'
It is not just about pretty pictures. Fletcher Priest's Tim Fyles says: 'We don't expect great writing skills, but we do worry about bad spelling and getting our names wrong.' It is worth getting someone to check for spelling and sense.
WHAT SHOULD YOUR CV CONTAIN?
CV stands for curriculum vitae, literally your life story. When people talk about a CV they normally mean a dated list of your activities since, say, A Level, plus a letter and maybe drawings.
Strictly speaking, your CV is just your education and work experience listed either as they have happened or in reverse chronology starting with the present. The latter is the conventional way but which you choose doesn't really matter so long as people can read what you have done with your life without dodging around.
It's worth looking up 'CV UK' on Google for guidance.
It is useful mostly in a negative way, explaining what you shouldn't do. And asking for your credit card details before they'll tell you what you should do. You get some idea of the importance people place on CVs when you see how many organisations are trying to make money out of helping you with yours.
But you mustn't take 'life story' too literally. Interviewers will know you are only starting out. What they want is to get some idea of where you come from, how you have been educated, how well you did and what experience you have had. And they will want to know about your computer skills.
But they don't need every little detail. Tim Fyles says: 'we had someone apply who said he liked to juggle. That is quite interesting, but it's not necessarily going to get him a job here.'
Striking the right balance is not easy. One school of thought says that your CV should be on one or, at an absolute maximum, two pages.
Confusingly, some practices like more detail than that because it helps to build up a picture of the whole person. Davis says: 'We are interested in what people do outside architecture - as well as what they can do in architecture. But there is a tendency to put down every qualification, such as GCSEs. We don't need to know that.' But others do. John Assael says: 'We like to see a conventional CV, about three pages long which sets out personal details and qualifications, a review of experience - even if it's Sainsbury's.'
Practices go big on experience, but they are not asking for years in an architect's office. Even a few weeks in a commercial office indicate you have been interested enough to try office life.
ALTERNATIVES Several years ago Bath University students could refer practices to their personal websites. At the time it looked really cool and probably impressed practices. But the novelty has worn off.
Anybody with lots of easily read CVs on the desk in front of them will probably look at them first.
More recently, some people have thought it a good idea to send in a CD containing their CV. You have to remember that it takes measurably longer to fire up a CD than it does to turn a page. Assael says that his practice might, only might, bother to open a CD sent in as a CV: 'In an interview, forget it.'
HONEST, GUV With your CV and letter you want to give the best possible impression of yourself. But lying, or even over-embellishing the truth is not a great idea.
It is standard practice for you to include the names of several referees. Apart from making sure the referees can be relied upon to say good things about you, make sure they are real people.
With employment law more stringent than ever, architectural practices can't afford not to check them out.
WRITING A CV
Do thorough research on the practice and write an accompanying letter explaining why you want to work with it;
use a conventional CV form (Google something like 'writing CVs');
type it on plain white paper and spell-check it;
use first-person singular;
two pages, preferably one (but some practices want three);
keep it relevant, so no detailed trivia;
don't forget your address, school and degree grades, whether you can drive, whether you need a visa;
maybe include some drawings; and keep a record of which practices you sent CVs to and what your letter said. Mug up before the interview.