Lessons from the Past: Refining the Architecture CV for Today’s Market

Reflecting on Experience: A Personal Journey

Stephen Drew’s retrospective analysis of his own CV from 14 years ago provides invaluable insights into the evolution of job-seeking strategies in the architecture field. By examining his past mistakes and successes, Stephen offers a unique perspective on how aspiring architects can navigate the job market more effectively. His candid review underscores the importance of continuous learning and adaptation, even for seasoned professionals.

The Importance of Clarity and Precision

One of the critical takeaways from Stephen’s reflection is the necessity of clearly stating one’s qualifications and intentions. Omitting his Part 1 status and grade point average, as he noted, were oversights that could potentially impact a candidate’s chances in a competitive job market. These details not only provide a snapshot of the applicant’s academic achievements but also signal their readiness for professional practice.

Strategic Presentation of Experience

Stephen’s emphasis on professional work experience highlights a key strategy in CV design: prioritizing relevant and recent experience. His initial choice to list a significant position with the renowned architect Edward Cullinan at the end of his work experience section, contrary to his advice to others, serves as a reminder of the importance of showcasing significant roles prominently. This approach ensures that potential employers immediately recognize the value and relevance of one’s professional background.

Education and Skills: A Balanced Approach

Including education details, such as A-levels, alongside professional skills like proficiency in MicroStation, illustrates the balance between academic credentials and practical competencies. For architecture graduates, this balance is crucial, as firms look for candidates who not only have a strong theoretical foundation but are also adept at applying their knowledge in a practical setting.

The Role of Cover Letters

While Stephen now views cover letters with less emphasis, his experience underscores their potential value in certain contexts. Cover letters can offer a more personalized narrative that complements the CV, especially when applying to firms where a tailored approach might resonate more strongly with the hiring committee.

Broadening the Search: A Strategy for Success

Perhaps the most impactful lesson from Stephen’s job search during the 2009 recession is the strategy of broad outreach. Applying to a thousand companies and the importance of following up with phone calls exemplify a proactive and comprehensive approach to job-seeking. This method not only increases the odds of securing interviews but also provides valuable practice in presenting oneself to potential employers.

The Value of Flexibility

Stephen’s advice to be open-minded at the initial stages of job searching, yet selective when considering offers, is particularly poignant. It reflects a pragmatic approach to navigating the architectural job market, where opportunities may come from unexpected quarters. The process of interviewing with multiple firms not only enhances interview skills but also offers insights into various organizational cultures, enabling candidates to make more informed decisions when selecting their preferred workplace.


Reflecting on past experiences, as Stephen Drew has done, offers a roadmap for refining job-seeking strategies in architecture. Clarity, strategic presentation, a balance between education and skills, and a broad yet selective approach to applications are essential components of a successful job search. As the architecture industry continues to evolve, adapting these strategies to meet the demands of the current job market is crucial for emerging professionals.