No, I’m not talking about wardrobe adjustments. This sums up my take-away from the Emerging Professionals Forum on November 11th.
It was an energetic gathering of students and professionals. Those AIA members who brought their portfolios were able to sit down and have it reviewed by one of the top design professionals who volunteered their time at the event. These leaders literally look at hundreds of portfolios a month and provided valuable insight into exactly what qualities and content catches their eye and makes them take notice.
Then the discussion, Demystifying the Process, shed light into how principals manage resume and portfolio submissions.
The panel represented a range of firm sizes and, it turned out, each firm handles the process differently. One firm honestly does not look at resumes if they are not hiring. Another firm has all submitted resumes copied to their design principals, upon which there is a brief discussion and consideration for an interview. The third firm has their office manager review the resumes according to a set criteria and then only a qualifying resume will land on a principal’s desk. All panelists were in agreement though that the best way to stand out from a stack of resumes is to know someone in the firm. In fact, referrals were mention numerous times. It is all about who you know. Managers want to hire folks who are hungry and hard workers. To know that about a person by way of a close reference, will put them ahead of the pack.
The practitioners seemed to have different views of what was most important in a hiring candidate. One spoke more about the heart and passion of a person, another was more interested in the innovative thinking, and the third panelist was more concerned with technical talent and experience.
I couldn’t help but feel a bit of confusion in the air and a lack in conclusion. No really what exactly are you looking for? What’s the one thing that will get me that job?
Then the question was asked, “So what’s the most important thing to have in a resume submission?” Three points were agreed by all the panelists. To start, those first few sentences of a cover letter are crucial. They better catch the reader’s attention within seconds. Next, the care and design in the presentation better show how you stand apart from the masses. And third, demonstrate your research and knowledge of the firm and their work.
The final bit of advice by the panel was to keep connected with a firm. Don’t let an interview fall by the wayside, if you still want to be part of their team, keep in contact with them. From “checking-in” emails, to sending congratulations on project awards, to forwarding appropriate articles…you get the idea. What you want to do is to be remembered long after the interview so when they are hiring you’ll be at the top of the list. That’s is…if they like you to begin with!
Today’s job search can’t be done by a one-size-fits-all type of method. Be yourself, know your style, and tailor everything.