Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Lulu's Mailbag: Why don't more resumes use images?

I have another resume to redline and post soon, but I wanted to post this excellent email from a reader. N. asks a good question about text-only versus graphics formats for resumes, and he and I had a good (email) conversation about the topic. (Again, the email discussion below has been edited for length and anonymity.)

The absolutely striking realization I’ve had is how many people applying for architecture jobs prepare their resume in a text-only format! We live and breathe in a Photoshop world, why are our resumes in DOS?

Very good question! Here's the thing: Using graphics and images in a resume is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we work in an inherently visual profession, and it does seem absurd that a resume wouldn't include some images or at least a hint of the notion that the applicant can design. But on the other hand, having weeded through stacks of resumes myself, the graphics thing can get overused. It's often newer folks with less experience who are doctoring up their resumes and filling in all the blank space with images and fancy graphics because they have little to no relevant experience. When I did my first resume back in 2000, I did a text-only resume and a separate (but included) image sheet describing a few recent college projects I'd worked on, including my thesis project. It didn't cross my mind that I could combine the two, but at the time I also had enough generic work experience (including a stint at my local AIA chapter) to fill my resume. I've since learned my lesson; my more recent resume (which I have created just in case I were to get laid off) includes a few more images of my built work. If graphics get included on an intern's resume, they shouldn't be graphics for graphics' sake--they really need to tell a story and explain what kind of work you can do. It hints at the creative mind I might be hiring.

For now, text-only resumes aren't the kiss of death. People who made it their whole lives with text-only resumes are still the ones doing the hiring at a lot of firms, so they're not offended by text-only. But I think in the next few years, folks will have to start setting themselves apart more in a graphic way. The Photoshop generation (of which I'm at the very back edge, being 34 years old) will begin to do the hiring, and as the economy sloooooowly trickles back to a good place, then folks will have to set themselves apart even more.

N. responded with an excellent point that I'd like to share with the rest of you. Keep this in mind as you prepare your resumes this spring:

One thought on the hiring process in architecture firms: I've learned that architects who hire care a lot about design sensibility and people skills. Offices (and I) have seen lots of great renderings and "expert knowledge in xyz software" to only find out they added some photoshop trees in the foreground. Design sense and people relations become part of you and are difficult to teach; Software, anyone can learn. I've critiqued resume's and portfolios at (a local AIA chapter) and one question unanswered across the board is "how was the project better because of you?"

If you have any questions you'd like to ask, topics you'd like to see covered, or resumes you'd like to have reviewed and shared on the blog (with identifying details removed, of course), feel free to comment below or email me in the sidebar. Thanks!


  1. First, off I vote for the nicely presented text resume with a few graphical elements for "branding" and submitting a couple pages or work samples that are coordinated graphically to the resume.

    Here are a couple of questions -

    I'm trying to hone direct architectural experience, industry related experience, and broader professional experience into a coherent 1-2 pages.

    I've knocked out the misc, mostly unrelated early years. I'm left with what I consider very relevant professional experience that still pushes two pages by the time I list employers, school, etc on top of experience.

    I long ago stopped listing accomplishments by employer and shifted to general titles/roles with tasks below. I then list employers with those titles/roles at the end. Even that is getting repetitive now (i.e. creating SD-CD's as an intern, consultant, rep, etc) So, now I'm combining experiences across multiple related jobs.

    To me it's no non-sense approach and eliminates repetition to those who want to read a quick hit resume. The counter to that is that by listing some overlapping tasks it shows that I can do all of that in multiple roles and settings. Long winded way to get there but...thoughts?

    The resume guide books emphasize the action verb... designed, created, developed, coordinated,etc. They also love the dynamic adjective and quantitative result. All well and good, but somewhere along the line these start to feel forced and long... Responsible for creating SD-CD documentation for over 10 mixed use and multi-family projects. In hogs.

    When can you just say "Created multiple SD-CD sets." or "Developed RFI/ASI document submittals."? Or, is saying "Developed creative solutions to RFI/ASI submittals that assured coordination with overall project and document intent and resulted in 10% project savings." be better? MBA's would love it, would a firm principal?

    Finally what about abbreviations. Is the industry comfortable just saying BIM at this point? What about SD, CD, CA? By the time you spell out each of those even once you're taking up a line.


  2. Anon, your question deserves a thorough discussion in a future post, but the short answer is to go for shorter, clearer sentences/bullet points and that acronyms are acceptable if they are of commonly-used/known industry phrases.

  3. Thanks for the quick reply. Sorry it was a little long question...I like to explain to much and hence the questions!