Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How honest is your resume?

My husband sat in on an interview at his architecture firm recently, and he was blown away by the disparity between a candidate's resume and interview. In an effort to be succinct yet excellent-looking on paper, the candidate completely stretched the truth of his actual experience. The candidate's resume has a section titled "Areas of Expertise" in which he listed about a dozen different software types, including Revit. In the interview, my husband asked him "So, what do you know about Revit?" The candidate shrugs, laughs a little, and says, "Practically nothing. I know it has families, and it's different from CAD, but that's really it."

"Expertise" has a dictionary and a cultural meaning that implies you know a lot about something. When this candidate lists Revit under his "Areas of Expertise", then he is implying--nay, proclaiming that he's something of an expert at Revit. Then in the interview, he flatly admits that he's not really at all familiar with the software. While it's good that he admitted it, it's still dishonest to put out there that you are an "expert" at something that you're not good with at all. You're starting off on the wrong foot, and the interviewer no longer knows if they can trust anything else on the resume...or anything else that comes out of your mouth.

Likewise, I sometimes see interns put down that they were a "project manager" on a project. Let me say that no matter how much control you had over a project and how much of the work you did and coordinated on it, you're going to be hard-pressed to convince anyone that you were a "project manager". Maybe a "job captain", but not a project manager. First of all, project managers are almost invariably either a) licensed architects or b) at least 50 years old. While there are a few exceptions to these rules, architectural interviewers have a preconceived understanding and image of what a project manager is (namely, one or both of those two traits I just listed). Bear in mind that a project manager often handles the budget and fee on a project as well as the pay applications sometimes. If the project manager is the only licensed person on the project, s/he might be the one who signs RFIs, PRs, CCDs, etc. "Project manager" is a loaded phrase in architecture, fraught with meaning and responsibility. So when an intern uses "project manager" on his/her looks like a big fat lie.

So what if you did manage nearly all the aspect of a project? First off, find a different description of the role--job captain, project intern, project coordinator, etc. Second, get your own copy of the record drawings (or whatever the last version of the project was that you worked on) and bring it with you to the interview. That way, you can flip through the documents and literally show a potential employer what you can do and how awesome you are. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? So let your drawings do the talking for you--they'll say more than you can, and they're irrefutable.

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